NFL QB depth charts: Current starting, backup quarterbacks for all 32 teams in 2021

By | August 30, 2021

Every year, there are battles that wage in preseason over the starting roles at quarterback.

Obviously, this is not the case with every team. Tom Brady will never have to fight for a spot. Patrick Mahomes is the franchise in Kansas City. 

But especially after a draft class that saw four first round QBs taken, there has been plenty of speculation as to who will be the starters under center for several NFL teams heading into the 2021 season. 

Sporting News is taking a look at where each of the 32 NFL teams stand following the end of preseason.

MORE: Final NFL preseason power rankings

Bears QB depth chart

  • Starter: Andy Dalton
  • Backups: Justin Fields, Nick Foles

No matter how exciting Fields was in the preseason, it wasn’t enough to take the starting gig away from the free agent signing of the veteran Dalton. Expect to see a short leash on Dalton though, with Fields a likely bet to start at some point early in the 2021 campaign.

Bengals QB depth chart

  • Starter: Joe Burrow
  • Backups: Brandon Allen, Kyle Shurmur

Burrow was the immediate starter in Cincinnati after being drafted first overall in 2020, and the only reason there might have been any uncertainty coming into this year about him starting was whether he was healthy after his major knee injury. He appeared for three snaps in the Bengals’ final preseason game and will start Week 1.

Bills QB depth chart

  • Starter: Josh Allen
  • Backups: Mitch Trubisky, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb

The Bills just inked Allen to one of the largest contract extensions in NFL history. He put up MVP-caliber numbers last season as he took the Bills to the playoffs and won the AFC East. No question Allen is the starter.

Broncos QB depth chart

  • Starter: Teddy Bridgewater
  • Backups: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien

The Broncos are putting Lock back in the backup role after he’s struggled in 18 games starting at the position since he was drafted in the second round in 2019. Bridgewater was named the starter after an impressive preseason that saw him completed 16-of-19 passes for 179 yards and two touchdowns.

Browns QB depth chart

  • Starter: Baker Mayfield
  • Backups: Case Keenum, Kyle Lauletta

Mayfield has been the best Browns quarterback in a long time and took the team to the playoffs in 2020 for the first time since 2002. He’s the starter once again in 2021.

Buccaneers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Tom Brady
  • Backups: Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, Kyle Trask

Brady won a Super Bowl in his first season with Tampa Bay and even heading into his age 44 season, no one will question his ability to perform on the field after another 40-touchdown season last year.

Cardinals QB depth chart

  • Starter: Kyler Murray
  • Backups: Colt McCoy, Chris Streveler

Taken first overall in 2019, Murray was explosive in his second NFL season and further solidified his position as the team’s franchise QB. Expect to see him take another leap in 2021 behind a deeper array of targets.

Chargers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Justin Herbert
  • Backups: Chase Daniel, Easton Stick

Winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 is a good sign you’ll be given a chance to repeat as the starter the following year. Herbert was dominant despite a 6-9 team record in his starts, and he’ll look for an even better season in 2021.

Chiefs QB depth chart

  • Starter: Patrick Mahomes
  • Backups: Chad Henne, Shane Buechele

It’s Mahomes. Need we say more?

Colts QB depth chart

  • Starter: Carson Wentz
  • Backups: Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger, Brett Hundley

The Colts have had two quarterbacks retire before two of the past three seasons. Wentz, acquired in the offseason from the Eagles, has dealt with some offseason injuries and was placed on the COVID list, but it looks like he’ll be the starter for Indianapolis in his first year with the team.

Cowboys QB depth chart

  • Starter: Dak Prescott
  • Backups: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, JaQuan Hardy, Brendon Knox

Prescott is the best thing the Cowboys have going for them these days. At least it looks like he’ll be back in Week 1 after an ankle injury caused him to miss most of 2020 and a shoulder injury slowed his return to the field. 

Dolphins QB depth chart

  • Starter: Tua Tagovailoa
  • Backups: Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett

Rumors have circulated that the Dolphins might make a play for Texans QB Deshaun Watson, but until that happens, Tagovailoa, the 2020 fifth overall pick, will return as the starter after he threw 11 touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,814 passing yards in nine starts — 10 games — for the Dolphins last year.

Eagles QB depth chart

  • Starter: Jalen Hurts
  • Backups: Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew

The Eagles felt confident enough in what Hurts showed in 15 games — four starts — in 2020 that they’re ready to hand over the reins to the 2020 53rd overall pick. But the team traded with Jacksonville to bring in Minshew, who could push him as the season goes on, and signed Flacco, who brings plenty of experience.

Falcons QB depth chart

  • Starter: Matt Ryan
  • Backups: AJ McCarron, Feleipe Franks

Ryan isn’t always the most exciting quarterback, but he’s continued to produce steady results even as he’s reached his mid-30s.

49ers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Jimmy Garoppolo
  • Backups: Trey Lance, Nate Sudfeld

The 49ers have shown off their quarterback duo in a rotation in the final preseason game, which could be the direction the team is headed to start the season. If one QB is the starter to begin the year, it seems like it will be Garoppolo, but this battle remains up in the air.

