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Predicting landing spots for 7 top NFL free agent quarterbacks

Free agent quarterbacks
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Super Bowl is in the books, all 32 NFL teams now turn their attention to the offseason, with free agency set to open on March 15. This means general managers are working overtime trying to determine which players could be the best fit to help improve their rosters. But there is no position more important than quarterback, and there happens to be multiple Pro Bowl free agent quarterbacks whose contracts have now expired.

In addition to Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith, and Derek Carr, there are also other quarterbacks who can represent an immediate improvement over several starters from 2022. In an ever-changing football landscape, where might some of these top free agent QBs sign this offseason? That’s the question we set out to answer down below.

Related: Top NFL free agents of 2023: From 1-250, led by Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr and Saquon Barkley

Baker Mayfield finds a new home

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

While he’s likely not No. 1 on any team’s list of quarterback targets, Baker Mayfield will be joining a new team this offseason. Prior to his five-game stint with the Los Angeles Rams, there was no way Mayfield would land a starting job in 2023. But Mayfield impressed in Los Angeles, sparking an offense that had lost its horns despite having to learn a new scheme and build chemistry with his new teammates on the fly.

Mayfield may have to wait out the market a bit while seeing which teams strike out on their first, second, and even third choice, but with as many as nine teams seeking a new QB, Mayfield could find himself heading into the year as a team’s QB1.

How about a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? They already have a Pro Bowl cast of receivers with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, giving Mayfield two immediately reliable options. It’s also a roster that may feel they’re still in their window of contention and may not be ready to turn to 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask just yet. While the Bucs could do a lot better, Mayfield is an improvement over their internal options.

  • Prediction: Baker Mayfield signs with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Related: 5 NFL quarterback signings we’d love to see in free agency

Jacoby Brissett lands a starting role

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cleveland Browns
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns traded for Jacoby Brissett, knowing he’d have a chance to start several games for them in 2022 as Deshaun Watson served his suspension. There was no telling how the journeyman QB would perform in his seventh year in the league, but Brissett handled himself well, keeping the Browns in contention until Watson took over after 11 starts.

Finishing with a career-high 64% completion rate, Brissett may have earned himself a starting role in 2023. If so, it may be in another situation where a rookie is waiting in the wings or maybe serving as a one-year stopgap. If that’s the case, there may be no better fit than the New Orleans Saints.

They’ve been slowly declining each of the past two seasons, going from a 12-win team down to nine and seven wins this past year. Still facing a cap crunch, the Saints won’t have much money to spend (if any), and their first pick isn’t until selection No. 30, which means finding a franchise QB this offseason may be difficult. Brissett would be a fine bridge QB for a year or two until the Saints can invest more into the position.

  • Prediction: Jacoby Brissett signs with New Orleans Saints

Related: 2023 NFL power rankings: Post-Super Bowl update

Jimmy Garoppolo reunites with Josh McDaniels

NFL: Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Expected to move on from the San Francisco 49ers a season ago, Jimmy Garoppolo ended up making 10 starts in 2022. In that time, Jimmy G showed his surgically repaired shoulder wasn’t a concern, but he once again got hurt, this time breaking his foot.

When healthy, Garoppolo has shown he’s a top-20 starting QB in the NFL. The when healthy is the biggest key, as he’s now missed 18 games in the past three seasons. Yet, Garoppolo’s outstanding win-loss record (40-17), combined with his ability to protect the football, will surely draw interest.

In fact, it could be as easy as reuniting with former Patriots offensive coordinator and QB coach Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders. We know Derek Carr is moving on, and the Raiders have the tough task of replacing their QB of the past nine seasons. Unless the Raiders can gamble on a big name, Garoppolo may be the best they can do. For both McDaniels and Garoppolo, the idea of working together again could be what gets a deal done.

  • Prediction: Jimmy Garoppolo signs with Las Vegas Raiders

Related: NFL QB Rankings: Patrick Mahomes shows why he’s No. 1

Derek Carr joins Frank Reich

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Seattle Seahawks
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve heard plenty about the New Orleans Saints’ visit with Derek Carr, but the soon-to-be 32-year-old QB rejected a trade to the Big Easy. This may be simply due to Carr realizing the Raiders won’t have a choice but to cut him from his contract, allowing him to pick his destination, and not wanting to hurt his next team by stripping valuable draft picks.

