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USATSI

Quarterbacks are just one piece of the puzzle in the NFL, but they're a mighty large piece, in case you haven't noticed. It's no coincidence, for example, that the Ravens and 49ers are current Super Bowl favorites while possessing MVP front-runners in Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy, respectively. The same thing happened in 2022, with the Chiefs and Eagles.

Accordingly, the upcoming 2024 offseason is bound to be full of QB drama, from teams courting -- or cutting -- big-name veterans, to rebuilding squads hoping to secure elite prospects at the top of the draft.

Which notable signal-callers are set to be available? And where could they end up? Below, we've got you covered with an overview of the entire market, from top free agents and trade candidates to projected landing spots and contracts:

Top free agents

Kirk Cousins
ATL • QB • #8
CMP%69.5
YDs2331
TD18
INT5
YD/Att7.5
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Before 2023, Cousins was widely considered a good, serviceable starter -- nothing more, nothing less. Then, in a contract year, he went on a tear before suffering the first serious injury of his career, and Minnesota's slew of turnover-happy replacements underscored his steady hand. The Vikings would be smart not to overcompensate for his loss, overlooking longer-term upside for the sake of yet another reunion. But they have the flexibility to bring him back while also throwing a dart elsewhere (more on that below). And while Cousins has capitalized on free agency before, he likes Minnesota and could prioritize familiarity at 35.

Projection: Re-signs with Vikings on two-year, $76M deal ($38M per year)

Baker Mayfield
TB • QB • #6
CMP%64.4
YDs3907
TD28
INT10
YD/Att7.32
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After a roller-coaster ride from the Browns to the Panthers and Rams, Mayfield has exceeded expectations in Tampa Bay, controlling the ball better to keep the Buccaneers playoff-relevant in a post-Tom Brady world. His career resume still suggests he's a QB you compete with rather than build around, but at 28, he's young enough to warrant another starting gig. Like the Seahawks with surprise breakout Geno Smith in 2022-2023, the Bucs could be motivated to reward him while retaining long-term flexibility. Mayfield, meanwhile, figures to value continuity after years of bouncing around, though staffing changes could affect that.

Projection: Re-signs with Buccaneers on two-year, $54M deal ($27M per year)

Top trade candidates

Justin Fields
PIT • QB • #1
CMP%60.9
YDs2146
TD15
INT9
YD/Att6.66
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At 24, three years removed from going No. 11 overall in the draft, with 2,100+ career rushing yards and gradually improving passing marks, Fields is precisely the kind of developing young QB you'd typically strive to retain. But the Bears' failure to give him a reliable supporting cast, coupled with his own turnover woes -- he has 41 in 39 games -- has them in position to reset with the No. 1 overall pick, plus another top-10 pick. Should Chicago move on? Not necessarily. Fields clearly has unteachable NFL-caliber tools, and those picks could finally improve his weaponry. But it's possible, if not probable, they'll prefer to start fresh.

Projection: Traded to Falcons in exchange for a 2024 second- and fourth-round picks

Kyler Murray
ARI • QB • #1
CMP%62.3
YDs1305
TD6
INT4
YD/Att6.3
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There are major red flags on Murray's resume as a former No. 1 pick: He's missed extended time due to injury in his last three seasons, he's led a single winning season in five years as the starter, and he's generally been far more effective as a scrambler than a passer. But like Justin Fields in Chicago, there's little question about his physical gifts, and he's been part of two rebuilding regimes. New coach Jonathan Gannon has indicated he's all in on Murray, 26, as the team's long-term QB, and we're inclined to believe him, with Arizona more likely to allocate resources toward a rebuild of his supporting cast going into 2024.

Projection: Remains with Cardinals

Top cut candidates

Russell Wilson
PIT • QB • #3
CMP%66.4
YDs3070
TD26
INT8
YD/Att6.87
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The former Seahawks star was always going to need an MVP-caliber resurgence to win new coach Sean Payton's approval as the highly paid face of the franchise. He wasn't bad in 2023, but his numbers also masked a general streakiness and sluggishness running the Broncos offense -- all the way up to his polarizing Week 17 demotion, which effectively signaled the end of his short-lived Denver career. At 35, it's clear Wilson is no longer the elite dual threat he once was. But his downfield touch returned at points in 2023, and he should have a decent market after his inevitable release, especially with Denver already paying his 2024 salary.

Projection: Signs three-year, $90M deal ($30M per year) with Steelers

Top draft prospects

The USC star is widely considered the most enticing 2024 prospect at his position, thriving as an off-script playmaker with fluid legs and a laser arm. CBS Sports NFL draft expert Ryan Wilson compares him to Chiefs great Patrick Mahomes. It's a lofty bar, of course, and Williams will have to learn when not to play hero in the NFL. But the big-play possibilities are apparent, making him a safe bet to go in the top five and have an immediate impact due to his natural athleticism.

Projection: Drafted in the first round by the Commanders

If Caleb Williams is the class of the 2024 QB prospects due to sheer playmaking ability, then Maye is the polished alternative. A total package of size, vision, mobility and arm talent, he compares to Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence, per CBS Sports draft expert Ryan Wilson. In other words, he can't be ruled out as the potential No. 1 pick, potentially offering a more sustainable pocket-passing trajectory -- a franchise QB built to play both inside and outside structure.