Giants QB depth chart

  • Starter: Daniel Jones
  • Backups: Mike Glennon, Brian Lewerke

Giants fans are hoping to see more from Jones than a season with 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, but New York won’t give up on the 2019 sixth overall pick just yet.

Jaguars QB depth chart

  • Starter: Trevor Lawrence
  • Backups: C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton

Urban Meyer held back on officially announcing the 2021 first overall pick until just before the third preseason game, but Lawrence will indeed be the starter for Jacksonville as he begins his quest to turn this team around.

Jets QB depth chart

  • Starter: Zach Wilson
  • Backups: Mike White, James Morgan, Josh Johnson

The second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Wilson impressed in his first two preseason games and will start his career as the Jets’ savior in Week 1. With Darnold in Carolina, there’s no one left to question Wilson for the starting spot at any point this year barring major struggles.

Lions QB depth chart

  • Starter: Jared Goff
  • Backups: Tim Boyle, David Blough

Acquired in the swap for Matthew Stafford, Goff will look to return to 2018 numbers, when he threw 32 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions, as he begins his new chapter with the Lions.

Packers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Aaron Rodgers
  • Backups: Jordan Love, Kurt Benkert

Following an offseason full of drama, Rodgers will return to start in Green Bay for what could very well be his last dance with the Packers.

Panthers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Sam Darnold
  • Backups: P.J. Walker, Will Grier

The Jets finally abandoned the idea of Darnold as the franchise’s savior. The 2018 third overall pick is now in Carolina surrounded by a more talented supporting cast to see if he can hit the reset button and live up to the lofty expectations placed on him coming out of USC.

Patriots QB depth chart

  • Starter: Cam Newton
  • Backups: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

This remains an unclear picture between Newton and Jones as Bill Belichick would not give an answer on the quarterback battle after the Patriots’ final preseason game on Sunday. Newton is the presumed starter until Belichick announces a different decision as he returns after starting 15 of the team’s games in 2020 — albeit to unspectacular results.

Raiders QB depth chart

  • Starter: Derek Carr
  • Backups: Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman

The Raiders haven’t had a winning record since 2016, but that has certainly not been due to Carr, who has posted his only two seasons with a quarterback rating above 100 in his past two years. The 30-year-old QB still has the starting role locked down.

Rams QB depth chart

  • Starter: Matthew Stafford
  • Backups: John Wolford, Bryce Perkins

Stafford will be playing his first season in the NFL outside of Detroit in 2021, and he’ll have one of the stronger supporting casts in a number of years. The Rams are counting on him to do more with more this season.

Ravens QB depth chart

  • Starter: Lamar Jackson
  • Backups: Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley

Jackson continues to prove that he’s one of the game’s brightest stars, and the only question moving forward is how much money the Ravens will give him in an extension.

Saints QB depth chart

  • Starter: Jameis Winston
  • Backups: Taysom Hill, Trevor Semien, Ian Book

Saints’ fans have become accustomed to seeing No. 9 in the backfield for a long time, but in 2021, it will be No. 2 in Winston, who was named the starter by coach Sean Payton. Expect to see Hill getting plenty of playing time in the flex role he has filled for the offense over the past several seasons.

Seahawks QB depth chart

  • Starter: Russell Wilson
  • Backups: Geno Smith, Sean Mannion

Wilson is under contract at least through the end of the 2021 season — his contract has an out for 2022 — and it could be until 2023. Despite some trade rumors, Wilson looks like he’ll be the starter in Seattle for a while.

Steelers QB depth chart

  • Starter: Ben Roethlisberger
  • Backups: Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins, Joshua Dobbs

Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, but the 39-year-old still posted solid numbers last season when he threw 33 touchdowns, 3,803 passing yards and just 10 interceptions.

Texans QB depth chart

  • Starter: Tyrod Taylor
  • Backups: Jeff Driskel, Davis Mills, Deshaun Watson

The Texans are still shopping Watson, but they’re not going to wait to move him before starting Taylor, who started Week 1 last year for the Chargers before Herbert took over. If he remains in this role all season, it will be his first time as a full starter since 2017 with the Bills.

Titans QB depth chart

  • Starter: Ryan Tannehill
  • Backups: Logan Woodside, Matt Barkley

Tannehill has enjoyed a resurgence with the Titans in his first two seasons with the team. He’ll look to steer Tennessee to its third straight playoff appearance in 2021.

Vikings QB depth chart

  • Starter: Kirk Cousins
  • Backups: Jake Browning, Nate Stanley, Kellen Mond

Cousins has a tendency to frustrate fans both on the field and off — see his stance on vaccinations — but he threw 35 touchdowns in 2020, leaving little doubt that he’s the starter moving forward.

Washington Football Team QB depth chart

  • Starter: Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Backups: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Steven Montez

Heinicke put up an impressive postseason performance against the Buccaneers that opened some eyes, but Washington didn’t sign Fitzpatrick to be a backup. He’s positioned to start for his ninth different team in 2021.