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Previewing the NFL's offseason QB market: Who'll be on the move? Which teams need a new arm in 2024?

Quarterback is an important position -- the most important in pro sports. And with that comes the highest level of scrutiny. The searing spotlight doesn't dim once the offseason rolls around, either, as teams are annually trying to improve their situation under center.

After spending the season ranking quarterbacks on a weekly basis, I think this is a good time to look ahead at what might be in store for a number of teams and players at the position in the 2024 offseason.

In need of new blood

New England Patriots
2023 record: 4-13

Bill O'Brien's return didn't solve the situation under center in New England. Mac Jones didn't work out. Bailey Zappe isn't a long-term answer. And for the second time since Tom Brady's departure for Tampa, the Patriots are looking at spending a top-15 pick on a quarterback. This time, they're in a better position to potentially land a permanent solution at the position, picking third overall. They might find themselves third in the pecking order for passers -- depending on what Chicago does with the first overall pick -- but it's still safe to expect the Pats to select a QB. They simply can't run it back again with the Jones/Zappe combo.

Atlanta Falcons
2023 record: 7-10

Arthur Smith's decision to hitch his wagon to Desmond Ridder -- and not pursue an outside option better than backup Taylor Heinicke -- spelled the end of his time in Atlanta. Sure, there were moments when Ridder flashed potential, but the total product was unsatisfactory, both in terms of his individual play and the team's results. The Falcons should be back in the market for a new quarterback, and that market could take them down a number of paths, with the first hinge point coming via the head-coaching search. Is the goal finding a good fit between coach and signal-caller? Is the aim to land the most talented player available? Could Justin Fields be a fit, if Chicago is willing to part with him in favor of a top prospect in the draft? Everything is possible, but one thing is certain: Ridder didn't earn another chance to take the job in 2024.

Denver Broncos
2023 record: 8-9

Russell Wilson's benching understandably shocked many near the end of the 2023 regular season. The money detail brought the most sense to the decision, because Wilson wasn't playing horribly. But the Broncos tried to make it a football issue, too, which combined to produce a PR campaign of sorts that told me one truth: They're considering moving on. Whether Wilson can still sling it isn't the debate I'm focused on here. Instead, I'd like to know how they're going to find a replacement, if they're even able to do so. Is a trade up from the No. 12 spot in the draft coming? Might they seek another veteran to bridge the gap? This all remains to be seen. And make no mistake: A return for Wilson is definitely still possible if the money is right. But unfortunately for Broncos fans, who have been tested repeatedly since Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset after winning Super Bowl 50, they've ended up in an all-too-familiar place after two years of disappointment.

Washington Commanders
2023 record: 4-13

Ron Rivera tied himself to Sam Howell in 2023, and for a stretch, he looked somewhat like a fortune teller. But honestly, as soon as the franchise's ownership changed hands, a shift felt inevitable, save for an unlikely run of on-field success. That didn't happen, and Rivera lost his job. The transition could also spell doom for Howell, who struggled with turnovers down the stretch and all but wiped out the goodwill he'd built with some surprisingly strong early-season performances. A new regime might not see the same potential in Howell as Rivera did, and with the second overall pick in their possession, Washington is in a prime position to select a new savior under center from what has the makings of an enticing QB class, with USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye having declared their intentions to enter the draft. To some, it'd be awkward seeing Washington replace one UNC quarterback (Howell) with another, but that's just the way things go sometimes. It's a cold, results-driven world, and it sure feels like a new signal-caller is destined for Washington.

Danger zone

Carolina Panthers
2023 record: 2-15

Bryce Young's rookie season was a flop. Frank Reich wasn't the guy, or at least wasn't the coach to produce a quick enough return to satisfy owner David Tepper. I'm concerned that Young's development has already been stunted by the woeful Panthers, meaning they must nail the next hire in order to get their top pick -- one for whom they mortgaged plenty -- back on track. It's going to take a village to do so, too, putting Carolina in a precarious position.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2023 record: 10-7

Year 2 did not go as planned for Kenny Pickett, with Mike Tomlin ultimately choosing longtime backup Mason Rudolph over a healthy Pickett in the Steelers' desperate final weeks. Rudolph got the team to the playoffs, adding some uncertainty about how Pittsburgh might proceed under center in 2024. Is Pickett still the future? Will he have to fight for the job in training camp? Might the Steelers already have their eye on options existing outside of the facility? Or was this all since-fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada's fault?

