In the NFL, things are always subject to change. As time passes, teams that were once terrible become champions, and great young players quickly become veteran leaders. One aspect of every team that is constantly examined is the quarterback position. Without top-level production, any starting QB can go from a franchise player to a backup in short order. As is, quarterbacks’ jobs could be on the line in any given year. 2021 is no different.
With free agency and the NFL draft past us, we have an idea of what every team will look like next season. With that, we have a better glimpse of what the quarterback situation looks like for everyone. Based on what we know, we will list five quarterbacks whose jobs are on the line in 2021.
1. Cam Newton
Cam Newton’s first season in New England did not go as planned for neither him nor the Patriots. A 7-9 record and only eight touchdown passes are far from what one would expect from a former league MVP. Easily the worst statistical year of his career, Newton looks to have a bounce-back campaign in 2021. Due to his decline in performance and health issues over the years, this season is crucial for the remainder of his career.
On the wings awaits Mac Jones, the 15th overall pick of this year’s draft. Having led the Alabama Crimson Tide to another national championship, he certainly has a lot going for him entering the pros. Should Cam struggle to get going this season, it wouldn’t shock anyone to see Jones take over as the Patriots starter.
2. Ben Roethlisberger
After starting 11-0 in 2020, it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers had it all figured out. Unfortunately, they closed out the season, losing five of their last six games, the last of which was an embarrassing loss to the Cleveland Browns at home in the wild card. While injuries played a big part in their mid-season decline, their quarterback seemed to regress at an alarming rate.
Ben Roethlisberger has been the man under center for the Steelers for over 15 years. As he enters next season at age 39, coming off the porous end to the prior year, it leaves to question whether or not he’s at the end. The Steelers seem to think he’s got more to give. Despite the opportunity, Pittsburgh chose not to draft a quarterback this year. Their only insurance comes in the form of Dwayne Haskins, a former first-round pick in 2019.
Should Ben return to form, he may retain his spot in 2022, barring retirement. However, if he struggles again, expect the black-and-gold to seek out a new field general.
3. Jalen Hurts
Further East of Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Eagles have many questions to be answered in the upcoming season. At the top of the list is whether or not they have a franchise QB in Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia undoubtedly played their best football after Hurts took over from Carson Wentz late last season. But the Eagles organization doesn’t seem sure about what they have in Hurts.
Leading up to the draft, rumors swirled about the Eagles potentially picking a quarterback sixth overall. Those reports were tampered down by Philly trading back, but many questions remain. After all, Jalen Hurts was a second-round pick for a reason. He wasn’t projected to be a star player going into his draft year. While he did outperform his predecessor in 2020, his play did somewhat leave more to be desired. Even now, new head coach Nick Sirianni was said to want competition at every position.
If he steps his game up this season, we’ll know that he is the future in Philadelphia. Otherwise, the Eagles will be searching for another quarterback sooner rather than later.
4. Derek Carr
Seemingly, after every season, there are reports about the Las Vegas Raiders potentially moving on from Derek Carr. Some see him as a middling performer at his position. Others think that he is quietly one of the best QBs in the sport. Part of this disparity has to do with the lack of success for the Raiders throughout Carr’s career.
In his seven years as a pro, Carr has only led his team to the playoffs once. However, he shouldn’t be held responsible for that being the case. Having thrown the 10th most touchdown passes in the league since entering in 2014, you could say that Carr’s team has held him back.
Derek Carr’s contract is nearing its end. If the Raiders fail to secure a playoff spot again in 2021, it may become time for both parties to move on.
5. Drew Lock
It seems like less of a possibility and more of a formality that 2021 will be Drew Lock’s last year as the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback. As he was a second-round pick in 2019, Denver would only give him so much time to become a legitimate starter.
With the acquisition of Teddy Bridgewater, Lock will have to compete for the starting job in training camp. As it stands now, it’s possible he won’t get the chance to prove himself even then. Denver has been most connected to trade speculations regarding Aaron Rodgers. With still a few months left before the season, this can still translate into an actual deal.
This all goes to highlight that time is running short for Drew Lock. Even if he wins the job in camp, the season will ultimately dictate his future in Denver.
For each of the players listed here, there remains a chance for them to keep their spot past 2021. And while it’s likely for some of these guys that they won’t, it doesn’t mean that they’re done for in the league. As I said before, things are often subject to change in the NFL. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with each of these players moving forward.