2024 NFL Offseason: Quarterback Battles to Watch

2024 NFL Offseason: Quarterback Battles to Watch

Quarterback is widely regarded as the most pivotal position in all of sports. As a result, locking in the best possible signal-caller for the upcoming season is of paramount importance for every NFL team – often leading to compelling quarterback battles throughout the offseason. With training camp fast approaching, Decyfr shines a spotlight on several teams who find themselves in the midst of a contest for QB1. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

In search of their next ‘Big Ben’, the Pittsburgh Steelers made headlines earlier this offseason when they acquired both Justin Fields and Russell Wilson from the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos respectively. 

Viewed as a future Hall of Famer – with a staggering nine Pro Bowls in just 10 seasons during his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson was expected to lead the Denver Broncos back to the playoffs for the first time since Peyton Manning in 2015. However, after back-to-back underwhelming seasons, Denver were willing to accept the enormous $85 million dead cap hit and release Wilson earlier this offseason.

Upon trading for Justin Fields, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reportedly reassured Wilson that his spot as QB1 wasn’t under threat – trusting that the 12-year vet can be rejuvenated in 2024. That said, Fields has made it apparent that he won’t resign himself to a backup role without a fight. 

With an impressive 657 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns, alongside 2,562 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns last season, Fields showed flashes of the talent that prompted Chicago to trade up for the Ohio State alum in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Speculation into the Steelers potential utilisation of Fields in special teams – with new kickoff rules coming into play in 2024 – has further demonstrated the team’s appreciation of Fields’ multifaceted skill set – a skill set that will undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on Wilson throughout training camp.

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have one of the more intriguing quarterback battles this offseason. With three quarterbacks – Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham and Zach Wilson – all eyeing the starting role. 

Bo Nix, the Broncos’ first-round pick this year, has garnered glowing reviews from head coach Sean Payton – telling the media, at a recent press conference, that he feels as strongly about Nix as he did Patrick Mahomes in 2017. With the NCAA record for the most starts by an FBS quarterback at 61, Nix has already had plenty of time to develop ahead of his rookie season – with his performances drawing parallels to Drew Brees, whom Payton guided to Super Bowl XLIV glory.

That said, Nix’s inexperience against NFL competition opens up an opportunity for either Wilson or Stidham. In a relatively small sample size, Jarrett Stidham showed flashes of high-end potential for the Broncos in 2023 – earning a lot of supporters within the facility as he averaged a solid 165.3 passing yards per game.

Former second-overall pick, Zach Wilson faced an unprecedented level of adversity during his three seasons with the New York Jets – leading many to believe that Wilson possesses an untapped well of elite talent. Thus far, however, reports from Broncos camp have indicated an unknown future ranging from QB1 to QB3 for Wilson.

Will Sean Payton lean in to the promising rookie, the familiar face or the former Jet?

Minnesota Vikings

With the Kirk Cousins era coming to a close this offseason, the Minnesota Vikings will head into the 2024 season with a new face under center – with the decision coming down to Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy.

Sam Darnold enters the 2024 season with his fourth team in just seven years. A former USC star – Darnold was once viewed by many as the best QB prospect in a class featuring Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. However, after the New York Jets failed to provide Darnold with sufficient support, he was unable to live up to his pre-draft expectations. That said, with 66 games behind him, head coach Kevin O’Connell has seen enough to name Darnold the Vikings’ QB1.

That said, with first-round pick J.J. McCarthy coming off a National Championship-winning season with the Michigan Wolverines, O’Connell ensured a “competitive environment” in the QB room throughout training camp. 

The rookie signal-caller has an outstanding ability to keep drives alive – with just four interceptions to 22 touchdowns during his final college season. It is worth noting, however, that McCarthy had limited responsibilities as a passer within Michigan’s run-first offense – prompting some to label the first-team All-Big Ten QB as a ‘game manager’. Game manager or not, McCarthy is a proven winner – steering the Wolverines to a perfect season in 2023.

Darnold is expected to enter the season as the starter, how long he remains the No. 1 man, however, is yet to be determined.

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots gear up for an intense quarterback battle this offseason, as NFL journeyman Jacoby Brissett returns to the team that drafted him to square off against University of North Carolina sensation Drake Maye for the coveted starting spot. 

Entering his ninth season in the league, Brissett brings a wealth of experience to the table – forming a reputation as a safe pair of hands, capable of quickly adapting to new offensive schemes. With over 10,000 passing yards in his career, Brissett repeatedly showcased his calming presence in Washington last season. Notably coming within just two points of an almighty comeback against the New York Jets, when he took over from the faltering Sam Howell in Week 16.

As the third-overall pick, Drake Maye has the potential to become a superstar in New England. During his tenure at North Carolina, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year posted over 8,000 passing yards with 63 touchdowns. However, with concerns over his footwork and poor decision-making, Maye will likely need additional time to adjust to the pace of the NFL.

With Jerod Mayo now in charge after Bill Belichick’s departure, will the Patriots roll the dice on Maye’s sky-high potential or will Brissett take the reins in 2024, while Maye learns the ropes?

Las Vegas Raiders

After proving his worth as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders last season, Antonio Pierce heads into his first full season at the helm with Aidan O’Connell competing against Gardner Minshew for QB1.

O’Connell, who held the starting spot for 10 games last season, completed 62.1% of his throws – whilst recording a commendable touchdown to interception ratio of 12:7 en route to a 5-5 record. O’Connell’s managerial skills and intelligence stand him in good stead heading into 2024, with a new offensive scheme expected to be implemented.

However, having previously served as a backup in Philadelphia and as the starter in both Indianapolis and Jacksonville, Minshew boasts a respectable 202.8 passing yards per game and a touchdown to interception ratio of 59:24. While not necessarily elite numbers, his quick release and proven ability to effectively lead an offense, adds an intriguing dynamic to the Raiders’ quarterback dilemma. 

Will the promising sophomore emerge victorious or will ‘Minshew Mania’ come out on top in this high-stakes battle to become the Raiders’ lead signal-caller?

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