NFL Analysis


11 min read

2024 NFL QB Carousel: Where Will Top Names End Up?

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) signals his team against the San Francisco 49ers in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback landscape is getting another shakeup this offseason. 

While everyone obsesses over Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and the rest of the 2024 quarterback class, this year's trade market and free agent quarterbacks are just as spicy. 

A handful of starting quarterbacks will hit the market or be on the move one way or another. Everything ranging from potential stopgap options to high-risk gambles to steady veterans is on the table. 

For teams too far down the board to draft their quarterback of the future, veteran options are aplenty. 

Kirk Cousins

Most Likely: Minnesota Vikings

There's nothing exciting about the Minnesota Vikings bringing back Kirk Cousins, but it just makes sense. These two competent entities are neither attractive nor daring enough to do better for themselves. They're settling, and that's okay. 

Minnesota isn't in a position to swing on a rookie quarterback in this class and wants to compete immediately. 

For starters, the Vikings aren't in striking range of either Williams or Maye. Jayden Daniels is probably off the table, too. All that's going to be left for them is JJ McCarthy, who definitely has traits to be excited about but is a young player who needs to add at least 10 pounds to his frame. 

The Vikings roster also isn't that good right now. The pass-catching talent is superb, but the offensive line is closer to mediocre than good, and the running game was a nothingburger last season. 

Defensively, Brian Flores did an exceptional job making something out of nothing, but eventually, the house of cards crumbled. This just isn't a competitive roster without an above-average veteran QB. 

That brings us to Cousins and his market. How many other teams will want a 36-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles tear? 

It makes sense that the team most willing to take on that risk is the team that knows him best, already has an offense in place for him and understands what he needs post-recovery. 

Other Possibilities: Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons

If Cousins does fetch a fair contract elsewhere, it will be on a team ready for the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Atlanta Falcons could fit the bill. 

The Steelers can offer Cousins stability. Mike Tomlin's teams always have a high floor, and Cousins can be the quarterback boost that finally gets this team on track to compete for the division again. 

The Falcons, by contrast, offer potential. Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson are an unreal collection of young talents, but we haven't yet seen what they are fully capable of. Someone with Cousins's experience could get that out of them. 

>> READ MORE: See Where Cousins Ranks in Top 100 Free Agents

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill (17) throws a pass against Indianapolis during a game at Nissan Stadium. (The Tennessean)

Ryan Tannehill

Most Likely: I Don't Know

I wish I had a good guess for where Ryan Tannehill ends up, but he's a hard nut to crack. 

It's unlikely Tannehill gets brought in anywhere to be the guaranteed starter. He will be 36 by the time the season starts, and he has missed time with injuries the past two seasons. 

There's a strong chance Tannehill's best days are behind him. He's not in the same boat as someone like Cousins, who was playing some of the best ball of his career in 2023 before getting hurt. 

At the same time, Tannehill doesn't feel like the type of backup to be brought in as a veteran presence for a developing quarterback. The Tennessee Titans sort of tiptoed in those waters with him by drafting Malik Willis and Will Levis, but Tannehill always sounded locked in on the QB1 job for himself. 

That doesn't make Tannehill a bad person or teammate or anything. It just makes it hard to gauge whether or not he would be ready to step into a caretaker role. 

Other Possibilities: Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams

All that being said, the Steelers make sense for Tannehill based on the Arthur Smith connection. Smith knows Tannehill well from their days in Tennessee. 

Moreover, this Steelers offense is equipped with store-brand versions of what those old Titans offense had, including a massive running back in Najee Harris and a ball-winner in George Pickens. 

If Tannehill wants to just take the normal backup route without having to worry about caring for a young quarterback, the Los Angeles Rams should be interested. 

Matthew Stafford and Tannehill share a lot of strengths; Tannehill is just less detailed and creative. Still, Sean McVay would have zero issues making the offense work around Tannehill if Stafford went down for any time. 

Sep 10, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) stands with assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy during the first half Arizona Cardinals at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Commanders quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) stands with assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Jacoby Brissett

Most Likely: Las Vegas Raiders

Jacoby Brissett is the bridge quarterback to have. He has proven at multiple stops he can be a functional starter, be it back in 2019 with the Indianapolis Colts or with the Cleveland Browns in 2022. 

Brissett isn't a star or anything, but he's a smart, aggressive quarterback with a big arm. That can be enough to hold the fort down for a while. 

The Las Vegas Raiders happen to be in dire need of a bridge quarterback like that. With where the Raiders are picking in the draft, they won’t land one of the quarterback prospects expected to play well right out of the gate. 

That leaves them either swinging big in the free agent or trade market for Cousins or Justin Fields or pairing a solid veteran while stashing a rookie on the bench to grow and develop. 

The stash-and-develop route makes the most sense because of where the Raiders are at with their coaching staff. Las Vegas decided to promote interim coach Antonio Pierce to the full-time job this offseason. 

