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Assessing intriguing QB market as 2024 NFL offseason nears: Who could be headed where?

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Quarterback movement has been a theme the last few offseasons, and that should be the case once again in 2024.

Who lands where in free agency? Who gets traded? How many QB-needy teams are lining up for a top passer in the 2024 NFL Draft?

With the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine just two weeks away and the free-agent negotiating window set to open one month from today on March 11, here's where things stand, based on conversations with numerous NFL sources:

No one faces a bigger and more consequential decision than the Bears this offseason.

As owners of the No. 1 overall pick, and the team with one of the most attractive trade targets, all eyes are on Chicago.

As detailed on on Saturday, it would take a historic haul for the Bears to deal the No. 1 pick. That is an indication Justin Fields would be traded to make room for whoever goes with the top pick -- presumably a special talent in USC’s Caleb Williams.

If that all tracks, expect the Bears to be able to fetch a premium pick for Fields, who came on late in the season and flashed the potential he’s always had. The kind of leader he is in the locker room stands out, as well. This should be an active market, with teams such as the Falcons, in need of a quarterback but possibly drafting too late (No. 8 overall) for a premium one, emerging as an option, along with any other team that doesn’t believe it can land a top QB in the draft.

At one point this past season, Sam Howell looked primed to be a franchise QB, boasting the stats to show it. But with a new head coach (Dan Quinn) and general manager (Adam Peters), along with the No. 2 overall selection, it would be a surprise if that’s still the case.

Peters faces one of his largest decisions for the next several years in figuring out how to handle the No. 2 pick. Plenty of teams view Peters’ Commanders as a possible trade-up team to No. 1, with the belief that offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury could be paired once again with Williams. And the Commanders likely will place a call to the Bears to gauge the market and see if a trade is possible.

Otherwise, their options at No. 2 appear to include North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels, or they could perhaps take a position player and acquire a veteran like Fields.

With plenty of salary-cap space and draft capital, it’s all on the table for Washington and Quinn.

The Patriots own the No. 3 overall pick, and all indications are they’ll seriously explore taking one of the draft’s top QBs as they move into the Jerod Mayo era.

If Williams goes No. 1, and Maye or Daniels goes No. 2, New England could take the third quarterback, or perhaps trade out with another team that will if the Patriots don’t like the prospect who slides to them.

Even though Bill Belichick is gone, former first-round pick Mac Jones -- who lost the starting role and ended up third string by the end of the 2023 season -- is a trade candidate in the coming weeks and most likely will end up elsewhere for the 2024 season.

New offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, a former NFL QB, will play a key role in developing the next starter.

The Broncos are keeping all options on the table at QB -- including the possibility of reopening talks with Russell Wilson about restructuring his contract to keep him in Denver for 2024.

Wilson is due $39 million fully guaranteed next season, and another $37 million guaranteed for injury in 2025 would become fully guaranteed if he’s still on the roster March 17. When the team approached him during the bye week last season about pushing back that vesting date, Wilson and his agent, Mark Rodgers, took the proposal to the NFL Players Association, and Wilson later publicly alleged that the Broncos benched him over money.

Under the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine Wilson, 35, playing another down for Denver. But the Broncos owe him the $39 million in 2024 either way, so it’s not out of the question the team could take another run at tweaking the contract if Wilson is open to staying and better options don’t materialize for either side.

As Broncos head coach Sean Payton said this week during appearances at Super Bowl LVIII radio row, the team begins draft meetings on Monday, with free agency meetings to follow as they evaluate all alternatives. Denver also has Jarrett Stidham, who started the last two games of 2023, under contract for just $6 million in 2024 and could roll with him as the bridge to a young QB.

The Vikings want to re-sign Kirk Cousins, who is set to hit free agency in March for the first since 2018. But Cousins is expected to have a strong market, even coming off a torn Achilles as he enters his age-36 season, and Minnesota is evaluating all options in the event Cousins lands elsewhere.

If the price tag gets too high, the Vikings likely would pursue a more economical veteran and hope that player becomes this year’s Baker Mayfield -- current 49ers backup Sam Darnold, among others, would make sense -- while also potentially drafting a QB. (Minnesota owns the No. 11 overall pick.)

