We’re still nearly a month away from the start of training camp.
To pass the time before practices start again, we answered questions from PFF readers about the Cleveland Browns’ quarterback plans, the Green Bay Packers’ plans at wide receiver, the New York Jets’ 2022 season outlook and more.
@wuf_performance: What's the plan for the Browns QB room with one looking at a suspension and one potentially being traded to the Panthers?
Here’s how the Browns’ quarterback room is currently constructed:
Watson is currently in the midst of a hearing that will determine the length of a suspension stemming from 25 lawsuits that accused him of sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions. We could know the initial length of that suspension as early as this week. Either side, however – the NFL or NFL Player Association – could appeal the length of the suspension determined by the jointly appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson. That appeal would go to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell unless he elected to appoint another independent party for that ruling.
How the Browns should handle their quarterback decision depends largely on the length of that suspension for a number of reasons. If Watson is suspended a full year, then his contract would toll and the $1.035 million base salary he’s set to earn in 2022 wouldn’t be due until 2023. That also means the $46 million base salary he’s due in 2023 wouldn’t hit the books until 2024. All of that is to say that a year-long suspension would give the Browns, who currently have a league-leading $42 million in cap space, per OverTheCap.com, more spending flexibility this season. Cleveland essentially needs to carry over a large chunk of that $42 million to help pay for Watson’s $46 million salary next season. If the contract tolls, then they wouldn’t need to worry about that for another year, meaning the Browns could more easily hold onto Mayfield or even acquire another quarterback.
The easiest answer is that Brissett will be the Browns’ starting quarterback in Watson's place during the suspension. Cleveland signed Brissett and traded Case Keenum after acquiring Watson for a reason, as they knew a suspension was possible and that Brissett is a capable starter. Brissett is the best option if the suspension is for less than a full season.
If it’s a full-year suspension, then the Browns could strong-arm Mayfield and essentially force him to play by threatening suspensions or fines if he sits out. Mayfield said this week that the team would have to reach out to him but that “we're ready to move on, I think — on both sides.” That could happen soon, by the way, and the Carolina Panthers are a team to watch. Nonetheless, on paper and entering a contract year, it might be smart for Mayfield to put differences aside and quarterback the ready-to-contend Browns rather than the rebuilding Panthers. He’d also be the Browns’ best option, on paper, if Watson is out for an entire season.
Cleveland's final option would be to acquire another quarterback. Once again, this is only even remotely realistic if Watson is suspended a full season. Jimmy Garoppolo is available and will be ready to throw soon. If the Browns don’t really need to seriously pay Watson until 2024, then they would have the cap space available to acquire a player such as Garoppolo, especially if they could get the San Francisco 49ers to take on part of his salary.
|Metric||Baker Mayfield||Jacoby Brissett||Jimmy Garoppolo|
|Big time throw %||5.8%||2.9%||2.5%|
|Turnover-worthy play %||3.4%||2.9%||3.9%|
|Average depth of target||9.4||8.3||7.7|
|Adjusted completion %||70.7%||72.1%||74.8%|
|Uncatchable inaccurate %||20.3%||20.2%||17.3%|
|Avg. season PFF WAR||2.29||0.59||1.19|
For the sake of comparison, here are Watson’s numbers:
|Big time throw %||5.8%|
|Turnover worthy play %||3.1%|
|Average depth of target||9.6|
|Adjusted completion %||73.5%|
|Uncatchable inaccurate %||19.7%|
|Avg. season PFF WAR||2.48|
Mayfield has limitations, and he struggled through injuries last season, but he also gives the Browns a much higher ceiling than Brissett in 2022. Garoppolo would also give the Browns a better shot than Brissett.
Yes, that seems to be the most likely scenario. The time for the Seattle Seahawks to trade wide receiver DK Metcalf was before or during the 2022 NFL Draft when A.J. Brown and Marquise Brown were dealt.
It’s worth noting, however, that Terry McLaurin’s three-year, $70 million extension should be viewed as the floor for a Metcalf deal. While he has a slightly lower grade and wins above replacement (WAR) than McLaurin over the first three years of their careers, Metcalf is more than two years younger and has been more productive despite slightly lower PFF grades and PFF WAR.
@flockfanatic: Is the Jets roster strong enough to overcome Zach Wilson’s limitations? If he doesn’t take a big jump this year.
I don’t think so. The Jets’ success this season is still dependent on Wilson taking a massive step forward — even after an offseason when they added Breece Hall, Garrett Wilson, Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Laken Tomlinson, Nate Herbig, Jordan Whitehead, Jermaine Johnson, D.J. Reed, Jacob Martin, Solomon Thomas and others.
The Jets are in a tough AFC East that could be even more difficult this season after improvements were made to the Buffalo Bills’ and Miami Dolphins’ rosters. The New England Patriots also could take a step forward if QB Mac Jones progresses.
Wilson didn’t have an overly promising rookie season in New York, finishing 35th out of 38 qualified QBs in PFF’s passing grade. Over the last 10 seasons, 36 rookie QBs have played at least 400 snaps. Wilson ranks 31st of those 36 QBs with a 54.8 passing grade.
If Wilson is good, the Jets have a chance to compete. If he’s not, they’re likely going to struggle again. On a positive note, Wilson should benefit from additions at running back, wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive line.
I would usually say it’s a little late in the process to integrate another receiver into the offense, but there are a ton of quality veterans still available out there in Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Will Fuller, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley, among others.
The Packers already signed Sammy Watkins while drafting Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, but after losing Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, they could definitely still use another addition. I gave Green Bay Hilton in my “One trade or free agent acquisition for all 32 NFL teams before 2022 training camp” piece this week. I’ll stick with that plan.