2024 NFL QB Musical Chairs

Mar 5th 2024

Hayden Winks

There are 19 teams who are essentially locked into their starting QB heading into 2024 NFL free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft. Then there are these 8 teams who must upgrade their depth chart: Bears, Commanders, Patriots, Falcons, Vikings, Broncos, Raiders, and Buccaneers. And finally, the Steelers, Giants, Browns, Seahawks, and Titans could be in the market at the right price. Let's find the potential matches for these squads.

Falcons - Kirk Cousins

Cousins is the best veteran QB on the market, even coming off a torn achilles as a 35-year-old. He's a top-12 passer who has worked in multiple offenses, making him a fit for every team looking for a signal caller. Atlanta has $70M in cap space, a shot at winning their division, and has already invested in the weapons to surround Cousins with easy first downs. The Falcons GM, HC, and OC have all only dealt with in-pocket QBs throughout their NFL careers, too, potentially ruining the fit with Justin Fields. It also helps that owner Arthur Smith (81 years old) feels the pressure to win now and that Cousins' wife's family is in Atlanta.

Buccaneers - Baker Mayfield

Losing a large chunk of the offensive coaching staff stings, but the Bucs didn't let Mike Evans hit free agency. That's a signal. This defense is good enough to compete in the NFC South and Baker could show some loyalty to Tampa for resurrecting his career. A multi-year deal like Geno Smith's would be a likely starting point in negotiations.

Raiders - Justin Fields

After the top veteran QBs find their spots, the Bears will feel pressure to get as much compensation as possible for Fields before the landing spots completely dry up. Remember, there are likely 4 rookies who will go inside the top 20, and Fields' low-end passing numbers will scare him off many play callers (specifically Kevin O'Connell, Sean Payton, and Zac Robinson). I don't think the Bears can wait long here. On the other hand, the Raiders sit a little lower than others in the draft, have made it clear they want to run the football and find downfield explosives off play action, and are in somewhat of a win now given the trade for Davante Adams. Fields would fit that mold, especially because OC Luke Getsy has spoke glowingly about him and 2023 interim GM Champ Kelly (who was retained despite Tom Telesco's signing) was the assistant director of scouting for the Bears when they drafted Fields. In this scenario, the Raiders send 77th overall and a future 3rd rounder to Chicago. I also think Russell Wilson or Sam Darnold would fit.

Vikings - Russell Wilson

Even if the Vikings like JJ McCarthy, they can't go into the draft without any semblance of a starter on the roster. Wilson can't be viewed as a long-term or average starter anymore, but he's still a top-32 option and should be cheap. The latter is important because it seems the Vikings don't want to break the bank for Cousins, while having a Justin Jefferson contract on the way and other pending free agents potentially leaving town. Wilson's money in 2024 is already guaranteed by the Broncos, leaving no incentive for Wilson's new team to give him much more than the veteran minimum. Signing Wilson for cheap allows free agency and draft flexibility. The same thing can be said for Sam Darnold, who signed a 1-year, $6.3M contract with the 49ers last year. Darnold's backup with the Jets, Josh McCown, is now the Vikings QB coach. That connection certainly makes sense.

Broncos - Sam Darnold

I somewhat believe reports suggesting Jarrett Stidham is a potential 2024 starter during Denver's primary bill-paying season. In addition to the record-breaking dead money on Wilson's deal, the Broncos also don't have their 2nd round pick because of the Sean Payton trade. Options are limited in both directions. Darnold should be cheap (1-year, $6.3M last year) and provides Payton with some tools to potential develop. To me, going young here (Mac Jones?) would make more sense than bringing in Jimmy G, Ryan Tannehill, or Jacoby Brissett types. If the Broncos had their 2nd rounder, I'd pencil them in as a Bo Nix suitor based on his quick decision making and lack of negative plays. Maybe the Broncos move down from 12th overall to gain more picks ... and potentially Nix.

Patriots - Jacoby Brissett

Even if New England goes with the leftover QB at 3rd overall like most reports suggest, they need some veteran guidance and an upgrade over Bailey Zappe, assuming Mac Jones will be traded. Brissett is just that, not to mention he played for new OC Alex Van Pelt with the Browns.

Now let's move to the draft...

1. Bears - Caleb Williams

After watching the Trojan and comparing him to the other prospects and Justin Fields, it was obvious to me that Williams has the best odds of turning into a franchise QB to pair with this underrated defense. Trading Fields won't return all that much (maybe a 3rd and future 3rd rounder) because of his unique skill set, losing record, and non top-5 draft capital. The good news is they already have the 9th overall pick to potentially find Williams an extra weapon.

2. Commanders - Jayden Daniels

This is a tossup between Daniels and Drake Maye. Both have their flaws. Both have upside. Daniels' dual-threat ability and experience in a spread-out offense does make him a fit with OC Kliff Kingsbury, and this basketball-based front office could value Daniels' production more than the typical front office. Just as easily, the Commanders could be scared of Daniels' frame and buy into Maye's tools. I don't have good read on this one yet.

3. Patriots - Drake Maye

I don't think the Patriots will have much say here after the top two QBs are off the board, unless JJ McCarthy is truthfully in the mix with the top three like some reports suggest. Maye is bigger and has a better arm than McCarthy does, so for now we'll stick with consensus. If Maye needs to sit for a half year to clean up his feet, then pairing him with Jacoby Brissett would make a lot of sense for an organization that has to be patient. This is a total restart.

11. Vikings - JJ McCarthy

McCarthy didn't have as good of 2023 tape as Daniels or Maye, but he's also younger and threw over the middle more. That's an intriguing combination, especially for the Shanahan tree teams who spam dig and post routes, sometimes under center. That's exactly coach Kevin O'Connell. There are reports McCarthy could go inside the top 8 so a trade up is possible, but we'll see how many teams plug up their QB void by the time we get to the draft and just how hyped the rest of the draft is in this range. I see 4 QBs, 4 WRs, 6 OTs, 2 EDGEs, 2 CBs, and 1 TE all in play for top-10 selections.

39. Giants - Bo Nix

If this class wasn't so deep, both at QB and in general, Nix would have better odds of going Round 1. Unfortunately for him, the NFL Combine showed just how good of a class this is. The Giants are rumored to be in the QB market despite their GM/HC being on the hot seat and despite having Daniel Jones on a $47M cap hit in 2024 with another $22M in bonuses due in 2025. That's enough to likely not be in the Round 1 QB market, especially with the elite WRs being available. However, the Giants could view Nix as a long-term backup and potential fill-in starter if Jones' ACL rehab lingers. New York has two 2nd-round picks to make a move.

78. Seahawks - Michael Penix

Penix has the size and arm strength to be a starter. His age, injury history, pocket mobility, and accuracy are left for debate, potentially leading to a slide in the draft. Penix's style is comparable to a lesser version of Geno Smith, who is in the final year of his contract. The Seahawks also signed ex-Washington OC Ryan Grubb to be their OC this offseason. This one seems too obvious if he makes it this far.

83. Rams - Spencer Rattler

Los Angeles has circled through backup QBs over the years, but none have stuck. Rattler could fill that void behind the injury-riddled Matthew Stafford, and it's possible Sean McVay sees enough arm talent in Rattler to be viewed as a potential starter when Stafford's time is done. Contractually, Stafford is likely on the roster for the next two seasons.