The 2023 NFL offseason is underway. Teams can begin applying the franchise tag this week, and before long, free agency will be kicking off as well. March 13 marks the official start date for legal tampering, when clubs can begin negotiating with unsigned players, and March 15 is when new deals -- and trades -- can be finalized. As per usual, the quarterback position is set to dominate the landscape. Unlike last year's veteran market, which included a top-five rounded out by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Mitchell Trubisky, the 2023 crop features multiple repeat Pro Bowlers.
Here's a look at the five biggest names set to be available, plus plenty of other options, as well as projected contract values and logical landing spots:
Notes: QB ages are as of Sept. 1, 2023. AAV denotes projected average annual value.
1. Lamar Jackson
Age: 26 | Season: 6th | Last Team: Ravens
The gap between Jackson and the rest of the free agent QB market is vast, but his only feasible availability will come via trade, or a comparable move. If/when the Ravens use the exclusive franchise tag to secure him for one year at $45 million, they would control his rights but have the freedom to deal the QB in the event of a further contract standoff. A non-exclusive tag ($32.4M), meanwhile, would permit Jackson to negotiate with other clubs, who could then secure the QB by surrendering two first-round draft picks to Baltimore. Rest assured that either way, barring a long-term extension with the Ravens, Jackson will have at least a dozen suitors. He remains unproven as a big-game passer and has now missed at least five games due to injury in back-to-back years. But at 26, with an MVP and two 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt, he possesses the game-changing electricity -- as both a speedy scrambler and flick-of-the-wrist thrower -- to warrant a lucrative investment.
Projected AAV: $50M
The Dolphins are publicly committed to Tua Tagovailoa despite the QB's scary medical history, but Jackson would be a perfectly athletic figurehead for Mike McDaniel, the well-versed run-game strategist. Miami is also closer to the QB's hometown in Florida, where he'd easily have the best receivers of his career. The Falcons are also closer to home, and more importantly have a dire need for long-term QB juice, with run-heavy coach Arthur Smith entering year three. The Jets are willing to spend big with basically every other skill group prepped for a playoff run. The Patriots have Mac Jones but are resetting the offense under new (old) coordinator Bill O'Brien, and have lost luster post-Tom Brady. The Raiders need a QB after cutting Derek Carr and have more money to spend than all but two teams. And the Ravens, despite a glaring lack of WR investment, have built themselves to lean on Jackson's strengths on the ground.
2. Daniel Jones
Age: 26 | Season: 5th | Last Team: Giants
Going into 2022, few would've forecast Jones making the Giants wish they'd exercised the fifth-year option on his contract. The former No. 6 overall pick was an athletic but hapless starter for his first three seasons. Under Brian Daboll, he was decidedly more composed, controlling the ball and excelling with his legs despite a makeshift supporting cast. The jury is still out on his ability to consistently win through the air, which is rather significant considering he's approaching year five and will command sizable money. But he proved down the stretch in 2022, especially in his road playoff win, that he's capable of guiding a frisky contender with proper help. Theoretically, with better protection and weapons, he's still got untapped upside.
Projected AAV: $29M-$35M
The Colts seem destined to address their longstanding QB hole through the draft, but new coach Shane Steichen would be a solid match after guiding the Eagles' adaptable Jalen Hurts-led offense. The Falcons, like Jones' Giants, deploy an old-school ground-and-pound approach and could use a longer-term solution under center. The Giants would do well to return their homegrown prospect alongside improved weaponry, as long as the price is reasonable on a two- or three-year deal. The Patriots have unsuccessfully leaned on Mac Jones for the kind of steady efficiency Jones provided in 2022. The Ravens make sense as a run-heavy system in the event Lamar Jackson is dealt. And the Titans, who also like to lean on the run and defense, are poised for a makeover after the aging Ryan Tannehill struggled to stay healthy.
