It's May, and if you don't know who your team's starting quarterback is ... well, it could be a while before you do.
With OTAs about to get underway, minicamps still a month away and oodles of time before training camp, NFL teams that have quarterback questions aren't in a hurry to get them answered. These teams will spend as much time as they can between now and September making sure they get this just right. Because if you get your quarterback wrong, not much else about your season matters.
So let's take a super early look, in no particular order, at the starting quarterback battles that will occupy our attention throughout the summer:
Where it stands: Tom Savage started two games last season when Bill O'Brien got sick of Brock Osweiler, then he lost the job when he got hurt, because O'Brien has starting quarterback ADD. The Texans moved up in the first round in the draft, hoping Deshaun Watson would be the cure, and he might well be. The question is when he'll be ready, and how much O'Brien really means it when he says good things about Savage. Brandon Weeden, one of four quarterbacks to start a game for O'Brien in 2015, is still around to help if things crater.
Most likely to start Week 1: Watson. Why not? "He'll win over that building in no time," one person who has worked with Watson said. "The coaching staff is going to look for ways for him to win the job." The Texans can put a playoff-caliber team around Watson and ease him into NFL life without asking him to carry them. Think Mark Sanchez as a Jets rookie who made it all the way to the AFC Championship Game with a team that led the league in defense and rushing. That's the dream. Plus two more wins, and then a career.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Clearly, I'm all-in on Watson. But I don't think the number is 16. Again, quarterback ADD.
Where it stands: Mitchell Trubisky is their guy for the long term. So say all those picks they used to move up from No. 3 to No. 2 in the draft to get him. But as is the case with all the quarterbacks in this year's draft, Trubisky probably isn't ready to start right now. Fortunately, the Bears spent handsomely in free agency to sign former Bucs backup Mike Glennon, who's left wondering if he's the Matt Flynn to Trubisky's Russell Wilson in this whole equation. With Chicago not quite as "win now" ready as the 2012 Seahawks were, it's probably not that cut and dried. Mark Sanchez and Connor Shaw are the other two options on the depth chart, and it's likely one sticks as a backup if Trubisky doesn't show enough progress this summer to be at least the backup.
Most likely to start Week 1: Glennon. He's making a guaranteed $16 million this season, and $2.5 million of his 2018 money is fully guaranteed as well, so it's not as if he's going anywhere. The writing might be on the wall, but there's no reason to not to run him out there first if he's healthy.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Trubisky. The pressure to play him will be intense, and Glennon doesn't have enough around him to succeed in enough of a way to hold off the rookie. The Bears' rebuild will begin earlier than the current coaching staff might like it to, and depending on how this year goes, it might be another coaching staff that has to continue it.
Where it stands: The Browns made three first-round picks, and none of them was a quarterback. The current depth chart features, in no particular order, Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and second-round pick DeShone Kizer. Of the four, Osweiler has the most NFL starts, with 21. But the Browns acquired him from Houston in a financially motivated deal and not intending to keep him. Kessler started eight games as a rookie last season, and Hogan got into four. Kizer is the project everyone agrees won't be ready right away.
After a 1-15 season, Hue Jackson and his coaching staff have to balance the search for a long-term answer with their desire to have at least some success in 2017. "They went into the offseason thinking they could trade for Jimmy Garoppolo or AJ McCarron, and neither guy was available to them," a league official said of the Browns. "At this point, Osweiler might be their best bet."
Most likely to start Week 1: Kessler, assuming they move on from Osweiler as they planned to when they acquired him. Jackson seems to like Kessler, who showed at least something when he played, and finding out what he's got is as good a way to spend the short term as any.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Kessler. But it might not be more than the eight with which he led the team in 2016.
Where it stands: This is another team that looks playoff-caliber but for the most important position. Trevor Siemian, who started 14 games for what was a defending Super Bowl champion Broncos team last season, is still in the picture. So is 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. And 2017 Mr. Irrelevant Chad Kelly.
"If Gary Kubiak were still the coach, Siemian would be the clear favorite," a person with knowledge of the situation said. But the competition is between Siemian and Lynch, the coaching staff is new, and you can bet general manager John Elway is going to empower new coach Vance Joseph to make this decision on his own.
Most likely to start Week 1: I'll stick with Siemian, mainly because I don't think Lynch will be ready to go by September.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Lynch. In a brutal division with a rookie head coach and a rough-looking first-half schedule, things could go badly for the Broncos. If they do, and if Lynch shows progress, they should see what he's got for the long haul.
Where it stands: Look, there's a nonzero chance that Kyle Shanahan still swings a crazy deal for Kirk Cousins if Washington figures out it can't sign Cousins to a long-term deal before July 15. More likely, though, the Niners wait for Washington to transition-tag Cousins or let him walk next spring, and they spend 2017 figuring out what kind of team they have and what holes they still need to fill for when it's time to bring in Cousins or a 2018 draft pick or whomever their long-term solution is.
For now, it will be either Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley or, if he comes much more quickly than anyone imagines, third-round pick C.J. Beathard. The folks running the Niners got six-year deals, so they'll be patient and wait for the quarterback of their dreams.
Most likely to start Week 1: Hoyer. He has starter's experience, and Shanahan knows him from their time together in Cleveland.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Hoyer, but his injury history tells us someone else is likely to get a shot, too.
Where it stands: They signed Josh McCown in case neither 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty nor 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg are ready to play this year. And it's possible neither will be. There's not enough data on either guy for the Jets or anyone else to know. The perception around the league is that the Jets, whose roster has plenty of holes in addition to quarterback, need to use this season to find out what they have in one or both of those guys and figure out whether they need to draft their quarterback of the future in 2018. A grim picture, but it is what it is.
Most likely to start Week 1: McCown, probably, because he has the most experience and gives the Jets a chance at the outset of the season, when no one wants to give up before it starts.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Hackenberg. He was the higher pick and seems to be more likely than Petty to assimilate into an NFL offense based on his collegiate background. The Jets need to find out what they have in him.
Where it stands: This is a little bit different from the ones we've done so far, because Tyrod Taylor is the unquestioned starter as of now and it would be a surprise if he didn't start the opener. The coaching staff is new, however. And while Sean McDermott was overseeing things when the Bills agreed to bring back Taylor on a restructured contract, it's not a deal that screams, "He's our guy!" for the long term. They have 2016 fourth-round pick Cardale Jones and 2017 fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman in the wings should something happen to Taylor.
Most likely to start Week 1: Taylor.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Taylor. The Bills actually have a shot to be competitive, especially if they can keep Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy on the field and give Taylor the best chance to succeed.
Where it stands: They picked up Blake Bortles' fifth-year option, but that's only guaranteed against injury until next March. As long as Bortles is healthy, the Jags aren't committed to the 2014 first-round pick beyond this year. And new football boss Tom Coughlin is on record saying Bortles has to cut down on turnovers. Jacksonville didn't draft a potential replacement, so the only one around to pressure Bortles is his sloppy 2016 self. But if that guy shows up again, Chad Henne could get some time while the Jaguars' bosses pave Bortles' way out of town.
Most likely to start Week 1: Bortles. He'll get plenty of rope.
Most likely to lead team in 2017 starts: Bortles.