2022 NFL free agency QB market: Projecting contracts, logical landing spots for Jameis Winston, other veterans

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The NFL offseason has become increasingly dominated by quarterback movement — both actual and rumored. This year figures to be no exception, with Tom Brady retiring, Aaron Rodgers undecided on his future and other big names like Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo and Carson Wentz potentially set for relocation. It’s no surprise the trade market is the hot topic, either, because 2022 free agency isn’t necessarily brimming with attractive QB options.

Here’s a look at the top signal-callers set to hit the open market, which feels much more primed to offer backups and backup plans than big-money starters:

Note: QBs’ listed ages are as of September 2022, the start of next season.

Age: 28 | Last team: Saints

Jameis Winston Getty Images

The fact that Winston, who has played all of 11 games over the last two years, tops the list should tell you everything you need to know about the free-agent QBs: these are mid-tier gambles, at best. Before a Week 8 ACL tear that ended his first season in New Orleans, the former No. 1 overall pick was on pace for the most efficient season of his career, throwing 14 touchdowns and just three picks during a 5-2 start, despite an iffy receiving corps. Critics would suggest the Saints won in part because of how little they leaned on his big arm, which made him a boom-or-bust starter during his five years with the Buccaneers.

Winston still has good size and physical tools, and his injury will likely keep his price tag down. By all accounts, he’s also matured as a leader since his time in Tampa. But his ceiling feels pretty established: a top-15 starter on another one-year trial run.

Projected AAV: $5-10 million
Logical fits: Broncos, Buccaneers, Commanders, Saints, Steelers, Texans

Age: 29 | Last team: Broncos

Teddy Bridgewater Getty Images

If Winston’s career has been defined mostly by a penchant for big throws (for better or worse), Bridgewater has built a reputation for almost the polar opposite. The former Vikings starter-turned-journeyman is notoriously conservative — a serviceable but unspectacular passer — who was acquired by Denver specifically to counter Drew Lock’s turnover spree from the year before. And he was an upgrade, but barely, throwing 18 TDs (a career high, signifying his low ceiling) and going 7-6 as a starter. Wherever Teddy’s gone — the Vikings, Saints, Panthers, Broncos — he’s been steady, but also mostly incapable of defining moments.

For a start or 10, he’s a positive presence on and off the field. But Bridgewater’s entire career has suggested he’s best suited as a placeholder, mentor and/or emergency No. 1, even if his starting experience will inflate his market value.

Projected AAV: $10-20 million
Logical fits: Broncos, Commanders, Jets, Saints, Steelers, Vikings

Age: 28 | Current team: Raiders

Marcus Mariota Getty Images

Two years after Ryan Tannehill replaced him in a career resurgence with the Titans, Mariota is looking for his shot at becoming the next Tannehill. He didn’t really get it in two seasons with the Raiders, largely because of Derek Carr’s solid play, and it remains to be seen if he’s got the durability to even hold down a job; he’s never played all 16/17 games in seven NFL seasons. But he’s at least proven he can be an efficient starter, and if not that, a situational threat with his legs.

No one should be banking on Mariota as an Opening Day starter without a big insurance plan and/or playoff-caliber supporting cast. But he’s got the athleticism to help an offense, especially a run-first unit, in some capacity.

Projected AAV: $5-10 million
Logical fits: Broncos, Colts, Commanders, Dolphins, 49ers, Steelers

Age: 28 | Current team: Bills

Mitchell Trubisky Getty Images

The former No. 2 overall pick threw just eight passes as Josh Allen’s backup in 2021, but he might be the biggest wild card of the group, considering his perceived upside. The ex-Bears starter quickly flamed out in Chicago as part of an offensive setup that got progressively worse, but at his best, as an 11-3 starter in 2018, he looked like an emerging dual threat. Then again, given the chance to make him their reclamation project, 31 teams declined to outbid the Bills at just $2.5M in 2021.

Trubisky’s mobility and post-Bears potential for growth are worth a look for teams in need of a new backup. But anyone considering him as a starter or even QB1 competition had better invest in other alternatives.

Projected AAV: $3-7 million
Logical fits: Broncos, Commanders, 49ers, Giants, Texans

Age: 39 | Current team: Commanders

Ryan Fitzpatrick USATSI

Approaching his age-40 season, it’s unclear if Fitzpatrick will even return for an 18th season, especially after suffering a serious hip injury early in 2021. If he does, he at least offers entertainment value, bringing ageless gunslinging and spot-starting experience to the table. For all his colorful character and big-play mentality, though, Fitz hasn’t stayed healthy for a full season since 2015, when he started for the Jets. He’s also always been prone to turnover sprees.

As has been the case for years, Fitzpatrick works best as a one-season rental, either as a top backup or emergency starter.

Projected AAV: $3-7 million
Logical fits: Buccaneers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Saints, Texans

Others available

These QBs, listed roughly in order of preference, are also set to hit the market:

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