Regardless of how good or bad Pierce proves to be, it's objectively true he is inexperienced as an NFL coach, especially the head job. Pierce could use a steady veteran quarterback presence like Brissett to get his tenure started off right.  

Other Possibilities: Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos

Brissett's other possible destinations are of a similar ilk. Teams that want a competent quarterback on the roster that they don't have to commit to long-term should all be in. 

That's why the Falcons and Denver Broncos make sense. Both teams could draft a rookie quarterback but might not be in a position to start them right away, especially considering neither of them is landing Williams or Maye. 

Baker Mayfield

Most Likely: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Baker Mayfield is technically a free agent, it would be stunning if he signed anywhere but Tampa Bay this offseason. Neither party has a better option in this scenario. 

Let's take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' side first. The Bucs are picking 26th, so Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. will likely be the only notable quarterbacks left on the board. 

Either the Bucs will trade up for a serious prospect or be left picking from a set of flawed, Day 2 caliber prospects, neither of which sound appealing. 

As for Mayfield, what's the incentive to leave? The Bucs just gave him a new lease on his football life. Mayfield played some of the best ball of his career this season in Tampa Bay. 

At the same time, it's not like Mayfield suddenly catapulted himself into the top-10 quarterback range, which probably means his options in free agency won't be any more appealing than the Bucs are. It makes sense to just stay put, assuming that is the case.

Other Possibilities: Las Vegas Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers

In the event Mayfield leaves, he's kind of in a weird spot. He's less of a QB1 lock than someone like Cousins but somewhat more of a commitment than someone like Brissett. 

The Raiders might still be interested in that. They could use a competent veteran quarterback with a little more juice than either Jimmy Garoppolo or Aidan O'Connell. 

Pittsburgh also makes some sense as a team that could go all-in on Mayfield. 

>> READ MORE: Is Baker NFL's Next $40-Million QB?

Bears QB Justin Fields upset on the sideline.
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) reacts as he walks off the field after their loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. The Minnesota Vikings won 17-9. (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Fields

Most Likely: Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin Fields will not be a quarterback for everyone. Taking on Fields means accepting the offense has to be run-heavy. Play-action, boots and QB run game all have to be embraced. Fields isn't a detailed, fast-acting dropback passer, and the offense has to be tailored around that. 

The Steelers are built to support all of Fields' needs. 

While the offensive line could use work, the overall theme of the offense makes sense. The Steelers want to run the ball and be a physical team. That was true even before hiring Arthur Smith this offseason, but now there's no doubt about it. 

The Steelers also have two ball-winners for Fields in Pat Freiermuth and Pickens, as well as a reliable route-runner in Diontae Johnson. Fields has not had a pass-catching trio that good and well-rounded since he was at Ohio State. 

Maybe the Steelers won't fully realize Fields' potential, but they can at least get quality play from him. That's more than they got from Kenny Pickett last season, and it should be enough to make them more threatening in the division again. 

Other Possibilities: Las Vegas Raiders, Atlanta Falcons

Fields could be the high-risk, high-reward gamble for a few other teams. 

If the Raiders want to go the veteran route while still betting on some high-end potential, Fields is their man. He already worked with Raiders offensive coordinator Luke Getsy in Chicago and is as physically talented as any of the quarterback prospects the Raiders would have access to this spring. 

As for the Falcons, I am personally interested in what that collection of talent might look like. Pitts, London and Robinson are an unthinkably athletic trio as they are. 

Sprinkle in a supreme athlete at the quarterback position like Fields? I just want to see it. Maybe it would be clunky and lack direction, but on the off-chance it all comes together, they would be a nightmare to defend and tackle. 

>> READ MORE: In-Depth Dive into Fields' Best Fits

Mac Jones
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) looks to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the second half at Gillette Stadium. (Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)

Mac Jones

Most Likely: Denver Broncos

Mac Jones probably won’t be a starting quarterback next year. Not on purpose, anyway. 

If anyone takes a chance on Jones, however, the Denver Broncos kind of make sense. Sean Payton got a ton of mileage out of late-stage Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater, two quarterbacks who won with their decision-making rather than arm talent or mobility. 

Granted, Jones is less comfortable in tight pockets than either of those quarterbacks was, but the general framework of a sharp, BB gun-armed facilitator is there. 

Again, I do not actually think the Broncos or anyone trades for Jones to let him start Week 1, but at least there's a halfway logical path to it happening in Denver. 

Other Possibilities: San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals

It's a lot more likely someone trades for Jones as backup insurance. 

The San Francisco 49ers make a lot of sense. Letting Jones feast on in-breaking routes of the middle would be reminiscent of his Alabama days. It's why the 49ers were reportedly in on Jones in 2021 before drafting Trey Lance instead. 

The Cincinnati Bengals should also be interested. Joe Burrow has a history of missing games with injury, and current backup Jake Browning is not under contract for 2024. 

If the Bengals are serious about contending and don't want to keep Browning for whatever reason, someone like Jones makes sense as an insurance policy.

>> READ MORE: In-Depth Look at Jones' Landing Spots