2024 NFL QB Carousel: The Best Landing Spots for Rookies & Vets on the Move

Author:
Oddstrader

In the 2010s, the NFL had a stable set of quarterbacks with tenures of 5-plus years with a team. But the 2020s have blown this apart through a series of retirements and a quarterback carousel that is always spinning with veterans taking off for greener pastures and fighting off rookie draft picks for starting jobs.

It did not help that Tom Brady (2020 Buccaneers) and Matthew Stafford (2021 Rams) immediately won Super Bowls with their new teams, making any contender think they can just snag a quarterback and be in that same situation.

But as the last couple of seasons have shown, these moves rarely work out that well. Just ask the Broncos (Russell Wilson), Colts (Matt Ryan), Saints (Derek Carr) and the Jets could give an answer on Aaron Rodgers that will last longer than his 2023 season did on the field.

You can expect the carousel to start spinning again with free agency on the way, the possibility of blockbuster trades, and of course, the 2024 NFL draft in late April where up to 6 quarterbacks are being hyped as top 40 picks.

Here are some of the quarterbacks expected to be available as potential 2024 starters:

  • Kirk Cousins (UFA)
  • Ryan Tannehill (UFA)
  • Justin Fields (Trade candidate)
  • Russell Wilson (Release/trade candidate)
  • Caleb Williams (Rookie)
  • Drake Maye (Rookie)
  • Jayden Daniels (Rookie)
  • J.J. McCarthy (Rookie)
  • Bo Nix (Rookie)
  • Michael Penix Jr. (Rookie)

Who fits where in 2024? We do our best to match up potential with fit and reality.

Atlanta Falcons: Captain Kirk Cousins, Come on Down

This could be the first domino to fall that dictates some of these other moves. Some sportsbooks have the Vikings favored at -200 odds to retain Kirk Cousins, and that makes sense as the 35-year-old family man would love to stay put and finish his career where he’s been since 2018. Playing with Justin Jefferson is a nice perk too.

But Cousins is an unrestricted free agent and will be able to negotiate with any team. He was playing some of his best ball before he tore his Achilles last season.

The Perfect Fit for Cousins

The Falcons (+300) have the next best betting odds to land Cousins, and that is the pick I would like to see for both parties. They clearly need much more at the position than Desmond Ridder can provide, and Cousins would enjoy an offense that has Bijan Robinson, Drake London and Kyle Pitts. He could really elevate the receiving skills of that trio with his accuracy and decision making.

There’s also a good fit in the coaching staff with Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson coming over from the Rams. Who else coached under Sean McVay with the Rams? Cousins’ coach Kevin O’Connell, who was the offensive coordinator for the Rams when they won the Super Bowl in 2021.

That would allow Robinson to scheme up something similar for Cousins to run in Atlanta, and it would still be a dome stadium for Cousins to operate comfortably, and he’d have perhaps a better defense than he had in Minnesota in recent years. He would also have a more winnable division in the NFC South and a chance to host a playoff game.

This one may not happen, but it is a fun one to think about.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Nothing Flashy

People hyping up the Steelers making a big splash signing at quarterback must not be familiar with how this team does business. I can already hear Mike Tomlin justifying that they’ve won games with Kenny Pickett, they won games with Mason Rudolph, they made the playoffs last year, and they are going to have a quarterback competition between those guys. Period.

The idea of trading for Justin Fields or bringing Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson to town might be fun to think about, but it’s just not very realistic. The Steelers are not ready to pull the plug on Pickett, which would admit that 1st-round pick was a mistake after 2 seasons.

Rudolph’s Replacement?

However, there is a move that would make sense as there is a belief Rudolph will be out the door as well this offseason, leaving the backup position empty with Mitch Trubisky already gone.

New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith had his most success in Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill in 2019-20. With the Titans moving on with Will Levis, Tannehill’s days as a starter there are over, and he will hit free agency.

The Steelers could bring Tannehill in on a reasonable contract to be the backup and challenge Pickett, who has durability concerns. Tannehill will know Smith’s offense better than Pickett and would likely execute it better as well. He’d also have more receiving talent than the Titans gave him the last 2 years after the foolish trade of A.J. Brown to the Eagles.

It’s not a flashy signing, but Tannehill to the Steelers makes a lot of sense to maximize the Smith hiring while also giving Pickett some real competition again. He needs to step up his game for sure.

