Most years, there are several NFL teams that stand out as obvious candidates to take a quarterback early in the draft. This year is no exception, and in fact might be even more predictable, with the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots widely projected to kick off the 2024 draft with three consecutive picks under center.

Every year, however, there's also the possibility of a "mystery team" emerging from the shadows to join the quarterback mix. Sometimes this team will make a surprise leap to the first half of the first round. Sometimes it'll trade back into Round 1 for a chance at securing a rookie's fifth-year contract option. And sometimes these surprise moves end up being the wisest, considering they often involve clubs looking to make a long-term investment for an already-established lineup.

Besides the Bears, Commanders and Patriots, most expect the Denver Broncos, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants to at least explore an early quarterback pursuit. So which other teams could be dark-horse contenders for a first- or second-round quarterback selection later this month?

New Orleans Saints

Top picks: Nos. 14, 45 overall

Incumbent starter Derek Carr is only a year removed from signing a $150 million deal, but he's 33, coming off an uneven Saints debut and is easily expendable following 2024; New Orleans could save up to $30 million by designating him a post-June 1 release in 2025, per Over the Cap. The Saints are notorious for refusing to rebuild, but they also lack a surefire No. 2 behind Carr after Jameis Winston's exit in free agency.

Seattle Seahawks

Top picks: Nos. 16, 81 overall

General manager John Schneider sniffed around top quarterback prospects in 2023, even after re-signing Geno Smith to a $75 million deal. Smith, meanwhile, is approaching his age-34 season after a regression from his 2022 breakout, and can be released to save $25 million after the year. One holdup: Seattle's acquisition of former Commanders starter Sam Howell may satisfy the club's desire for a longer-term project.

Los Angeles Rams

Top picks: Nos. 19, 52 overall

Matthew Stafford looked rejuvenated for much of 2023, returning to form with a younger, more explosive supporting cast. He's also 36, has openly pondered retirement in recent years and missed multiple starts due to injury in three of the last five seasons. New backup Jimmy Garoppolo, meanwhile, is also aging and injury-prone. Sean McVay may be focused entirely on the now, but this club could use a true developmental signal-caller.

Dallas Cowboys

Top picks: Nos. 24, 56 overall

This is easily the most unlikely, but since when have the Cowboys operated according to public expectations? Dak Prescott is a top-10 starter, but he's entering a contract year amid conflicting reports about Dallas' urgency to extend him beyond 2024. Former San Francisco 49ers prospect Trey Lance, still just 23, is also entering the final year of his rookie deal. What if there's an intriguing name on the board on Day 2? Prescott, remember, was drafted just two years after Tony Romo was a Pro Bowler.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Top picks: Nos. 26, 57 overall

The Bucs just re-signed Baker Mayfield to a $150 extension, but the deal is structured in a way Tampa Bay can actually save up to $20 million by cutting the redeemed journeyman after 2024, should the extended marriage not pan out. In other words, Mayfield is the guy here, but like Geno Smith in Seattle after his breakout, the bond isn't irrevocable. Only Kyle Trask and John Wolford sit behind him on the depth chart, meanwhile.