The 2023 NFL offseason has several interesting wrinkles that will keep the drama level high. Four selections in the top 12 of the 2023 NFL Draft now belong to other teams after trades, meaning some good teams have a unique opportunity to add a premier difference-maker that they wouldn’t normally be in a position for. This includes some teams with veteran quarterbacks with uncertain futures.
With the free agent quarterback class lacking depth behind Lamar Jackson, Geno Smith, and Daniel Jones, it’s likely each is franchise-tagged or signed long-term by their incumbent franchise. Jimmy Garoppolo might be the only one to change teams. But if they’re not, or if they’re made available via trade after being tagged, there will be several teams vying for a veteran quarterback.
Geno Smith’s Free Agency Landing Spots in 2023
We’re breaking down where Smith could go if the Seahawks opt to replace the 32-year-old breakout passer. He’s coming off a career-best season in every statistical category after being a backup since 2014. Let’s dive into his best fits and why each team should be interested in him.
New York Jets
Could we see a reunion between Smith and the Jets? The former Jets second-round pick flamed out after two seasons as a starter in 2013 and 2014, ending up on the bench for the rest of his rookie contract. From 2017 until Russell Wilson suffered a finger injury in 2021 and missed three starts, Smith was a backup. Then he broke out as a legitimately solid starter in 2022.
The Jets have continued to meander as they’ve searched high and low for an answer at quarterback. Neither Zach Wilson nor Mike White has proven to be good enough to be a long-term option, and the Jets need to start winning sooner than later. Garoppolo is a clean fit considering the time he and Mike LaFleur had together in San Francisco, but the veteran will have his choice of destinations.
If Garoppolo chooses another suitor, then the Jets could be down to Smith, Carson Wentz, Baker Mayfield, and Derek Carr as veteran options. Smith easily played the best of that bunch, completing an NFL-leading 69.8% of attempts for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
Smith may not have much interest in returning to the Big Apple’s market after enduring five seasons there and then moving to the West Coast, but he may welcome the challenge.
Smith would be a massive improvement for the Jets if he can sustain his above-average level of play. He showed the ability to spread the ball around to stars and role players alike. He’s accurate and decisive without being reckless. It took until his ninth season in the NFL, but he finally looked like the star he was at West Virginia.
The Jets would be Wild Card favorites and AFC East contenders with Smith as their quarterback. It’d be worth trading their first-round pick for that jump in competitiveness.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How do the Buccaneers replace Tom Brady if the 46-year-old decides to go to Las Vegas or hang up his cleats? They have a number of cap moves to make to become compliant before they can make any moves, which could prompt them to simply start revamping what was a win-now roster. However, if they can manage to stay competitive by landing Smith, they should consider it.
Brady has been bad this season, looking slow physically and missing pre-snap cues that he once aced as well as anyone in NFL history. The Buccaneers offensive line hasn’t done him favors, and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich failed to find an answer. Going from Brady to Smith would be a solid upgrade for Tampa Bay. But going with Smith would require significant cap gymnastics and possibly cost their first-round pick.
It’s a steep cost that would limit their ability to fill important roster needs. Smith would inherit a veteran team and a terrific set of receivers. Tampa should part with left tackle Donovan Smith and Leonard Fournette to save money.
Tampa is a harder sell than other teams because they lack flexibility. Putting Smith into Leftwich’s vertical passing attack with explosive weapons would bring impressive results. It just might be too short-term of a move for the franchise to upend its cap sheet and available picks.
The Commanders are a complete wild card when it comes to how they’ll handle their quarterback position. They rightfully benched Carson Wentz after Taylor Heinicke performed better in relief, but then put Wentz back in and floated they could extend him this offseason. He failed to keep them afloat in his return to the lineup, and the Commanders ended up starting rookie Sam Howell in Week 18.
Heinicke is clearly only a backup at this point, and Wentz isn’t good enough to start for a self-respecting team. Howell actually showed promise in his lone start, but how does Ron Rivera trust a fifth-rounder who he opted against using until the season was over? The franchise missed an opportunity to actually develop Howell while they could, which is a shame since he was a talented passer at North Carolina, and he could be a serviceable starter in time, in my opinion.
If Rivera is back in 2023, this team looks ripe for another veteran retread. They have the 16th pick in the draft, which loosely puts them in a position to make a big trade-up for the third or fourth quarterback off the board. Neither Will Levis nor Anthony Richardson should be starting Day 1, though.
That could leave Carr, Garroppolo, or Smith as options for Washington. If Seattle is open to moving Smith as they want to avoid paying him long-term or have a quarterback they love in the first round, the Commanders have to call. He has the best blend of accuracy and aggressiveness of their listed options.
Washington can easily make the money work and has room to improve their roster around Smith. Going for another stopgap isn’t ideal for the franchise, but Smith would be the first one talented enough who can make difference in their playoff quest.
Things are about to get quite interesting in Tennessee. With general manager Jon Robinson fired just months after being extended, it appears as though head coach Mike Vrabel won a power struggle. Considering Robinson traded star wide receiver A.J. Brown not long after Vrabel publicly supported keeping Brown, and Vrabel benched third-round rookie quarterback Malik Willis for Josh Dobbs less than a week after signing Dobbs, I think it’s safe to say Vrabel didn’t like the direction Robinson had planned.
We’ve seen this story before. Head coaches can’t handle the increase in power of personnel moves alone. There’s simply too much to do in a day to be effective at both roles.
The Titans need to hire a competent general manager who can balance Vrabel’s tendencies, not simply cater to his demands. There’s a symbiotic relationship that must exist, or else the coach will sabotage the potential of a young player like Willis as they look to win the battle.
This is a crucial offseason for the Titans. They have an old, expensive roster that needs retooling immediately. Vrabel can’t just bring the band back in 2023 and hope for better when Ryan Tannehill is 34, Taylor Lewan can’t stay healthy, the offensive line is bad, and they lack receivers.
Moving on from Tannehill for another 30-plus quarterback might seem misguided, but Smith has a much more diverse and impactful skill set at this point in his career than Tannehill. With Vrabel not trusting Willis, I think Tennessee opts for a player who can help win now and maximize the window Derrick Henry gives them to compete.
The Panthers have little financial flexibility despite being such a bad team, reminding me of the position the Giants were in one year ago. There’s enough talent for a new coach to curate a respectable output in a hurry, but finding a quarterback on a budget is always a challenge. Smith could be that on a smartly-constructed long-term deal that has a low cap hit in 2023.
The Panthers have an offense that isn’t nearly as far off from being decent as their stats might suggest. D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard were respectable backs (Foreman is a free agent), and the wide receiver corps has enough talent for a good offensive mind to work with. The line is the biggest issue but also performed better in 2022 than they did in 2021 after adding talent.
Smith wouldn’t make the Panthers a Super Bowl contender, but he’d allow the team to have a stable presence for a few years and not spend their No. 9 overall pick on a project or trade significant assets to move up. He’d maximize the team’s ability to revamp on the fly and be a much more efficient offense. It’s possible they’d become NFC South favorites overnight.
It seems as though the Panthers want a younger head coach who can grow with the roster, which doesn’t necessarily fit Smith’s timeline. He’s a massive improvement over Sam Darnold and the cast of fliers this team has employed over the last few years, but the delicate blend of spending assets and building the roster out around Smith would become difficult.