Chicago Bears: Just Use the No. 1 Pick This Time

The fact that the Chicago Bears earned the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft with Justin Fields as their starter should have been a sign that they probably needed to use that pick on a quarterback. But they traded the pick to the Panthers, and they gave Fields a 3rd season to prove his worth. He didn’t really do it, so here we are again with the Bears holding Carolina’s No. 1 overall pick and another top quarterback prospect available.

The Bears already passed on Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud last year, and maybe that was 50% fine given the way Young’s rookie season went. Time will tell. But let’s not make this mistake twice. Fields has been given enough opportunities and it’s just not working out for any wins as he is terrible in crunch time and takes way too many sacks at all times.

Just use the No. 1 pick on USC quarterback Caleb Williams, who is the consensus best quarterback in this draft. He may not be a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck type of prospect, but he is someone who had to bail out a bad defense in college and can make plays. He just needs more of a supporting cast around him, and the Bears did a good job last year of getting D.J. Moore out of the Carolina trade.

But this isn’t one to overthink. Just take Williams and move on from Fields. No regrets.

Washington Commanders: North Carolina Again?

With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the Commanders are expected to take a quarterback and upgrade that position after a rough year with Sam Howell. But as fate would have it, the top-ranked quarterback for many people behind Caleb Williams is Drake Maye, the quarterback who replaced Howell at North Carolina.

Maye had to carry the team at times and didn’t outproduce all the stats Howell had in college, but he is universally touted as a better prospect as Howell was only a 5th-round pick and Maye has been projected top 5 for months.

Personally, this feels like a replay of last year when there were question marks of taking C.J. Stroud in Chicago to replace Justin Fields since Stroud replaced Fields in college, and the history of Ohio State quarterbacks in the NFL has been bleak.

Well, after this past season, that looks foolish as Stroud was the Rookie of the Year and looks great. Maybe that kind of lightning can strike twice, and they take Maye in Washington, and he instantly outplays Howell? They can still be teammates too as it’s not like Washington has to get rid of Howell yet.

But there is no denying the Commanders need an upgrade and this is a move that makes sense as new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is used to working with athletic playmakers (Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray).

New England Patriots: Russ Walking Past Malcolm Butler’s Trophy

If you can’t beat them, join them many years later? Imagine Russell Wilson in New England a decade after he lost to them in the Super Bowl as a member of the Seahawks after that infamous interception by Malcolm Butler at the 1-yard line.

But there is no more Bill Belichick in New England, and that is why I think this team is not ready to jump in with a rookie quarterback. The Patriots hold the No. 3 pick and many are going to clamor for LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels. It makes sense, but the supporting cast for the Patriots is just not there yet. They would draft a quarterback and have almost nothing to put around him this year.

Meanwhile, Wilson could be available for a veteran-minimum salary should the Broncos release him before the March 17 deadline that is expected to happen to avoid paying him an injury guarantee.

Wilson’s play has not been good the last few years, but it would still be better than what the Patriots were getting out of Mac Jones in 2022-23. But right now, everything feels a bit temporary and like a stopgap in New England, so Wilson for a cheap contract might be the right move to ease them into this rebuild.

Las Vegas Raiders: Add the Heisman Winner to the AFC West

It would likely require a trade up from the No. 13 pick, but the Raiders should make an aggressive move and get Jayden Daniels, the reigning Heisman winner who some believe is a better prospect than Drake Maye this year. The dual-threat weapon is what the Raiders need to battle with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert multiple times every season in the AFC West.

You can’t keep expecting to return multiple defensive turnovers for touchdowns if you’re the Raiders. You can’t expect to win another game where Aidan O’Connell does not complete a pass after the 1st quarter like they did against the Chiefs. That’s not a blueprint for anything. O’Connell was just a mid-round pick and played like one as a rookie.

The Raiders need that long-term answer to truly replace Derek Carr, and we know Jimmy Garoppolo was a mess last year. Go with the younger route and go with the athlete who will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast with Josh Jacobs, Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, and Michael Mayer.

Denver Broncos: Sean Payton’s New Project

Sean Payton improved the offense in Denver in his 1st season, but it was still not good enough to get the team back to the playoffs or to get Russell Wilson back in Pro Bowl form.