Tennessee Titans
2023 record: 6-11

Will Levis gave the Titans reason to proceed with the rookie over veteran Ryan Tannehill for a good portion of the 2023 season, and his efforts in a thrilling comeback win over Miami won't be forgotten anytime soon. But Mike Vrabel is gone, and whenever a coaching change happens, personnel uncertainty often follows. After being unimpressed by Levis' pre-draft process, I was pleasantly surprised to see the rookie show toughness and talent when given opportunities. That said, he certainly didn't win the long-term job outright with his play in 2023. I'd prefer the Titans surround Levis with talent and give him a fair shot, but I'd be naive to guarantee it.

New York Giants
2023 record: 6-11

New York handed Daniel Jones $40 million per year after the team enjoyed a surprisingly successful season in 2022, then saw the entire operation revert to the nightmarish times of the pre-Brian Daboll era. Jones couldn't stay healthy, and when he was able to play, he rarely had time to operate. Did the Giants make a colossal mistake in paying the former No. 6 overall pick? Or do they just need a better offensive line to help him produce? 2024 will be pivotal when it comes to answering these questions, which will determine the franchise's course for years to come.

Las Vegas Raiders
2023 record: 8-9

The Josh McDaniels era -- and the Jimmy Garoppolo experiment wrapped within it -- failed spectacularly, and Garoppolo spent the second half of the year on the bench. Fourth-round rookie Aidan O'Connell was decent as the starter, though he didn't play so well that the Raiders' quarterback situation is solved. Las Vegas can proceed in a number of different ways in 2024: run it back with O'Connell, find another option, keep Garoppolo as O'Connell's backup. Really, anything is possible. Thus, predicting what the Raiders will do is nearly impossible, at least until they decide who will be their coach in 2024.

New York Jets
2023 record: 7-10

This has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers and everything to do with the situation behind the four-time league MVP. This season taught the Jets the importance of a solid backup plan. The franchise is expected to move on from Zach Wilson, and while Trevor Siemian played OK at times, New York would be foolish to go through another offseason without finding a better backup for their 40-year-old starter. The time is now to start turning over every stone to find this answer, regardless of Rodgers' status entering 2024.

The Justin Fields conundrum

Thanks to their 2023 deal with Carolina, the Bears own the top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. General manager Ryan Poles could be seduced into hitting reset at quarterback by jettisoning Justin Fields and replacing him with a ballyhooed prospect. But ultimately, what will that achieve?

Yes, a fresh rookie contract is obviously alluring in the team-building process. But a reset also includes starting back at square one with an NFL newcomer who will need time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the pro game, and survive amid live fire -- things Fields has already done. Does he hold on to the ball too long sometimes? Sure. Is he still better as a runner than passer? Yes. But swinging a deal to accrue more assets -- which could be used to improve the situation around Fields -- seems like a wiser decision than throwing a new quarterback into the same rough spot.

Fields needs better protection and a scheme executed by pass catchers who can get open. OK, he has a couple of the latter already in WR DJ Moore and TE Cole Kmet. Why not supply him with a couple more, plus some better blockers?

Conversely, moving Fields would also buy the Bears a second chance to get it right. They'd likely get a pretty nice return for him, though it wouldn't be nearly as grand as the haul they'd receive for the No. 1 overall pick. And maybe a different quarterback would fit this regime's long-term vision better. After all, Poles wasn't the GM who drafted Fields in the first place. But if the Bears go this route, they have to accept that they might watch Fields go to a better situation and thrive, leaving Poles and the rest of the crew with egg on their face -- while simultaneously creating impossible expectations for Fields' replacement.

Potential movers

Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos · Age 35

Wilson’s contract became a sticking point in Denver well before he was benched. He played quality football for stretches in 2023 and was markedly better than he was in 2022. If that -- plus whatever financial concession he might have to make -- isn’t enough to give Wilson another year in Denver, expect him to be on another roster in 2024. Just don’t anticipate the same high hopes that followed him to Denver to relocate to a new city.

