NFL approves third quarterback rule: Players,

With a little more than 100 days before the 2023 NFL regular season begins, the league’s owners passed a bylaw that will have a significant impact on the upcoming season. The bylaw will permit each team to field an emergency quarterback on game days that will not count against the team’s 46-man active roster. 

This is a significant move by the NFL’s owners. By passing this bylaw, the owners significantly reduced the chances of a repeat of last year’s NFC Championship game, when injuries at quarterback forced the 49ers to put Christian McCaffrey under center for a chunk of the team’s 31-7 loss to the Eagles. 

The new bylaw will impact several NFL teams and players in 2023. Here’s a look at who could most benefit from the bylaw as well as notable quarterbacks who could gain employment as an emergency quarterback. 


49ers: The NFL’s new bylaw can basically be called “The 49er Rule” given it was implemented less than five months after the 49ers ran out of quarterbacks against the Eagles. And with Brock Purdy and Trey Lance still coming back from injuries, the new bylaw will give San Francisco another option beyond Sam Darnold in the event that neither quarterback is ready for Week 1. 

Ravens: Baltimore has had to finish its last two regular seasons with Tyler Huntley under center in relief with Lamar Jackson injured. The Ravens needed third-string quarterback Anthony Brown to finish off their Week 14 win over Pittsburgh last season when Huntley left the game with an injury. The emergency quarterback gives Baltimore added flexibility moving forward should Jackson miss more time with injuries. 

Rams: How bad was the Rams’ 2022 season? Baker Mayfield’s thrilling win on “Thursday Night Football,” days after he was signed by the team, was the highlight during Los Angeles’ failed title defense. An emergency quarterback may benefit the Rams in the event that Matthew Stafford misses more time in 2023 after a neck injury prematurely ended his 2022 season after just nine games. 

Dolphins: Like Stafford, Tua Tagovailoa missed significant time last season due to injury. The Dolphins’ starting quarterback missed four games while dealing with multiple head injuries. While Miami surely hopes that his injury issues are behind him, having an emergency quarterback certainly doesn’t hurt. 

Packers: Teams with young starters will undoubtedly benefit by having an emergency quarterback at their disposal. In the Packers’ case, they have two young quarterbacks in succession in starter Jordan Love and rookie backup Sean Clifford. The emergency quarterback gives Green Bay a possible third option in Danny Etling, a former Patriots seventh-round pick who is beginning his second stint with the green and gold. 

Patriots: Giving Bill Belichick an extra player — in any form — is like giving Elton John an extra piano key. It’ll be interesting to see how the future Hall of Fame coach takes advantage of the new bylaw. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots at least look into upgrading their quarterback room behind starter Mac Jones, whose status as the team’s starting quarterback isn’t on the most stable of ground as it is. Belichick may also be more inclined to give one of his younger quarterbacks an opportunity (more on that in a second). 


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If Wentz is going to get another shot, one would think it would happen soon given the passing of the new bylaw. Wentz’s days as a starter appear to be over, but the former Pro Bowler could have a future as a backup on a team with an established starter. He could also serve as a mentor for teams with young signal-callers under center, including the Panthers and Texans. 

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Despite having semi recent success as a starting quarterback (in Carolina and Denver), Bridgewater remains unsigned this deep into free agency. Teams may be inclined to sign him now, however, with the addition of an emergency quarterback on game days. One would think it would be an asset to have a former Pro Bowl quarterback with 66 regular-season starts on your roster. 

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Given the 49ers’ current situation, there’s a chance that Darnold is the 49ers’ starting quarterback in Week 1. With that said, the addition of an emergency quarterback all but guarantees Darnold will remain in uniform for each of the 49ers’ games this season. Still just 25 years old, Darnold is coming off a 2022 season that saw him go 4-2 as the Panthers’ starting quarterback. 

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An undrafted rookie out of Louisville, the addition of an emergency quarterback could be a significant thing for Cunningham if he is able to beat out fellow backup Trace McSorley. Either way, the addition of an emergency quarterback is added job security for Cunningham, who threw 70 passes and ran for 50 more scores during his time at Louisville. Don’t expect Cunningham to be out of a job when the regular season begins. 

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Rudolph, who recently re-signed with the Steelers, was inactive for each of Pittsburgh’s games last season while playing behind Kenny Pickett and Mitch Trubisky. The addition of an emergency quarterback all but guarantees that Rudolph will not be spending another season in street clothes. He could very well be called into action if Pickett misses more time after head injuries sidelined him for one full game and parts of two others in 2022. 

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McCaffrey might be one of the happiest people regarding the addition of an emergency quarterback. While he did his best, McCaffrey was ill suited to take on an Eagles defense that had recorded a whopping 70 sacks during the regular season in January’s NFC title game. Barring something crazy, it’s safe to say that McCaffrey’s days as an NFL quarterback are over. 

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The longtime Packer and new Jets wideout actually has some experience throwing the ball. A star quarterback in high school who led his team to a Tennessee Class AA State Championship, Cobb has completed one of his four pass attempts in the NFL. He likely won’t be asked to throw a fifth pass in the Big Apple with the addition of the emergency quarterback. 

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