The relationship with Wilson soured, and money was arguably at the forefront of that, so you can expect the team to part ways and move in another direction for 2024. That should mean the draft in Denver’s case as it holds the No. 12 pick.

Promising Prospect

This should be a good landing spot for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. He just won a national championship and was 27-1 as a starter. He was surrounded by a great defense and running game by coach Jim Harbaugh, but the Broncos have Payton to mold him offensively from the start, something he’s never really done with a quarterback in the NFL unless you count the Taysom Hill experiment in New Orleans.

McCarthy might be in that game manager mold, but there are compelling stats that show he was very good at throwing on 3rd down and was prolific as a passer early in games before the Wolverines jumped out to a big lead and took the air out of the ball.

McCarthy is projected to be a 1st-round pick and could go even higher than expected with the way teams are starving for a franchise quarterback. The Broncos are no doubt one of those teams as they keep looking for Peyton Manning’s true successor and to end this playoff drought. Maybe McCarthy is the key to that for Payton, who does not need a 5,000-yard passer to be successful in the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals: Bo Knows Football

The Arizona Cardinals tweeted out this week that Kyler Murray is their franchise quarterback. Given the history of what they said about Josh Rosen on social media, that means Murray is on his way out this spring.

All jokes aside, are we sure Murray is the long-term answer at quarterback in Arizona? He hasn’t really been anything special outside of a 7-0 start way back in 2021. He is a unique talent, but it hasn’t necessarily translated to successful offenses in Arizona.

The Cardinals hold the No. 27 and No. 35 picks in the draft, so they could be players in the quarterback market. Their target just might be Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, who threw 45 touchdowns to 3 interceptions last year while completing 77.4% of his passes (NCAA record).

He is a 5-year college starter and is already 24 years old, but for a late 1st-round pick or early 2nd-round pick, he might be an ideal dart throw for the Cardinals in this draft.

Minnesota Vikings: The Penix Pick

See the domino effect at play here? If we sent Kirk Cousins to Atlanta, we need the Vikings to pick up a quarterback prospect for 2024 in the draft. That’s where Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. comes into play. He was a very prolific passer the last 2 years with over 4,600 passing yards in both seasons and a total of 67 touchdown passes.

He led the Huskies to the National Championship Game where they lost to the Wolverines.

But Penix might be the kind of dynamic passer that would interest Minnesota coach Kevin O’Connell, who was scrambling for options after Cousins tore his Achilles last year. He had Nick Mullens putting up huge yardage numbers only to be done in by interceptions. Any quarterback would love to play with Justin Jefferson, so maybe Penix could be a steal for the Vikings, who hold the No. 42 pick in the 2nd round.

New York Giants: The Justin Fields Experiment

Finally, we had to scramble where to fit Justin Fields since we sent Cousins to Atlanta, Tannehill to Pittsburgh and Russ to New England. It doesn’t really make sense for the Bears to draft Caleb Williams and keep Fields on the roster this year. Usually, if a team drafts a No. 1 overall pick at quarterback, that player starts quickly in his rookie season. Fields would be a distraction.

It’s also not like the Bears are going to pick up Fields’ 5th-year option should they draft Williams, so he would be a free agent next year. That’s why trading him for whatever they can get makes the most sense.

Which team might be an interesting fit? How about the New York Giants? Sure, it almost seems cruel to put Fields behind that offensive line, but you can bet the team will attack that unit in the offseason and improve the starting lineup.

But Daniel Jones was a huge disappointment even before he tore his ACL, and it’s not like he finished 2022 on a high note either. The extension was just never a good idea, and while the story of rookie Tommy DeVito was fun for a couple of weeks, that’s not a long-term answer either at the most important position.

Could Daboll and Fields Make It Work?

Remember when the comparison for Fields going into 2023 was Josh Allen breaking out in Year 3 with Buffalo in 2020? Who was the offensive coordinator for the Bills that year? Brian Daboll, the current coach of the Giants. Maybe Daboll could give Fields the Allen glow-up that he couldn’t pull off with Jones.

On the other hand, it’s more likely that Fields is just not franchise quarterback material. But with the Giants holding the No. 39 and No. 47 picks in the draft, it may be worth a shot to give him a look this year.

Of course, the Vikings could change the whole outlook here and keep Cousins, leaving Fields more likely to join a team like the Falcons as their Week 1 starter.

But I prefer my vision for the season for these 10 teams.

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