Yet, there’s also a possibility that once Carr hits the open market, as he’s expected to be released, he may find a better situation elsewhere. How about right there in the NFC South? The Carolina Panthers also need a new quarterback, and while 2022 third-round pick Matt Corral could get the call, the 24-year-old may not be ready yet.

Plus, new head coach Frank Reich may not be sold on hitching his cart to a young QB right away. But landing a four-time Pro Bowl QB with a massive chip on his shoulder, like Carr? That could be much more enticing. For Carr, he’d get to join a team that features D.J. Moore, who’s already had three 1,000-yard seasons in just five years.

Plus, the Panthers found their offensive identity a season ago, establishing a smashmouth running game even after trading Christian McCaffrey. Combine their offensive potential with several young defenders ready to pounce, and the Panthers could have a quick turnaround sparked by Carr.

  • Prediction: Derek Carr signs with Carolina Panthers

Related: 5 logical Derek Carr landing spots in NFL free agency

Daniel Jones stays in the Big Apple

NFL: New York Giants at Tennessee Titans
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Daniel Jones has finally found success, four years after being the sixth overall pick, do you really expect the former Duke QB to move on? We don’t see it. Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka came in and helped Danny Dimes eliminate his turnover problems while bringing the Giants to the playoffs, where they surprised everyone and even advanced to the Divisional Round.

Sure, the Giants have their flaws, namely a lack of pass-catching targets, but this is something they can work on. It’s hard to imagine Jones wanting to bet on himself anywhere other than right back in the Big Apple in 2023.

  • Prediction: Daniel Jones re-signs with New York Giants

Related: 4 New York Giants QB options if Daniel Jones contract talks fail

Geno Smith writes his name on a contract with Seahawks

NFL: Pro Bowl Games-NFC Practice
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite having many doubters who wrote him off coming into the season, Geno Smith didn’t pay skeptics any attention. It paid off in a big way, not only for him but also for coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks. No one talks about Russell Wilson in Seattle anymore, and Smith’s stellar play is the only reason why.

Much like the concept above with Daniel Jones, it’s hard to envision Smith feeling like he’d get a better opportunity elsewhere. His coach stuck by him, and Smith turned in the best year of his career, leading the NFL in completion percentage at 69.8%. We see him returning to the Seahawks to build off his postseason appearance in 2022.

  • Prediction: Geno Smith re-signs with Seattle Seahawks

Related: Seattle Seahawks could let Geno Smith test NFL free agency

Lamar Jackson gets traded in absolute blockbuster

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

In a perfect world, Lamar Jackson would remain with the Baltimore Ravens, maybe even for his entire professional playing career. But, as we all know, the world is far from ideal. For whatever reason, the Ravens seem hesitant to hand Jackson a blank check, and it could end up being the biggest mistake this franchise ever makes.

Sure, Jackson has battled injuries, but he’s also won an NFL MVP award. Players like this don’t grow on trees, and after the Ravens took a big gamble on Jackson that paid off in a major way, now they don’t seem willing to pay the price associated with keeping generational talent within the organization.

That’s fine. Baltimore’s potential loss will be another team’s gain. As to who, it may be a shorter list of teams that would have interest than teams that wouldn’t. But how about the Atlanta Falcons, who were aggressive in their pursuit of Deshaun Watson a season ago, leading to Matt Ryan‘s castoff?

Of course, any potential trade for Jackson would likely include several first-round picks, probably at least three or four, if not more, plus a few players who are either proven or prospects with the potential to become stars.

Do the Falcons have enough assets to pull off such a blockbuster? We’re skeptical, but if Jackson forces Baltimore’s hand and says he wants to be a Falcon, taking the best Atlanta has to offer might be their only choice.

  • Prediction: Lamar Jackson gets traded to Atlanta Falcons

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