3. Jimmy Garoppolo
Age: 31 | Season: 10th | Last Team: 49ers
A favorite of Kyle Shanahan for years, Jimmy G was on track for career numbers after replacing the injured Trey Lance. Then came his own injury -- the latest in a long line of them -- and rookie Brock Purdy's emergence, which rendered him more replaceable. Garoppolo's repeatedly proven he can be a high-floor leader, going 32-15 with a 100.2 rating as a starter since 2019. Over the last five years, however, he's missed a combined 31 games due to injury, playing a full season just once in his nine-year career. You'd think he's 35, the amount of scars he's absorbed. Someone left out of the top-tier QB sweepstakes may well bet on him as a short-term rental, but he could just as easily enter 2023 as bench insurance.
Projected AAV: $15M-$30M
How about succeeding Tom Brady once and for all, but with the Buccaneers? Tampa may not have a ton of cash to spend, and the team could pair him with a rookie. The Dolphins make a world of sense not only because Tua Tagovailoa is equally as unavailable due to injury, but because coach Mike McDaniel worked directly with Garoppolo in San Francisco. The Jets are a potential plug-and-play destination for any proven starter. The Patriots could push Mac Jones without totally unseating him by reuniting with Bill Belichick's former pupil. The Panthers figure to tap into the QB draft class but could benefit from an experienced stopgap. And the Raiders employ Josh McDaniels, Garoppolo's former OC with the Patriots.
4. Sam Darnold
Age: 26 | Season: 5th | Last Team: Panthers
Darnold found some of the juice he'd been missing in 2022, as he went 4-2 as the starter while completing 58.6% of his passes for 1,143 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. In what was a shock to most, Darnold was Carolina's best quarterback this past season, and now that his contract is up, the former No. 2 overall pick could be playing for another team in 2023.
Projected AAV: $5M-$6M
It has already been reported that Darnold has had talks with Carolina about a new deal, although the Panthers are looking at adding another prospective starter as well. If the Titans decide to move on from Ryan Tannehill this offseason, Darnold is a younger, cheaper replacement that will have the benefit of working with one of the best running backs in the league in Derrick Henry. If we want to stick with the possibility of Darnold finding a starting job, we should bring up the rival Falcons. Marcus Mariota has already been released and then Desmond Ridder is still developing. Darnold could be an option for Arthur Smith to bring aboard.
5. Marcus Mariota
Age: 29 | Season: 8th | Last Team: Falcons
Mariota didn't last a full season in Atlanta, as he was benched and then never played for the team again. The Falcons officially released Mariota on the last day of February. In 13 games played last season, Mariota went 5-8 as the starter and completed 61.3% of his passes for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions. After years of backing up Derek Carr in Vegas, Mariota got another chance to be a starter, and it didn't pan out. Still, there are surely teams out there interested in the dual-threat weapon. Last year, Mariota rushed for a career-high 438 yards and four touchdowns.
Projected AAV: $3M
It's very possible Mariota returns to backup status for 2023. The Bills could be a team that looks to pick up Mariota and groom him much like they did for Mitchell Trubisky. The same goes for the Chiefs, who lost Chad Henne to retirement this offseason. The Cardinals could be a team that looks to add the versatile Mariota to start the season before Kyler Murray returns from his torn ACL.
- Andy Dalton (35, Saints)
- Jacoby Brissett (30, Browns)
- Carson Wentz (30, Commanders)
- Gardner Minshew (27, Eagles)
- Teddy Bridgewater (30, Dolphins)
- Taylor Heinicke (30, Commanders)
- Baker Mayfield (28, Rams)
- Case Keenum (35, Bills)
- Jarrett Stidham (27, Raiders)
- Cooper Rush (29, Cowboys)
- Mason Rudolph (28, Steelers)
A few of these vets will inevitably have opportunities to start to open 2023, even if most of them have past their respective primes. Some will be added and then quickly replaced atop the depth chart by rookies. A few connections to monitor:
- Dalton's former Bengals QBs coach, Ken Zampese, now holds the same position with the Commanders
- Minshew worked alongside -- and practiced against -- new Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon in Philly, from 2021-2022
- Wentz is a noted favorite of new Panthers coach Frank Reich, who tutored him with both the Eagles and Colts
- Bridgewater played under new Broncos coach Sean Payton for two seasons, going 5-0 as a starter replacing the Saints' injured Drew Brees; and Payton publicly predicted Bridgewater would take over for Tua Tagovailoa in 2022