Projection: Drafted in the first round by the Bears

Most draft experts seem to agree there are three QBs likely to go at the top of the first round, with Daniels trailing Drake Maye and Caleb Williams. He is certainly the slightest of the trio at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, raising concerns about long-term durability. But his combo of deep-ball accuracy and effortless speed has CBS Sports expert Ryan Wilson likening him to Ravens star Lamar Jackson. His best path to success is perhaps an offense particularly tailored to his strengths.

Projection: Drafted in the first round by the Patriots

Fresh off a dominant Sugar Bowl win over Texas, Penix might be getting even more buzz as an early first-rounder if not for his age (he'll be 24 as a rookie) and injury history (he suffered two ACL tears at Indiana). Widely hailed as a respected field general for Washington, doing all the little things well from the pocket, he compares to Dolphins MVP candidate Tua Tagovailoa, per CBS Sports draft expert Ryan Wilson, except with an even stronger arm.

Projection: Drafted in the first round by the Broncos

Bo Nix
OREG • QB • #10
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Nix has all the tools to make plays out of structure, possessing above-average athleticism and good arm strength, but he's drawn criticism for unpredictable mechanics. CBS Sports draft expert Ryan Wilson sees shades of Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield in the Oregon product, for better and worse, but an NFL team could easily buy into his explosive upside.

Projection: Drafted in the first round by the Giants

If there's a QB prospect destined to rise late in the draft process, it might be McCarthy, whose pocket presence and accuracy as both a tight-window and play-action thrower could give him a relatively high floor in the NFL. CBS Sports draft expert Ryan Wilson believes he's comparable to Ryan Tannehill when the Titans QB was coming out of Texas A&M.

Projection: Drafted in the second round by the Vikings

Next-tier free agents

Veteran backup types

  • Joe Flacco (Browns) has enjoyed a career revival at 38, slinging it to every level as a fearless replacement for the injured Deshaun Watson. He should have a market as a veteran No. 2 and might be inclined to stay in Cleveland.
  • Ryan Tannehill (Titans) is probably done in Tennessee after Will Levis' gutsy entrance as the starter. Perhaps a return to Miami could be in the cards, where he could offer the Dolphins a more experienced backup for Tua Tagovailoa.
  • Jameis Winston (Saints) has embraced his No. 2 role behind multiple veterans in New Orleans, but a reunion with Sean Payton in Denver could make sense, where he might be able to serve as a stopgap starter ahead of a rookie.
  • Jacoby Brissett (Commanders) could be a candidate to reunite with ex-Colts coordinator Matt Eberflus in Chicago, presuming the Bears retain their coach and restart at QB, ushering in a new rookie at the top of the draft.
  • Carson Wentz (Rams) may stay put as Matthew Stafford's backup. Another option could be the Packers, where Green Bay might prefer to add a more experienced No. 2 behind young Jordan Love.
  • Tyrod Taylor (Giants) is more likely to say goodbye than injured starter Daniel Jones, who's owed $47M in 2024. Perhaps he'll stay in New Jersey, hopping over to the Jets as insurance behind rehabbing star Aaron Rodgers.
  • Gardner Minshew (Colts) has fared reasonably well filling in for Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis, making him a candidate to return under coach Shane Steichen for another run as the backup plan.
  • Marcus Mariota (Eagles) brings mobility to the No. 2 role behind Jalen Hurts in Philly, but the Eagles could look to promote Tanner McKee in 2024, leaving Mariota to seek out other clubs with running QBs.
  • Tyler Huntley (Ravens) has flashed as a fill-in for Lamar Jackson. Perhaps he'd draw an offer to compete for a QB1 gig elsewhere. But he's familiar with Baltimore, and the Ravens probably prefer to keep him.
  • Sam Darnold (49ers) might like another crack at a starting job, but what better place is there to be a backup?
  • Drew Lock (Seahawks) has done well coming off the bench for Geno Smith.

Next-tier cut / trade candidates

  • Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders) is all but a lock to exit after his demotion following Josh McDaniels' dismissal.
  • Trey Lance (Cowboys) is probably destined to stay put as a No. 3/developmental QB in Dallas.
  • Davis Mills (Texans) could desire a different opportunity with C.J. Stroud fully entrenched in Houston.
  • Mac Jones (Patriots) is a safe bet to be replaced regardless of whether the Patriots overturn their staff.
  • Zach Wilson (Jets) didn't pan out filling in for Aaron Rodgers, who was acquired to replace him in the first place.
  • Mitch Trubisky (Steelers) lost the No. 2 job to Mason Rudolph late in 2023.

Other top draft prospects

  • Quinn Ewers (Texas) is a bit reminiscent of 49ers standout Brock Purdy, per CBS Sports expert Ryan Wilson.
  • Spencer Rattler (South Carolina) was once heralded as an Oklahoma prospect. He could be a high-upside Day 3 swing.

Wild cards

  • Derek Carr (Saints) is likely to stay put, owed $35.7M in 2024, but he can be designated a post-June 1 cut without putting a dent in New Orleans' 2024 salary cap. The Saints have long delayed a full-on rebuild.
  • Geno Smith (Seahawks) just signed a new deal with Seattle prior to 2023, but he could be cut or traded to save almost $14M in 2024. That's only likely if the team makes an early-round selection at QB in the draft.
  • Daniel Jones (Giants) landed a big deal that pays $40M per year ahead of 2023, but his regression and injury could force New York to rethink its long-term QB plans. He could be designated a post-June 1 cut, though it wouldn't save any 2024 cap space.