DENVER (AP) — Of the nine NFL teams changing quarterbacks in 2022, three franchises have been models of quarterback stability for a decade or more: the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Seahawks and Falcons traded longtime starters, and the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger to retirement.
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to the playoffs eight times during his decade in Seattle before his relationship with coach Pete Carroll soured and he was traded to Denver in a blockbuster trade this spring.
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Wilson becomes the sixth different starting quarterback in six years for the Broncos, who have gone through a dozen quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired.
The Broncos gave up four high draft picks and three veterans for Wilson, including QB Drew Lock, who swung with Geno Smith in a disappointing camp contest that had Seahawks fans dreaming of the deep QB class of the next year with CJ Stroud of Ohio State, Bryce Young of Alabama. and Will Levis of Kentucky.
The Falcons head into the season without Matt Ryan under center for the first time since 2007. What marked the end of Ryan’s long stay in Atlanta was the Falcons’ alliance with Deshaun Watson, who finally agreed a trade to Cleveland after the Browns guaranteed every penny of his new $230 million contract.
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The Falcons traded Ryan, who started 232 of 235 games for Atlanta, including Super Bowl 51, to the Indianapolis Colts — who parted ways with Carson Wentz after just one year — for a third-round pick.
Atlanta replaced Ryan with Marcus Mariota, who will be starting for the first time in four years. Wentz ended up in Washington, the NFL’s third stop in three seasons for the Eagles’ second pick in 2016.
Baker Mayfield’s departure after a four-year run at Cleveland that included the Browns’ first playoff win since 2002. Mayfield was traded to Carolina, where he beat Sam Darnold.
Watson won’t be eligible to dress for the Browns until Week 13 after an 11-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women so that he was with the Texans.
“All my life I’ve been able to move on and that’s the plan,” said Watson, who can return for the Browns’ game in Houston on Dec. 4.
Wilson and Mayfield won’t have to wait that long for their reunion.
Wilson returns to Seattle on Sept. 12 to cap an opening weekend that also includes a rematch with the Browns behind backup Jacoby Brissett at Carolina.
The last time the Steelers entered a season without ‘Big Ben’ at quarterback was in 2003, although Roethlisberger’s 2019 season ended after two weeks with an elbow injury that required surgical intervention.
Pittsburgh, loaded with top passers, signed free agent Mitch Trubisky, who spent four turbulent years in Chicago before serving as Josh Allen’s backup at Buffalo last year, and drafted Kenny Pickett from the University of Pittsburgh .
Finally, the 49ers handed things over to Trey Lance this summer after spending his rookie year on the bench behind Jimmy Garoppolo, who led San Francisco to the Super Bowl after the 2019 season.
Wilson insists he doesn’t anticipate an emotional return to Lumen Field.
“It has to be emotionless,” Wilson said, like every other game he played while compiling a 113-60-1 record for the Seahawks, including a 43-8 demolition of Denver in Super Bowl 48.
Wilson will be the first quarterback to start for a team he beat in the Super Bowl, but he said he doesn’t care in the slightest whether he’ll be greeted with cheers or mockery.
Mayfield, on the other hand, acknowledges that there will be added incentive to face the Browns in the Panthers’ opener.
“Obviously there’s a lot of attachment there and I’m not going to sit here and be a robot and say that means nothing,” Mayfield said. “It will be.”