Sam Howell
Washington Commanders · Age 23

Howell’s selection as Washington’s top quarterback entering the season seemed peculiar, but the 2022 fifth-rounder proved many of us (myself included) wrong for quite a while, finding success out of structure and showing some improvisational skills that made Washington an entertaining football team. His end to 2023, though, makes me worry about his future. I can see him landing with a team that needs an option -- any option -- and is willing to buy low with lower expectations. Or, maybe the new regime in Washington decides to give him another shot. Only time will tell.

Desmond Ridder
Atlanta Falcons · Age 24

Arthur Smith’s constant swapping between Ridder and Taylor Heinicke told us all we needed to know about the Cincinnati product’s second NFL season: He wasn’t good enough. Still, he possesses some desirable physical traits that should see him maintain employment -- in Atlanta or elsewhere -- but do not expect him to begin the 2024 season as a penciled-in starter anywhere.

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings · Age 35

Cousins was excellent in a half season’s worth of action. In fact, he was the only good thing going for the Vikings for a while. Minnesota learned how valuable Cousins was, too, once he was no longer available due to injury. Both have expressed interest in running it back in 2024. But if that doesn’t happen, I’d expect Cousins to be a top name in the free-agent market, because he can still sling it, even if his haters claim otherwise.

Jimmy Garoppolo
Las Vegas Raiders · Age 32

The Raiders need to get moving when deciding how they’ll embark on their future, because right now, they don’t have a coach and Garoppolo is scheduled to receive $11.25 million in guaranteed money if he’s still on the roster on the fifth day of the new league year in March. His benching made it seem as if he wasn’t the long-term answer for Las Vegas, and while he’d fulfill an important role as a trusted backup, he can’t be kept in such a spot at his current salary. It’s time to crunch the numbers and figure out a solution, which could include him being released -- or the more likely scenario (financially speaking) of being traded elsewhere.

Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans · Age 35

Tannehill lost his job to Will Levis midway through the 2023 season after getting injured, and now that Mike Vrabel is out as head coach, it sure seems like Tannehill’s time in Tennessee is done, too. The pending free agent has a case for gainful employment elsewhere, though, after playing well enough to give the Titans a fighting chance in each of his final two starts. He’s a plus backup and a low-level starter (at best), which still carries value in this league, especially on the open market. Where that leads him remains to be seen.

Joshua Dobbs
Minnesota Vikings · Age 28

By and large, Dobbs’ run in 2023 was magical. He took over the starting duties in Arizona just two weeks after his August arrival via trade, kept the Cardinals competitive, and then found yet another opportunity to play in Minnesota following Cousins’ season-ending injury, initially succeeding there, too. But the magic predictably ran out down the stretch, leading Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell to bench him for Nick Mullens and rookie Jaren Hall. Dobbs is not a long-term starter, but he can get you through some tough spots when necessary. That alone should attract interest for the pending free agent's services in 2024.

Tyrod Taylor
New York Giants · Age 34

Taylor has made a career out of being a reliable backup, and after working back from injury, he finished the 2023 season on a high note, leading the Giants to a blowout win over the Eagles in Week 18. He’s scheduled to hit free agency in March and should attract interest from teams in need of a quality QB2. Do the crosstown Jets like his game?

Zach Wilson
New York Jets · Age 24

Wilson’s days are apparently numbered in New York, where he received an unexpected run of starts in 2023 following Aaron Rodgers’ Week 1 Achilles injury. As has been well documented, Wilson did not succeed. He showed some brief moments of potential and would benefit from ending up in a Sam Darnold-like situation, where he can exist as a backup with a team that won’t need him. As we learned in 2023, turning to Wilson in case of emergency is not a good idea at this juncture of his career, so finding a fit might be a little tougher.

Mac Jones
New England Patriots · Age 25

The No. 15 overall pick of the 2021 draft has essentially run out of chances in New England, being benched for Bailey Zappe in December after regressing dramatically in the past two seasons with the Patriots. The biggest question for Jones: Is the talent that saw him thrive as a rookie still in him? Is it a matter of situation and fit? And which team is willing to take a chance on him? I don't currently see him as a reliable starting option, though that could change depending on what happens with a few QB-needy teams out there. But expect him to either be forced into a camp battle in New England in his first season under new head coach Jerod Mayo or land somewhere else. He’s certainly high on the list of initial decisions Mayo must make.

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