Complicating matters is that superstar receiver Justin Jefferson is also up for a new contract after talks didn’t yield a deal before last season. Jefferson is a Cousins fan and will want to know the quarterback plan before signing on for the long haul.

The Vikings also have another top pending free agent, edge rusher Danielle Hunter, and re-signing all three players is probably unrealistic.

New head coach Antonio Pierce wants to be aggressive in landing a new QB, and owner Mark Davis grilled GM candidates during the search process on how to trade up from No. 13 to get one.

As Davis told at Super Bowl Opening Night in Las Vegas: “The quarterback is probably the most important players on the field, so you’ve got to ask the GM, what is their vision? It’s an important question.”

It’s no secret Pierce has a relationship with Jayden Daniels, whom he recruited to Arizona State, and could be interested in a reunion.

But trading up is easier said than done, especially when the teams drafting 1-2-3 all have an urgent QB need. The Raiders haven’t even done a deep dive yet on any of the incoming rookies. They’re still finalizing their offensive staff under new OC Luke Getsy. And they recently hired an experienced general manager, Tom Telesco, who traded up just once in the first round in his 11 years as Chargers GM (for running back Melvin Gordon in 2015) and believes in letting the board fall to him, as it did when he took Justin Herbert at No. 6 overall in 2020. No general manager usually want to make a big move to land a promising young QB and then end up with no resources to build around him.

Aidan O’Connell started 10 games as a rookie in 2023 and exhibited poise under challenging circumstances, throwing for 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions as Las Vegas went 5-5.

The new regime also has to figure out what to do with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo, who has $11.25 million fully guaranteed in 2024 and also is due an $11.25 million roster bonus on March 17, providing a deadline for possibly working something out or just moving on.

The Cowboys don’t have a decision to make about their franchise QB: It’s Dak Prescott moving forward, following one of the best statistical years of his career. But his contract is another story.

With one year left at $34 million, the issue isn’t just that Prescott is underpaid. It’s also that, because of the way the contract was set up, his cap number in 2024 is set to be nearly $60 million, and the Cowboys can’t franchise him in 2025 because the number would be astronomical.

In other words, Dallas should be highly motivated to do a new contract before free agency. Expect the two sides to get together in the weeks following the Super Bowl and start working. Prescott should once again be one of the highest-paid -- if not the highest-paid -- quarterbacks in the NFL, with the Cowboys gaining valuable cap room to operate in free agency if they do a deal.

The biggest QB question for Green Bay in years appears to be answered: Jordan Love is poised to be their franchise QB.

Leading them into the playoffs and earning the trust of the organization in the second half of the season, Love has shown he can complete the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers to Love with ease. The only thing left is for him to be paid like a franchise passer.

The Packers did a Band-Aid deal for Love prior to the 2023 season -- a one-year, $22.5 million extension through 2024 that got him a raise in 2023 before Green Bay would’ve had to pick up Love’s fifth-year option. Because that deal was done in May, it likely won’t be until this coming May that his contract is touched again.

The Packers are expected to be willing to discuss a new, fair-market deal for Love that pays him like a true starter. QB deals often happen in June or before the start of training camp, and that timeline makes sense. Still just 25 years old, Love is now in line for the first big-time payday of his career.

Leading Detroit to its first NFC North title ever and its first playoff win in over 30 years, Jared Goff has rewarded the Lions’ faith when they acquired him three years ago as part of the Matthew Stafford trade. And while Goff’s contract was viewed as an albatross by the Rams, who needed to get it off the books to acquire Stafford, that’s no longer the case.

Instead, Goff now has a year left at a little under $27 million, which is well below market value based on his performance. Expect Lions brass to begin conversations to address it this offseason, with hopes of a new deal that makes sense for all parties.

Asked prior to the NFC Championship Game about the possibility of a new deal, Goff said: “Yeah, it would be great. But it's not up to me."

Still only 29 years old, Goff has thoroughly enjoyed his time in Detroit, and the feeling is mutual.

