The New England Patriots will have quarterback Mac Jones under contract in 2024. But there are many fans and analysts alike who not sure Jones should keep his starting job in Foxboro beyond this year. With potentially their highest draft pick in 30 years coming in the 2024 NFL Draft, is it time to move on from Mac Jones?
There are a lot of intriguing QB prospects available in next year’s draft (as seen in PFN’s first look at the Quarterback Class of 2024). But if New England is eyeing a replacement for their current quarterback in the draft, they will be far from alone. The only definitive free agent starter available is Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins just suffered a season-ending injury, making him a risky replacement.
So, if the Patriots are ready to acquire a new face of the franchise in the offseason, there will be a lot of competition. A peak at the NFL franchises who may be ready to pull the trigger on a replacement to their current QB:
Incumbent: Kyler Murray
Murray has yet to play this season, but is expected to make his season debut on Sunday. To a large degree, Murray controls his own fate. If the NFL Draft were held today, Arizona would own the first overall pick. If that continued, would the Cardinals draft Marvin Harrison, Jr. or an offensive tackle first overall? Or would they trade the pick? Or would they trade Murray? There have been rumors of Kyler Murray to Minnesota floating around, as the Vikings are also a team on this list. Cardinals still have Murray under team control through 2028. So, unless they are impressed with a trade offer or smitten by a draft prospect, there’s still a chance for Kyler Murray to remain under center in Arizona next season.
Incumbent: Taylor Heinicke
Desmond Ridder began the season as the starter in Atlanta but was replaced by Heinicke last game, which the Falcons lost. Ridder could still win the job back before the season is through, but at this stage it would be surprising to see either of the quarterbacks as a longterm solution in Atlanta. In 1989 Atlanta drafted Deion Sanders in the first round of the draft. Could they opt for his son Shedeur Sanders 35 years later? Almost anything is on the table for the Falcons quarterback situation next season, other than running back the Heinicke-Ridder duo for another go.
Incumbent: Justin Fields
Tyson Bagent is about to get his fourth start for the Bears. The rookie replaced Fields after a dislocated thumb put him out of action. He is currently listed as day-to-day. Fields is a dynamic player that Chicago gave up a lot to draft. But now in his third season he has struggled to stay healthy, be consistently accurate, and win enough football games. Not only does Chicago own the rights to their own first round pick, they own that of the Carolina Panthers as well. As of today, they would be picking both second and third in the 2024 draft. It seems likely they will have the opportunity to replace Fields with Caleb Williams or Drake Maye if they choose. It will take a strong finish to 2023 for Fiends to convince Chicago management that he should remain their QB.
Green Bay Packers
Incumbent: Jordan Love
Love is in just his first year as a starter, taking over for the departed Aaron Rodgers. He is still under contract for one more season and has performed well in 2023. However, if the Packers stay near their current draft position (seventh) there could be a quarterback they find too tempting to pass up. As with many incumbents on this list, to some degree Love controls his own fate. If he can lead Green Bay to enough wins, they will be out of range for an immediate replacement. It will also mean he’s played well enough to warrant sticking with him. Jordan Love might be one of the safest bets to return to his current team on this list, but certainly worth keeping an eye on given their draft potential and his contract being easy to move on from.
Las Vegas Raiders
Incumbents: Aidan O’Connell
Las Vegas has already moved on from one quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo this season, who will certainly be out after the season. O’Connell, a fourth-round pick from Purdue, just won his first NFL start last week. The rookie has a strong arm and seems to have the belief of the locker room. But barring O’Connell leading the Raiders to a playoff spot, it is hard to imagine they will not add a new QB to the roster next season, with the intention of that new guy becoming the guy. It would be surprising if one of the top prospects was not wearing silver and block next season.
Incumbent: Kirk Cousins
Cousins will be the top free agent QB on the market in the offseason, so he will almost certainly fill one of these jobs. Will it be back with Minnesota is the question. On opening day 2024, Cousins will be 36 years old. So it is likely his next contract will be his last. If Cousins and the Vikings part ways, Minnesota will likely be in the market for a replacement. Rookie Jaren Hall was a fifth-round pick in 2023. He started his first game last week but was injured early and did not return. As with the Las Vegas situation, Hall would have to show a significant amount the rest of the way to convince Minnesota he’s the man for the job. And Hall may not even get the opportunity, as veteran Joshua Hobbs came on in relief and secured the victory.
New England Patriots
Incumbent: Mac Jones
What happens with Jones future in Foxboro depends on several factors. Primary among them, is what he shows ownership over the remainder this season. Jones is in the third year of his rookie deal and is already on his third offensive coordinator. But Jones has also been too careless with the ball, currently tied for the NFL lead in interceptions thrown. Depending on where the Patriots draft, they could either attempt to replace Jones or find him some weapons. With a projected high draft pick and money to spend in free agency, New England could certainly work to build around Jones, but do they believe in him enough to go that route?
New York Giants
Incumbent: Daniel Jones
There were already some second thoughts about giving Jones a four-year $160 million contract before his ACL injury. Now that Jones is out for the year, the Giants will be a prime position to replace him with a high draft pick. Would New York be willing to eat his contract and suffer the corresponding dead cap hit? Or would New York opt to let Jones battle it out with a rookie QB in camp? Without the massive contract, starting over would be an obvious option. But with both the contract and injury hanging over both Daniel Jones and the Giants franchise, there will be some big decisions to make.
San Francisco 49ers
Incumbent: Brock Purdy
Purdy getting back to the productive quarterback he showed earlier this season is the best case scenario for the 49ers. San Francisco has one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. If they are not successful this season with Purdy, it would be more logical for San Francisco to replace him with Cousins in free agency, or another option via trade (Kyler Murray?). Brock Purdy is only included here because of his surprising recent turnovers after looking so flawless start to his run in San Francisco. Just a month ago he was looking like a potential MVP candidate. But he also has a contract that would make him easy to move on from, if that was the team’s prerogative. Unlike many teams listed, the 49ers are unlikely to be selecting near the top of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Incumbent: Baker Mayfield
Mayfield is a 2024 free agent, and arguably the only one aside from Kirk Cousins who might land a starting job. He has performed well for Tampa Bay this season. But after a 3-1 start, the Buccaneers have now lost four in a row. If they keep working their way toward the top of the draft order, it will be tough to pass on a potential long term solution at QB. But Baker Mayfield just turned 28. If his comeback season continues, and the Buccaneers believe in him, staying put could be the best solution for both parties.
Incumbent: Will Levis
Levis just played his first two NFL games. He performed well enough to earn the starting quarterback job over a returning Ryan Tannehill. The Titans used a third-round pick on QB Malik Willis in 2022 and a second-round pick on Levis the following year. Unlikely Tennessee is eager to use more draft capital on the same position. At the very least, Levis will be given every opportunity to prove he deserves the job in 2024 the rest of this season. Tannehill will be a free agent after the season.
Incumbent: Sam Howell
After being sellers at the trade deadline, Washington is clearly planning for the future. But Sam Howell could still be part of that plan. He had an awful game against Buffalo this season but has otherwise been very solid. Unless there is regression from Howell moving forward, it is more likely the Commanders attempt to get him more help than replace him. Teammate Jonathan Allen said, “Sam Howell is our future” after Sunday’s win over the Patriots.