You got a quarterback or not? Or are you not quite sure? These questions define the NFL offseason.
Teams that have quarterbacks are able to go about the rest of their business in relative peace, sure that the biggest roster question is taken care of, and able to attack the other questions with the confidence that certainly inspires. The Colts have a ton of work to do, sure, but they know what they have at the most important spot.
Teams that don't have quarterbacks feel as if nothing will ever be right again until they do. The Texans love their roster, but for the second year in a row they're trying to figure out the right guy to plug in behind center to make it all run correctly.
With that in mind, let's take a look at each NFL team's quarterback confidence situation. This is not simply a ranking of starters, though starters (especially those who never miss games) obviously make up the bulk of the formula. Nor is it a pure comparison of quarterbacks' accomplishments to date. It's a rating of each team based on the confidence it currently should carry about the position.
We've sorted the teams into categories (and ranked them within each category) to give a sense of where they stand on the quarterback position as the offseason unfolds. Have a look:
Sure, Tom Brady turns 40 in August. But you watched the Super Bowl on Sunday. He look 40 to you? The Patriots' ranking is bolstered by how strong their backup situation is. They know Jimmy Garoppolo can fill in, and they like Jacoby Brissett as Brady's backup if a team makes them an offer for Jimmy G they can't refuse.
Aaron Rodgers might be angling for the team to get out of its free-agent comfort zone and get him some help. But whether the Packers do or don't, they're going to continue to count on Rodgers to carry them in the biggest spots.
Matt Ryan was just named MVP of the league. The departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could shake things up in Atlanta, but Ryan should be moving forward with supreme confidence after the season he just had and with the weapons he has around him.
Matthew Stafford and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter appear to be made for each other. Stafford might not quite rise to the level of some other guys on this list, but he's everything the Lions want and does everything they need him to do. Expect the 29-year-old Stafford to land a huge contract extension this offseason.
The Colts need offensive linemen, receivers and a bunch of help on defense. But they believe Andrew Luck is the truth. They're committed to him long term, and their mission is to build around him.
SET, BUT FOR HOW LONG?
Ben Roethlisberger would put the Steelers squarely in the first category if not for the noise he made recently about potential retirement. The expectation is that Roethlisberger will play in 2017, but if he's thinking about the end, the Steelers have to be thinking about what comes next. Big Ben turns 35 in March.
Drew Brees is 38, but he just posted the fifth 5,000-yard passing season of his career. The contract he signed last offseason basically ensures one more season with the Saints and then allows him to see where things stand. Look at Brees as year-to-year now, but expect him to be ABLE to deliver for at least a couple more.
Philip Rivers seems to be reluctantly embracing the team's move from San Diego to Los Angeles, but it'll be interesting to see how he feels after a full season there. At 35 years old and with his fortune made, he has to be thinking about when it's time to wrap it up and go home to all those kids.
It was a down year for Eli Manning, and while the Giants still believe in him, don't be surprised if they look for a quarterback in this year's draft to groom as Eli's eventual replacement. He's 36 but likely has a few good years left. The Giants fixed the defense last season but now have to rebuild the offense around Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
Carson Palmer is back, but he thought long and hard about retiring. Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said last August, "That's all I think about," when asked whether he ponders life after Palmer. That pondering should ramp up this offseason.
CAUGHT ON A SPEED BUMP
11. Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson was hurt and had no offensive line, and Seattle's running game kind of fell apart around him. So you might be able to give him a pass for his 2016 season. There's no reason to think Wilson can't jump back to his 2015 level, but if he doesn't, he doesn't belong in the top two groups.
Same with 2015 MVP Cam Newton, whose completion percentage dipped to an abysmal, career-low 52.9 in 2016. Was it a Super Bowl hangover? Or was it closer to what we can expect from Newton going forward? He'll turn 28 in May, so there's plenty of time left.
13. Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr was an MVP candidate before he got hurt, mainly because of the toughness and leadership he showed late in games. He doesn't rate statistically with some of the guys higher on this list -- he ranked 16th in the league in Total QBR -- but he has improved every season and offers the Raiders reason to be confident in him long term. Carr is another quarterback who's likely to get a big contract extension this offseason.
This assumes Washington brings back Kirk Cousins, either on the franchise tag or on a new long-term deal, which he wants. Either way, Cousins proved himself in 2016, finishing third in the league in passing yards. He's the franchise guy Washington needs, even if he's still not the one they wish they had.