With Teddy Bridgewater retiring, former Tennessee standout Hendon Hooker now steps into the backup role. His development after a year spent rehabbing from a major knee injury is worth monitoring, as well.

For the last three years, the Falcons have built the foundation and set the table for a team a quarterback away.

They tried to make it work last year without a franchise QB, hoping Desmond Ridder could grow into it. Instead, he was benched twice, Arthur Smith was fired after the season ended and Atlanta still needs a QB. The Falcons pick No. 8 in the 2024 NFL Draft, likely too low for a top-three QB unless they trade up. The question there would be who is willing to move and for how much?

Another option is a free-agent QB or a trade target like Fields. That’s the name many around the NFL connect to Atlanta, though it’s unclear for sure if that’s the spot. New head coach Raheem Morris will work with GM Terry Fontenot for the best option. Once they acquire a new QB, potentially trading Ridder would be an option, as well. It might be a situation where a fresh start works for all parties.

Miami picked up Tua Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option last spring, locking him in at just over $23 million for 2024. Now, it’s time for a contract extension. Tagovailoa told reporters at the Pro Bowl Games he believes that will happen, and Dolphins GM Chris Grier said "the goal is to have him here long-term, playing at a high level.”

Indications are both sides would like to get a deal done quickly this offseason so that it’s not a storyline that hangs over training camp or the regular season. But it might not be easy to negotiate, and it definitely won’t be cheap.

Tagovailoa just set career highs in passing yards (4,624), touchdowns (29) and completion percentage (69.3) while starting all 17 games -- notable durability for a player who had missed significant time in previous years, including with concussion issues in 2022. With the salary cap continuing to rise, Tagovailoa now has a strong case to push for a contract at or above Joe Burrow’s top-of-the-market $55 million per season.

Baker Mayfield had a resurgence in Tampa Bay last year under offensive coordinator Dave Canales, who has since moved on to become the Panthers’ head coach. The Bucs replaced him with former Rams assistant Liam Coen, who said Mayfield is the “type of guy you want to be around” after working with him briefly in Los Angeles during the 2022 season.

There’s mutual interest in Mayfield returning to Tampa Bay for a second season. But there’s a strong chance it’ll be a lot more expensive this time: After earning just under $7 million in 2024 for a team that was cash and salary-cap strapped, Mayfield now is a free agent again and positioned to cash in.

Coaches around the league admire Mayfield’s competitiveness and skill level, so he’ll surely have interest on the market -- perhaps even from AFC South-rival Atlanta, where former Rams assistants Raheem Morris and Zac Robinson are now in charge.

Tampa Bay would like to nip all that in the bud by doing a deal before the market opens. There have been no substantive talks to this point, though that’s likely to change in the coming weeks leading up to the combine right before the start of free agency.

The Giants are confident Daniel Jones will be ready to go Week 1 after tearing his ACL in early November. He’s been in the team facility regularly for rehab work, and while he’s not moving a lot yet, he’s said to be making good progress.

Jones has $35.5 million fully guaranteed in 2024; after that, the guarantees are for injury only. The Giants are sitting at No. 6 in the draft order, which means they’d likely have to move up to nab one of the top quarterbacks in April.

GM Joe Schoen attended a handful of games this past fall in which those passers were playing, including the USC-Washington game that featured both Caleb Williams and Michael Penix Jr.. Keep an eye on Big Blue to see if they try jockeying for position at the top of the draft.

After two years of Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky and Mason Rudolph in the quarterback room together, expect significant changes at the position in Pittsburgh.

Trubisky is under contract for two more seasons, but he has no guaranteed money left on his deal and has a $1 million roster bonus due March 15, so he could be released soon. Rudolph, who will be a free agent next month, has indicated he’s interested in a fresh start after six seasons with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2018. Pickett, who sat behind Rudolph late in the season and into the playoffs after recovering from a high ankle sprain, will enter the offseason as QB1 again, but head coach Mike Tomlin has made clear “there will be competition.”

With new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, the expectation is Pittsburgh will explore adding free agent Ryan Tannehill, who had his best years with the Titans while Smith was the OC there.

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