Good NFL quarterbacks rarely ever make it to free agency. League MVPs never do. Teams do whatever it takes to get a long-term deal done with difference-making QBs, usually. But the 2023 offseason could give us an interesting perspective on how teams may begin going about the position differently. It’s made the quarterback free agency rankings far more interesting than during past seasons.
While the franchise tag is a likely outcome for a few of these quarterbacks, two who will be on new teams in 2023 could lead their new teams to a playoff run next season, depending on where they land.
2023 QB Free Agency Rankings | 1-5
If the franchise tag didn’t exist, we’d be in for one of the wildest offseasons in sports history. That is, if these teams and players would have dragged their feet the same way had that safety blanket not existed.
There is a good mix of talent in the class. Five legitimate starting quarterbacks, two high-end backups, and a few reclamation projects make up one of the strongest classes we’ve ever seen.
1) Lamar Jackson
You couldn’t have convinced me that a 26-year-old MVP at QB would potentially not get a second deal with his drafting team. Lamar Jackson is arguably the most electric player in the NFL, but injuries over the past two seasons have complicated the extension process.
Deshaun Watson’s fully guaranteed deal and Jackson’s unwillingness to use an agent during negotiations haven’t made things any easier. It should come as no surprise that the top player in PFN’s Top 100 Free Agents also took the top spot in his positional ranking.
2) Daniel Jones
The Giants were in a difficult spot when deciding whether to pick up Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option. Aside from Jackson, the rest of the 2018 QB class flamed out spectacularly, and the Browns and Panthers had both picked up fifth-year options that hurt their bottom line.
It was probably the right decision at the time, but the difference in coin between the option and the franchise tag — and the proposition of a new deal — is of great expense.
3) Geno Smith
Geno Smith was the most pleasant surprise in the NFL in 2022. He was the most accurate passer in the league relative to expectation, and he cemented himself as deserving of a nice payday for the foreseeable future.
At only 32, Smith still has plenty of gas left in the tank should the Seattle Seahawks want to move forward with the veteran. But with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, anything is possible if a deal is not done come April.
4) Derek Carr
Derek Carr might be a better quarterback than Smith, but he wasn’t able to show it this past season. Carr has always flashed on third downs and late in games, but he wasn’t able to show that side of himself in 2022, even as his college teammate Davante Adams entered the fold.
With a few NFC South teams looking into his services, Carr could find himself failing up and into a potential playoff situation. After all, the NFC South has… gone south…
5) Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t considered one of the 10 best passers in the league, but as a San Francisco 49er, he’s consistently hovered around the top five when it comes to passing efficiency. Although he won’t be able to find a 1:1 situation elsewhere, there are a few spots around the league with openings at the position that should be welcoming to a Kyle Shanahan QB.
2023 QB Free Agency Rankings | 6-10
6) Jacoby Brissett
Jacoby Brissett played well in 2022, but we have enough of a sample size throughout his career that suggests he’s a backup, yet one that can come in and play well enough not to lose. It obviously won’t be the same everywhere because a quarterback’s surroundings matter. But on a playoff-caliber team, Brissett could insert into the starting lineup and avoid the walls from crumbling around the roster.
7) Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton hovers around one of the 10 worst starters in the NFL. He doesn’t offer much in terms of playmaking ability, and he’s not one of the better passers in the league. With that said, Dalton is still likely one of the best 32 quarterbacks in the world, which is simply further proof of how difficult it is to find a starting-caliber QB in the NFL.
8) Sam Darnold
One might object to Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield being lower on the list than Dalton, but one would be wrong. One would be holding on to the allusion of upside for dear life. Upside that has become ever more fleeting for Darnold and Mayfield.
Darnold wasn’t the complete train wreck we’d seen him be in New York in 2022, but he also got injured and was unable to capture the same sort of jetstream upward as Jones did for the Giants. Statistically speaking, few have been worse over the past half-decade than Darnold.
9) Baker Mayfield
Aside from one half for the Los Angeles Rams, Mayfield continues to look like a broken version of himself. He had already been teetering on the line of mechanical deficiencies, but his shoulder injury in 2021 magnified his bad habits. And now he’s having an impossible time shaking them.
Hopefully, a full offseason can get Mayfield back on the right track, but if we ever see him get a legitimate shot again, he’ll probably have to take the Geno Smith approach and use patience while crafting his tools.
10) Taylor Heinicke
Taylor Heinicke is exactly the type of backup I want on my football team. Will he lose me a football game in relief? Absolutely. But can he also breathe some life into a dying roster for a few weeks, get hot, and win a few games before teams realize he’s actually not that difficult to stop? Also absolutely.
Heinicke is the new Ryan Fitzpatrick, and his teammates in Washington seemed to love him. That’s the type of player you want backing up a starter.