All eyes in the NFL are on the big-name quarterbacks headlining the 2023 market, most notably Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson. But this year's free agency class is also unusually loaded with mid-tier backup types, more than a dozen of whom could easily swap teams in the coming weeks. From Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett to Carson Wentz and Gardner Minshew, we've got plenty of former No. 1 signal-callers to monitor.
In the meantime, let's match 16 of the top free agent QBs to logical landing spots:
Jimmy Garoppolo to the Dolphins
If Miami isn't going to pursue starting competition for Tua Tagovailoa, it should at least be in the market for premium insurance. And there's none greater than Garoppolo, who was at his best replacing the injured Trey Lance in San Francisco. Jimmy G has his own medical history, of course, but like Tua, he fits old friend Mike McDaniel's quick-strike 49ers-esque offense.
Jacoby Brissett to the Cardinals
After holding down the fort in Cleveland before Deshaun Watson's return, Brissett is primed to do the same for the rehabbing Kyler Murray in Arizona, where new coach Jonathan Gannon is looking to reshape the culture. The QB has ties to Gannon (from the Colts), coordinator Drew Petzing (from the Browns) and general manager Monti Ossenfort (from the Patriots).
Andy Dalton to the Texans
With Derek Carr taking over as QB1 in New Orleans, Dalton will be free to return to his home state, where he grew up less than an hour from Houston. The Texans are a virtual lock to draft a QB early, but Dalton is a prototypical placeholder who can instill knowledge to the newcomer. He worked under senior offensive assistant Bill Lazor from 2016-2018 with the Bengals.
Teddy Bridgewater to the Browns
Teddy once all but disavowed Cleveland after the Browns preferred Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft, but at 30, coming off his sixth team in six years, he won't necessarily have the luxury of being picky. Plus, coach Kevin Stefanski was on staff with the Vikings when Minnesota picked him. And the Browns need an able, experienced body behind Deshaun Watson.
Marcus Mariota to the Eagles
Nearly a decade after he was rumored to be an Eagles favorite coming out of Oregon, Mariota makes total sense as a new No. 2 behind Jalen Hurts. His still-underrated legs would allow Philadelphia to stay run-heavy even if Hurts were to go down. And Mariota, 29, should be resigned to strictly a backup role after flaming out with the Falcons in 2022.
Taylor Heinicke to the Raiders
Garoppolo is the more obvious fit thanks to his history with Josh McDaniels, but we've got him elsewhere (above), and Heinicke is arguably just as capable as a placeholder/competition for a potential early-round pick. His feisty approach might help alleviate Derek Carr's absence, and Vegas' passing game coordinator, Scott Turner, worked with him in both Minnesota and Washington.
Gardner Minshew to the Commanders
Washington has publicly endorsed 2022 rookie Sam Howell as a potential Week 1 starter, but Minshew may offer just as much upside going on 27, and he's started 23 more games with both the Jaguars and rival Eagles. A likable leader who would have no issue airing it out to Terry McLaurin, he also wouldn't necessarily cost a ton, allowing Ron Rivera and Co. to fill other holes.
Sam Darnold to the 49ers
San Francisco is certainly a candidate to pursue more savvy help -- Andy Dalton, perhaps, or maybe even old Kyle Shanahan partner Matt Ryan, if he doesn't retire. But Darnold was reportedly the apple of their eye before they drafted Trey Lance, and he'd at least offer an athletic push to Lance and Brock Purdy in the summer. He's also a born Californian!
Carson Wentz to the Buccaneers
The general consensus is that Wentz's days as a surefire starter are over, but few teams need more QB help -- and have little resources to address the position -- than Tampa Bay. Executive Bruce Arians was once an outspoken fan of Wentz's never-say-die mentality, and perhaps he'd relish the opportunity to curb the QB's tendencies as competition for young Kyle Trask.
Baker Mayfield to the Saints
A return to the Rams makes a lot of sense considering how quickly Sean McVay was able to restore his confidence, but Los Angeles is in seller's mode as it reallocates resources. New Orleans, meanwhile, reportedly admired Mayfield coming out of college and could use a high-energy backup for new starter Derek Carr as it (somewhat inexplicably) tries to win now.
Jameis Winston to the Broncos
We're assuming Winston will be cut loose after the Saints spent big for Derek Carr, and a reunion with ex-New Orleans coach Sean Payton could benefit both parties. Denver needs more energy on the bench behind Russell Wilson, who's entering a potential do-or-die year as a Bronco. And Winston played some of his best ball under Payton as a short-lived 2021 starter.
Case Keenum to the Chiefs
Chad Henne hung up the cleats after Kansas City's latest title run, which sets the stage for another 35+ year-old backup to join Andy Reid's QB room behind Patrick Mahomes. Keenum knows his place at this point in his career, and like both Mahomes and Keenum's latest partner, Bills star Josh Allen, he likes going off-script when he can. He shouldn't cost a ton, either.
Mike White to the Cowboys
The Jets are after bigger fish in their hunt to make an actual playoff run, and 2021 first-rounder Zach Wilson will probably stick for at least one more year as a backup. Where better for the gutsy White to turn than the team that began his NFL career? Dallas could use another low-cost No. 2 for Dak Prescott, and White spent the 2018-2019 offseasons in their system.
Drew Lock to the Bills
Buffalo went the sage route for its No. 2 job in 2022 with Case Keenum, but before that, the Bills took a one-year flyer on Mitchell Trubisky, fresh off the ex-Bears QB's descent in Chicago. Lock feels like a similar project after disappointing stints in Denver and Seattle. At 26, with a decent arm and play-maker's mentality, he could be a developmental piece behind Josh Allen.
Jarrett Stidham to the Rams
A return to the Raiders, where he briefly starred as Derek Carr's successor and has at least a faint believer in Josh McDaniels, is certainly in the cards. But if Vegas goes another route, the 26-year-old former Patriots prospect could be a replacement for Baker Mayfield in L.A., giving Sean McVay low-risk, high-reward insurance for Matthew Stafford, who's coming off injury.
Cooper Rush to the Chargers
The Chase Daniel era may finally be done, and the Chargers' new offensive contingent of Kellen Moore (coordinator) and Doug Nussmeier (QBs coach) worked directly with Rush in Dallas, where the veteran No. 2 went 5-1 filling in for an injured Dak Prescott from 2021-2022. With plenty of needs elsewhere, he'd represent a potentially safe but inexpensive addition.