If the NFL maintains that it is a league of parity, then it had better be banking on the ability of a change at the quarterback position being enough to sway the fortunes of a franchise in a hurry. Up to 13 or more of the league’s 32 teams could well be opening the 2018 season with a different starting quarterback than the one that opened the 2017 season for them, and this is especially true in the AFC.
While some of these cases may be related to injury, the majority of changes have come about as a result of a belief by a number of organizations that a change was necessary at the quarterback position to address some of their fundamental issues.
The AFC East in particular is wide open, with only the New England Patriots likely to start the same player they did a year ago. The Buffalo Bills traded away their starter and drafted Josh Allen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The New York Jets also drafted Sam Darnold in the draft, and Teddy Bridgewater may start if the rookie is not ready. In Miami, Ryan Tannehill returns from injury after missing the 2017 season, with Jay Cutler at the helm.
The AFC North should only see one change at quarterback, at least for now, with either Tyrod Taylor or Baker Mayfield opening the season for the Cleveland Browns, who traded all their quarterbacks away. All three of the other teams did draft a quarterback, including the Baltimore Ravens in the first round.
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to see Andrew Luck return, while the Houston Texans will also be getting back Deshaun Watson, who was not their opening-day starter a year ago. The other AFC South teams should remain status quo.
There are two prominent changes in the West, however, with the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs using different means to address their quarterback situation. The Chiefs planned ahead and traded up for Patrick Mahomes a year ago. The Broncos signed Case Keenum in free agency after a couple of years of below mediocrity at the position.
Change in the NFC is less substantial. While Washington will go from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith, the rest of the East is stable for now. The Minnesota Vikings won the Cousins sweepstakes, moving on from both Keenum and Bridgewater…and Sam Bradford, but more on him in a bit. The Chicago Bears opened the 2017 season with Mike Glennon at quarterback, but he gave way to Mitchell Trubisky after a few games.
Meanwhile, the South is the only division in football expected to be untouched at the quarterback position, with all four teams projecting to start the same player who opened last season, all with stable players there, even if aging in the Saints’ case.
Last but not least is the West, where Bradford landed with the Arizona Cardinals. Whether or not he opens as the starter over rookie Josh Rosen remains to be seen, but either way it represents change. And the San Francisco 49ers begin the Jimmy Garoppolo era proper after acquiring him via trade last season.
That is certainly a lot of turnover for one offseason—more than the usual, even if you factor out the changes that are a product of injuries, as with the Colts and Dolphins. How much will these changes improve their teams?