In the NFL, there are plenty of teams that make the playoffs, or at least contend to do so. A handful of those teams don’t have top quarterbacks — But what they do have is a strong support system with both skilled players and sharp coaching. That’s how well-run teams continue to stay relevant without a top talent to lead their team. In this piece, we’ll dive into some under-the-radar teams that may opt to draft a quarterback early.
5 Playoff Contenders That Could Draft a Quarterback
1. Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks were able to finish above .500 with a 9-8 record although they missed the playoffs. They were talented enough to at least make the Wildcard Round. While Geno Smith wasn’t terrible, improved play from him would’ve certainly guaranteed a playoff birth. Smith regressed statistically from last year, throwing for 3,624 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
With the group of young talent on the Seahawks only growing, it could make sense to add in a fresh quarterback who can grow alongside players like Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. At pick 16, the Seahawks will have to either trade up or wait for a lower-tier quarterback like Michael Penix Jr. or J.J. McCarthy to fall to them.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers certainly surpassed expectations for the 2023 season. A playoff birth plus an NFC South title is about the most you can ask for from this team. Unbelievably, Tampa Bay was able to sign Mayfield for a major bargain at four million dollars a year. With the success he’s had this year, he may be asking for more money than the Buccaneers are willing to offer. If this is the case, they might be forced to let him walk in free agency.
The entire team is in a weird phase, stuck in between rebuild and win now mode. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a new quarterback starting in Tampa Bay for the 2024 season.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s only the second year of the Kenny Pickett experience, but fans and coaches alike have not been impressed. When he isn’t injured, Pickett plays a brand of football closest to being a game manager. There’s not anything he does that’s exceptional or jumps out. The only reason that the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the playoffs is due to their hard-nosed defense and the efficiency of backup Mason Rudolph.
Going forward though, the Steelers simply lack a franchise quarterback. Mike Tomlin can pretend like he has been for the last several years, but the Steelers will only be a .500 team as long as they have mediocre starters in that position.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Arguably no one has done more with less than Sean McVay has. The Super Bowl hangover is still present in the roster. In just a couple of years, they’ve gone from one of the most talented rosters to one of the least. Yet, they still managed to win ten games to ensure their first playoff appearance since the championship season.
One of the biggest reasons for this has to be Matthew Stafford. The 35-year-old was able to turn back the clock and lead his team to the playoffs while throwing for nearly 4,000 yards and posting a 2-1 touchdown to interception ratio. There were rumors that the Los Angeles Rams attempted to trade him last offseason so it makes sense they’d do the same since he’s a year older. If the Rams could trade Stafford for a high pick in this year’s draft, they should consider taking his replacement.
5. Denver Broncos
After the whole benching fiasco, it’s now clear that Russell Wilson is not in Sean Payton‘s long-term plans for the franchise. Although it would cost $85 million in dead cap space to get rid of Wilson, they may still decide to do so. It’s worth mentioning that backup Jarrett Stidham did play well in Wilson’s absence, but shouldn’t be considered a franchise cornerstone.
Sitting at 12, the Denver Broncos could have the fortune of one of the top quarterback prospects sliding down to them. Sean Payton would like to have his signal caller as soon as possible to start developing him. They could even trade up into the top 10 to secure their future if necessary.
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