Gardner Minshew Contract: Will the 2023 Free Agent QB Become a Starter Next Season?
There’s an old saying in football that says the most popular guy on the team is the backup quarterback. That’s because it’s easy to criticize the guy who is playing and praise the one who is not because you never have to see the backup take a bad sack or throw a pick. On the 2022 Philadelphia Eagles, Jalen Hurts is playing so well this adage doesn’t apply, and it’s sometimes hard to remember who the backup QB even is. However, several other NFL team’s fan bases are well aware because when the current Gardner Minshew contract is up at the end of the year, there will be several teams vying for his signature.
The Gardner Flint Minshew II story
For those who don’t remember the Gardner Flint Minshew II story, here’s a quick refresher. The mustachioed, undersized QB out of Brandon, Mississippi, took a circuitous route to the NFL. He first signed with Troy before leaving shortly after arriving on campus in favor of Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he led the Rangers to the 2015 NJCAA national title.
Minshew then transferred to East Carolina, where he started sporadically for two seasons, then moved to Washington State for his final season. There, he played for Air Raid innovator Mike Leach and was second in the country in passing yards (4,779), behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins but ahead of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray.
Despite not being the physical ideal of an NFL quarterback, the Jacksonville Jaguars took Minshew in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
After starter Nick Foles went out in Week 1 of that season, Minshew took over with a 22-of-25, 275-yard, two-touchdown, one-interception performance. His 13 straight completions were the best in an NFL debut since the 1970s. The QB went on to start 12 games that season, going 6-6 with a mediocre (at best) Jags team. In 2020, on an even worse Jaguars squad, Minshew went 1-7 as a starter, but a thumb injury cost him nearly half the season.
That led to the Jaguars getting the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, taking QB Trevor Lawrence, and ultimately trading Minshew to the Philadelphia Eagles.
This season, Minshew’s contract pays the backup $2.5 million in the final season of his rookie deal. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, which begs the questions, what will the next Gardner Minshew contract look like, and what team will it be with?
Minshew might be the best backup QB in the NFL, but is he a starter?
The next Gardner Minshew contract will dictate the rest of the QBs career. If a team makes him its starter, there could be big days and big money ahead for the signal-caller. But is Minshew worth it?
Evaluating Minshew in 2023 will be tough. Since his days in Jacksonville, the quarterback has only thrown 64 passes.
Looking back on his Jaguars days, Minshew put up 3,271 passing yards his first season with a 60.6% completion rate, 21 touchdowns, and just six interceptions. The next season, in five fewer games, Minshew threw for 2,259 yards with 16 TDs and six INTs with a 66.1% completion rate. He also ran for 344 yards in his first season and 153 in his second.
Looking back, Minshew fits the mold of the now-valuable accurate, mobile quarterback. Although, despite his ability to run and scramble, he took 60 sacks in his first two seasons. In fairness, though, he was young and playing behind a poor offensive line.
With his skillset and potential — he’s still just 26 years old — it does seem like some team will give Minshew a chance to at least compete for a starting job next season by giving out a decent-sized Gardner Minshew contract.
What will the next Gardner Minshew contract look like, and what team will it be with?
Who will give out a big Gardner Minshew contract next season? Let’s look at the most likely suspects.
The teams that need a new QB next season are the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and maybe the Washington Commanders, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons, and Tennessee Titans.
The Texans, Lions, and Panthers will almost certainly draft a QB in the first round, so they are likely out. The Broncos, Colts, and Rams are paying QBs $107M, $18M, and $49.5M, respectively, wrapped up in dead cap for QBs, so they can’t really give out a big Gardner Minshew contract.
Of the teams left, the Commanders (Taylor Heinicke), Giants (Daniel Jones), and Jets (Mike White) have Minshew-level vets who they can keep instead. The Titans (Malik Willis) and Falcons (Matt Corral) have young QBs who could come on, but Minshew is a possibility in those spots, especially in Atlanta.
The most logical choice, though, to dish out a $15-$20 million a year Gardner Minshew contract is the Saints. They don’t have a first-round pick in 2023 after trading it to the Eagles in order to take offensive lineman Trevor Penning in 2022. Also, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Taysom Hill simply aren’t good options. Plus, Dalton is a free agent, and Winston is cut-able after this season.
So, welcome to the 2023 New Orleans Saints, Gardner Minshew!