Howe: What I’m hearing on QB ‘battles’: Daniel Jones vs. Drew Lock, Geno Smith vs. Sam Howell

A few things I’m hearing around the NFL during the first week of free agency …

Giant proclamation

Let’s get this out of the way: Daniel Jones is expected to be the New York Giants’ starting quarterback as soon as he’s healthy enough to assume the role.

The arrival of Drew Lock didn’t change that sentiment, though Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider surely added some confusion to the situation Thursday during a radio appearance on Seattle Sports 710AM.

“They basically sold him on the opportunity to compete to be the starter,” Schneider said.

Lock, who spent the past two seasons as the Seahawks backup, immediately quashed that idea Friday morning during his introductory interview with Giants reporters.

“Daniel Jones is the starter of this team,” Lock said. “That’s been conveyed to me.”

Lock signed a one-year deal worth up to $5 million this week to fill the Giants’ desire for a backup with veteran experience. They missed that element last season for a stretch when Jones (torn ACL) and backup Tyrod Taylor were both out with injuries and the team had to turn to rookie Tommy DeVito for six starts.

Lock, indeed, was not offered a chance to compete for the starting job, according to a league source. The Giants did sell him on the idea of working with head coach Brian Daboll, who has a quarterback-friendly system that led to Jones’ best season in 2022.



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Additionally, after working with Daboll, Taylor just earned a bigger contract with the New York Jets. Before that, former Buffalo Bills backup Mitch Trubisky also turned a 2021 stint with Daboll into a raise with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There’s a pattern here, too. The Giants had an exploratory meeting last week with Russell Wilson, and the team didn’t make any promises about playing time, according to league sources. That’s been the Giants’ approach as they’ve built toward the 2024 season with Jones as the expected starter.

Getting younger in Seattle

The Seahawks have been trying to get younger at quarterback over the past year, even after extending starter Geno Smith for three years and $75 million. There’s even belief around the league the Seahawks could have been players for a quarterback early in the 2023 draft if their guy was still on the board.

At any rate, the Seahawks accomplished that goal this week by acquiring Sam Howell from the Washington Commanders.



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The Seahawks have been high on Howell for a while, too. The fifth-round pick in 2022 was a full-time starter for the first time last season and completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 3,946 yards, 21 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

There’s plenty of room for growth with Howell, to be sure, but teams like the Seahawks have been intrigued by Howell’s ability to step into the starting lineup with minimal experience and attempt the most passes in the NFL. Of course, that came with some lumps, as he also led the league in interceptions and sacks (65).

But as the Seahawks look for the quarterback who will eventually replace Smith — whenever that happens to be — they’ll now get an extended chance to evaluate Howell.



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Trades brewing

Teams don’t just blindly trade up into arbitrary spots in the draft order without a plan.

The Vikings clearly have one. We’ll just have to wait to see where they hope to land.

On Friday, the Vikings sent a couple of second-rounders to the Houston Texans as part of a package for the No. 23 pick in April. Now, the Vikings have Nos. 11 and 23 in the opening round.

The Vikings lost quarterback Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, and they were outbid in part because they were wary about making a long-term commitment to a quarterback who will turn 36 before the season.

To put it another way, the Vikings were already hoping to get younger at quarterback, and now they have no choice.



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So now the Vikings have the assets to move up even higher, but where’s the sweet spot? Just a guess, but the Commanders (No. 2) and the New England Patriots (No. 3) probably won’t want to move all the way back to No. 11, miss a quarterback and likely be out of the mix for a top-tier wide receiver and left tackle. Or at least, the Vikings are really, really going to have to convince one of those teams with a decisively strong trade offer.

However, there might be a more obvious spot at No. 4, where the Arizona Cardinals have been open for business. And remember the 2023 draft, when the Cardinals traded No. 3 to the Texans for a package that included No. 12 and a first-rounder in 2024.

The Cardinals’ new regime of general manager Monti Ossenfort and coach Jonathan Gannon has committed to quarterback Kyler Murray. And during their year on the job, they’ve added physical, smart players who will make the Cardinals a tough out even as they rebuild. It’s similar to the way Ossenfort’s former Patriots co-worker, Texans general manager Nick Caserio, rounded out that roster before a more aggressive approach in 2023.

Point being, the Cardinals may welcome another trade down the board to accumulate more first-rounders as they attempt to assemble difference-makers around Murray.

The fourth pick may not help the Vikings land USC’s Caleb Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels. But if they’re high enough on Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, the Vikings might have just taken a necessary step toward their long-term solution at QB.

The Hall awaits

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald started his five-year clock on the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he retired Friday. The committee shouldn’t need to take too long to rubberstamp the merits of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

On a related note, I used this as an opportunity to dust off and update some data I compiled after then-Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore’s season in 2019 when he won Defensive Player of the Year. The purpose of that story was to assess Gilmore’s candidacy for Canton.

Of the 33 former Defensive Players of the Year who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, 22 have gotten inducted, so that’s a healthy 66.7 percent chance. The 11 who haven’t been inducted haven’t gained much traction, so that number may hold firm for a while.

Nine former Defensive Players of the Year are not yet eligible, either because they’re still in the league or have not been retired for five full seasons. Those nine will continue to make a dent in Canton, as Donald, Gilmore, J.J. Watt, Luke Kuechly, Terrell Suggs, Khalil Mack, T.J. Watt, Nick Bosa and Myles Garrett will have varying degrees of strong resumes.

(Photo of Daniel Jones: Jasen Vinlove / USA Today)

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