Alex Smith can get you to the playoffs. Alex Smith is better than most people think. Alex Smith is fine. Just fine. The Chiefs will win if the defense plays at an elite level and can dominate in the running game. Smith isn't going to be the reason the Chiefs lose.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Many quarterbacks on this list are still wondering whether they can win a Super Bowl. Flacco knows he can, because he has. But since then, he has never performed as he did during that magical run four years ago. So he sits here. Just fine. The Ravens know what they have, but they need more around him to win.
Even if Teddy Bridgewater can't bounce back from his major knee injury in time for the start of the 2017 season, the Vikings feel good about Sam Bradford. He just set a single-season record for completion percentage, and he's playing for offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, for whom Bradford has had success in the past.
Like Flacco in Baltimore, Andy Dalton isn't the reason the Bengals don't win. He was a fringe MVP candidate two years ago and can play at a high enough level to win games if he has the right support around him. No one in Cincinnati is pounding their chest in the faces of Patriots fans and yelling, "We got DALTON" -- but they know they could do much worse.
KEEP IT UP, KID
19. Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott did nothing in his first year in Dallas to make anyone worry that he can't stay good. Building on his brilliant first season is Prescott's next mission. With that offensive line and Ezekiel Elliott to hand the ball off to, Prescott is set up nicely.
20. Tennessee Titans
Tennessee was built on its running game and young offensive line, but when the Titans needed Marcus Mariota to make a play, he generally did it. The No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft has shown many encouraging signs in his first two years and should continue to progress.
Despite too many interceptions, Jameis Winston sure knows how to win games. He willed a substandard Bucs team to the edge of the playoffs in 2016 and absolutely has command of the huddle and the locker room.
Carson Wentz started off red-hot, then leveled off as you'd expect from a rookie who wasn't supposed to be playing yet. The Eagles need receivers, a running back and at least one tackle, and we'll see where Wentz is once they get all of that together.
WATCH YOUR BACK
23. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Tannehill is signed for four more years at an average of more than $18 million per year. He played well in 2016 under new coach Adam Gase, but Miami seems to want to run its offense through the running game, and you wonder whether the Dolphins will want to keep paying Tannehill at that level if they're not asking much from him. No money is guaranteed beyond 2017.
The Jags are under new management, and it remains to be seen what the new brain trust thinks of Blake Bortles. He absolutely took a step backward in 2016 and will have to show progress quickly if the team is going to commit to him long term.
25. Houston Texans
Brock Osweiler was a huge disappointment after signing his big free-agent contract, and Houston is likely looking at other options (hello, Tony Romo?) for 2017. But the Texans can't get out of the Osweiler contract yet, so he's still in the picture to some extent next season. Can he be what they hoped he would be?
26. Denver Broncos
You could make the case for the Broncos to be in a higher tier, because they like what Trevor Siemian did in 2016, and they used a first-round pick on Paxton Lynch. But they don't know when Lynch will be ready, what Siemian's ceiling is, or what they might do about adding someone this offseason. Confusion reigns around the QB position in Denver.
27. Los Angeles Rams
L.A. knows who its QB is for now: Jared Goff was the No. 1 pick in last year's draft and isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But the Rams have a new coaching staff, and if after a year or so it's not working out with Goff, they could look elsewhere. Plus, Goff hasn't shown enough yet for the Rams or anyone else to know what he is as an NFL quarterback.
28. Buffalo Bills
A decision looms on Tyrod Taylor, who won't be back on that contract and might not be back at all if the Bills can't work anything out. If Taylor stays, the Bills' job is to surround him with talent. If he goes, they're in the same unfortunate bucket as these next four teams.
29. Chicago Bears
Uh ... well, Matt Barkley showed some things, I guess. And Jay Cutler is technically still there, so the Bears could bring back the same crew from last year. But if they move on from Cutler, as it's assumed they will, they have to figure this out from scratch.
30. Cleveland Browns
Uh... well, Cody Kessler showed some things, I guess. And Robert Griffin III is technically still there, so the Browns could bring back the same crew from last year. But come on. Cleveland is on the hunt for something real and sustainable at quarterback. The Browns didn't think Wentz was it. Once again, they have the picks (No. 1 and No. 12 overall in April's draft) to find it. Will they get it right this time?
31. New York Jets
Ryan Fitzpatrick couldn't get it done. Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg probably aren't ready. The Jets are a rebuilding team without an obvious answer at QB. They could go any number of directions here.
Once Colin Kaepernick opts out, San Francisco will have no quarterbacks under contract. That's a bold strategy. Let's see how it works out for them. The first order of business for new coach Kyle Shanahan and new general manager John Lynch: Find a quarterback. This is why they were smart to get six-year contracts.