As we approach another NFL offseason, one of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind is where the top quarterbacks will land in free agency. Since we’re just focused on the top free agent QBs, this list won’t include players that may be traded, like Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr.
With how much most NFL teams stress the importance of having a franchise QB, expect a flurry of activity at the position once again this offseason. Last year we saw second-tier players like Marcus Mariota and Andy Dalton change teams via free agency, but this year’s crop of available players figures to be much more exciting.
In an ever-changing football landscape, here are the five NFL quarterback signings we’d like to see happen when free agency opens up on March 15.
Jimmy Garoppolo signs with Washington Commanders
Upon first glance, it may appear that the Washington Commanders don’t have the cap space required to go chasing after a competitive free-agent spending market. But with Carson Wentz’s $26 million salary able to be chopped from their bottom line without any penalties, the Commanders have plenty of money to spend.
Veteran head coach Ron Rivera has been the Commanders’ head coach for three seasons, and he’s missed the playoff in each of the past two. Another common theme during coach Rivera’s tenure is the constant musical chairs the team has played at the QB position. From Ryan Fitzpatrick to Taylor Heinicke and recently Wentz, the Commanders haven’t come close to solving their QB woes.
Sam Howell was a fifth-round pick and could potentially be viewed as a long-term option, but typically players selected so late don’t develop into franchise solutions. That’s why we like another veteran stopgap, such as Jimmy Garoppolo, to settle their situation for at least one season.
Jimmy G just needs a chance to enter the season as a team’s starting quarterback again. Meanwhile, coach Rivera likely dreams of having a proven veteran who isn’t prone to turnovers. Plus, Garoppolo’s career win rate of 70% probably looks pretty good on paper for a team looking to get back into the postseason.
Daniel Jones lands with hometown Carolina Panthers
Depending on where your loyalties lie, in a perfect world, Daniel Jones simply re-signs with the New York Giants now that he’s finally settling in and finding some success with an innovative coaching staff. Yet, Danny Dimes may get to free agency and already feel like the Giants had their chance, both to pick up his fifth-year player option or to sign him to a long-term extension years ago.
Instead, the dual-threat QB who led the NFL with the fewest turnovers could now be set to hit the open market. If the Giants decide against placing the franchise tag on their soon-to-be 26-year-old QB, the Carolina Panthers could become an intriguing option for the Charlotte, North Carolina native.
The Panthers just hired Frank Reich, who has a background as an NFL QB himself, plus is a respected, experienced head coach. For Jones, he won’t be stepping into the same messes he dealt with during his first three years with the G-Men. He’d be placed into an environment with a better receiver than he ever had to work with in New York, with D.J. Moore, but little else at this time.
For many athletes, the allure of playing close to home in front of friends and family can be tough to turn down, and that may be true for Jones too, who grew up a Panthers fan. Yet, the biggest roadblock to getting a deal done likely centers on the fact that the Panthers enter the offseason already above the 2023 spending limit. While there are millions of ways to structure a contract, such as back-loading a deal, Jones can likely receive a bigger payday in the Big Apple.
Geno Smith returns to Big Apple with New York Jets
Expectations for Geno Smith entering the 2022-23 NFL season were quite low. He had been the team’s backup QB for two seasons, meaning the Seattle Seahawks had already seen plenty from him in training camp practices and preseason play. Yet, once Russell Wilson was traded to Denver, the team sought out Drew Lock as well.
As the season drew near, many were anticipating a QB competition in Seattle, and that is how camp began. Yet, once it was announced that Smith won the QB1 role prior to the start of the regular season, he never looked back. Or, as Smith would say to those who wrote him off “I ain’t write back.”
Now that the 2023 Pro Bowl quarterback proved not only to himself but also to millions of skeptics that he is a starting-caliber QB but also has the ability to play at a very high level, Smith will be a highly sought-after free agent target. Chances are, now that Smith experienced so much success under coach Pete Carroll in Seattle, he won’t want to bail now. Then again, he could see a team on the rise, like the New York Jets, and be tempted by the largest sports market in the United States.
The Jets are tight against the cap right now but are expected to make a few cap casualties this offseason, which should put them in play to shop for a free-agent QB. They’re said to be interested in a veteran option to steady the ship, and if so, Smith might be an ideal fit.
If so, he’d join a talented cast of receivers led by Garrett Wilson and Elijah Moore and would be boosted by a defense that ranked fourth in the NFL this past season. While Smith likely enjoyed his time in Seattle, he could land into a similarly competitive atmosphere in New York, trying to win back a fanbase that soured on him years ago after his four-year tenure didn’t go as anyone hoped.
Tom Brady takes his game to Tennessee
If Tom Brady decides to suit up for a 24th NFL season, we’ll place our bets on the seven-time Super Bowl champion signing with a team he views is ready to compete for a Lombardi Trophy right away. We don’t anticipate Brady would even get out of bed to play for another team poised to miss the playoffs.
That’s what would make signing with the Tennessee Titans a bit of a risky proposition for TB12, but he’d at least have plenty of support from the team’s leadership. The elephant in the room is head coach Mike Vrabel, who was Brady’s teammate during his playing days during eight seasons from 2001-08. In that time together, Vrabel caught ten touchdown passes from Brady, counting postseason play.
Our guess is that their relationship remains fairly strong, as two very competitive individuals molded by the Bill Belichick system, ingrained to win every little battle that comes their way. Putting those two driven individuals on the same team, working toward the same goal? Sign us up.
What’s more, the Titans likely view their offense as the team’s biggest weakness after leading the 28th-ranked scoring offense. Ryan Tannehill‘s job security has to be on thin ice after having just a 6-6 win-loss record in 2022, plus being a large reason for their playoff elimination a season ago, having thrown three costly interceptions.
By joining the Titans, Brady would instantly be paired with the best running back he’s ever played with in Derrick Henry. While there’s a lot of work to be done in the receiver room as they still look to replace A.J. Brown, Brady would certainly bring a lot of playoff experience to town.
Lamar Jackson gambles on Las Vegas Raiders
No one knows what’s going on between Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens. How they haven’t managed to secure their franchise quarterback long-term yet continues to leave the NFL community bewildered.
He’s a franchise QB, so it’s hard to envision the Ravens letting their cornerstone walk away without receiving some kind of compensation. But really, this is Jackson’s decision to make. While the team holds plenty of cards, being able to place the franchise tag on the former NFL MVP, Jackson is no guarantee to sign it.
While it’s unclear exactly what Jackson is seeking in contract negotiations this offseason, if teams continue to believe that he could be traded, why shouldn’t someone like the Las Vegas Raiders get in the mix?
They already have a proven No. 1 receiver with Davante Adams, and Hunter Renfrow is plenty capable of doing damage from the slot. Darren Waller’s future with the team remains uncertain, but if he sticks around, that’s only another lethal speed demon Jackson can learn to rely on.
But our favorite part about this fit? It’s pairing Jackson in a backfield with the NFL rushing leader, Josh Jacobs. Yet, even Jacobs isn’t currently under contract for next season, so the front office would have to try and secure a package deal, ensuring they can land both Jackson and Jacobs to make this dream come true.
This article was originally published on Sportsnaut.com and is republished here with permission.