Rams-Seahawks: How will balance of QB value in NFC West shift in 2023?

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll got his first taste of life with Geno Smith as the team’s quarterback in a game against the Los Angeles Rams last season. In Week 5, starter Russell Wilson injured his throwing hand on Aaron Donald’s helmet and the game was closed out by Smith, who then started the next three games as Seattle went 1-2 with their sole win coming against the Jaguars.

But months later, the Seahawks decided to trade Wilson to the Denver Broncos for two firsts, two seconds, and three players, and the Geno era began in Week 1 with the lowest of expectations. When Week 1 ended with Geno beating Wilson on Monday Night Football, perhaps we should have taken that as an omen instead of a fluke.

As of Week 13, even Mike Greenberg is calling Russell Wilson the worst quarterback in the NFLwhile Geno is leading the NFC in Pro Bowl voting. And Matthew Stafford, the reigning Super Bowl winner, can’t be ranked much higher than Russ at this moment and he’s well behind Geno in all passing categories.

How could the balance of power at QB in the NFL and the NFC West change hands so quickly? How much will it change again in 2023? We’ll get a closer look at the current balance of power when the Rams face Geno Smith’s Seahawks on Sunday, with or without Stafford at the helm for LA.

As of Week 1, Geno, Stafford, Kyler Murray, and Trey Lance were the four starting quarterbacks. In Week 2, Jimmy Garoppolo returned to his place as the San Francisco 49ers top quarterback and with a little more than a month to go, the 49ers have a hold on first place in the division. Stafford has missed two games, struggled the effectively pass the ball, and is under duress on practically every play because of a horrid and injury plagued offensive line.

Murray, he of the new $230 million contract, has lost five of his last six starts, and four of five since the return of DeAndre Hopkins.

But once again the NFC West could look much different next season, despite the new contracts for Murray, Stafford, Geno, and Jimmy.

Geno Smith signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract after spending a month on the free agent market without any suitors. He will not have to wait next year and if the Seahawks decide not to re-sign or franchise tag him, then Smith should at least be able to find one desperate general manager willing to bank a market-agreeable contract that takes him out of the division. Seattle will be first in line and Pete Carroll will work hard to keep Geno Smith, but if he requests not to be tagged because he’s waited eight years for this opportunity, the Seahawks might just be the team to grant his request to him.

I would give Geno Smith 80% odds of being back with the Seahawks.

Garoppolo waited to be traded and when nobody wanted to pay his $25 million salary, the 49ers got him to agree to come back to San Francisco for about $7 million. He will also be an unrestricted free agent and it is unlikely that the Niners tag him with Trey Lance still on the roster. That doesn’t mean that they will let him go either. Garoppolo has consistently played well enough to get the 49ers into Super Bowl contention, so if they make a run and win it all, the team may yet decide to keep him. They don’t have to trade Lance right away either to do that.

I would give Garoppolo about 70% odds of being back with the 49ers.

Murray has to come back to Arizona. Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t. But anyone who the Cardinals hire to replace Kingsbury still has to coach an offense like Kingsbury’s because that’s why they hired Kingsbury to begin with: To maximize Murray’s abilities.

Murray has a 100% chance of being back. But is he any good?

Finally, Stafford signed a new four-year, $160 million contract but there are concerns about his long-term health and durability. The Rams have to find better backups than Bryce Perkins and John Wolford, but I do believe that Stafford has a 99% chance of returning. It’s the offensive line and the receivers that need a makeover. And maybe the coaching staff.

Stafford could be the NFC West’s best quarterback again by next year. Things do change that quickly. But as we can see, those things are also impossible to predict.

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