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8 NFL Quarterbacks Who Could Be Benched in 2024

Maurice Moton

Several NFL teams started backup quarterbacks out of necessity throughout the 2023 season due to injuries. In the upcoming campaign, nearly a quarter of the league's clubs could make a switch under center for performance-based reasons.

Between free agency and the draft, signal-callers dominated the headlines this offseason, which means teams had a need or serious questions at that position.

With notable veterans on the move and six first-round quarterbacks beginning their pro careers, expect in-season changes for passing attacks.

Here, we'll highlight eight QBs who could start in Week 1 but lose the job before the end of the 2024 campaign.

Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots

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The New England Patriots selected Jacoby Brissett in the third round of the 2016 draft. He started in two games in place of Tom Brady, who served a suspension for violating the NFL policy on the integrity of the game (deflategate), and an injured Jimmy Garoppolo before the team traded him to the Indianapolis Colts.

Brissett faces a much different situation in his return to New England, though.

The Patriots signed the journeyman in free agency and drafted Drake Maye with the No. 3 overall pick.

At 31 years old with 48 career starts, playing with five teams, Brissett has already embraced the mentor role in New England.

"I'm excited to work with him. I remember when I was following Tom [Brady] around," he told reporters. "[Maye's] already texting me about plays and how I think about things and cadence—all the little nuances of being in this position at this level."

Still, Brissett understands that he's in a competition against Maye and Bailey Zappe for the starting job.

"I think the good thing about our room is honestly everybody wants to be the guy. Everybody's competing to be the guy. That's what you want," he said.

In eight years, Brissett has only started and finished two seasons, both with the Colts. He filled in for Andrew Luck, who missed the entire 2017 term because of a shoulder injury and retired before Week 1 of the 2019 campaign.

In 79 games, the North Carolina State product has thrown for 51 touchdowns and 23 interceptions with a 61.3 percent completion rate. Based on his passing numbers, he's a serviceable game-managing quarterback.

However, if the Patriots want an offensive spark with a big-arm quarterback who can attack the back end of defenses, Maye could get the call if they fall behind in the standings and their offense plateaus during the 2024 term.

Kirk Cousins, Atlanta Falcons

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The Atlanta Falcons created an awkward quarterback situation when they used the No. 8 overall pick to draft Michael Penix Jr. about six weeks after signing Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal.

Based on Cousins' contract, he's going to start under center in Atlanta's season opener. Yet he senses a competition with a top-eight draft pick behind him on the depth chart.

"It's always going to be a competition in this league, and you always got to go out and earn it," the 35-year-old told reporters. "I'm going to control what I can control and also understand there's a lot you don't control."

Even though the Falcons inked Cousins to the biggest deal in free agency in terms of total value, per Spotrac, he could lose his job if he doesn't bounce back from his Achilles injury with strong performances.

As Cousins plays, Atlanta will prepare Penix—its potential future franchise player—for his opportunity to take over the offensive huddle.

Sam Darnold, Minnesota Vikings

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The Minnesota Vikings lost Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, which created a clear need at quarterback.

The Vikings signed Sam Darnold and then moved up one spot in the first round of the 2024 draft for J.J. McCarthy.

According to ESPN's Kevin Seifert, Minnesota is "extremely wary" about rushing McCarthy's developmental process:

"Darnold signed a one-year contract in March, so there is no doubt McCarthy will eventually become the starter, but the team is extremely wary about rushing McCarthy, 21, onto the field. They've done studies on the risks of exposing quarterbacks before they're ready. Coach Kevin O'Connell has created a daily developmental plan that will require McCarthy to reach a series of benchmarks before there is any decision to make him QB1."

If the Michigan product doesn't measure up to O'Connell's standards, he could sit through his entire rookie campaign.

On the other hand, the coach hasn't been afraid to make changes at quarterback.

Last season, after Cousins suffered a season-ending Achilles injury, the Vikings started three different backup QBs, including Jaren Hall, who was selected by Minnesota in the fifth round of the 2023 draft.

Also, keep in mind that Nick Mullens temporarily lost the starting job in part because of turnovers.

In Week 16 against the Detroit Lions, Mullens threw for 411 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. In the following week, Minnesota started Hall, though Mullens took over again in the second half of that game.

In six seasons, Darnold has struggled with poor accuracy and turnovers with a 59.7 percent completion rate and a 63 to 56 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 66 career games (56 starts).

If the 26-year-old doesn't make routine completions or gives away too many possessions, O'Connell could turn to McCarthy or back to Mullens if the rookie isn't quite ready.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

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NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said the New York Giants "did a lot of homework" on the 2024 quarterback class. SNY's Connor Hughes and The Athletic's Dan Duggan linked the team to J.J. McCarthy and Drake Maye, respectively.

Daniel Jones heard about the quarterback buzz around the Giants, and of course, he wasn't thrilled about it.

"I mean, I wasn't fired up about it," he said when asked about the club looking into potential replacements.

Jones had to expect that, though, and he could lose his job in the upcoming campaign.

Since 2020, the 27-year-old has thrown for 38 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He's only thrown for more than 15 touchdowns in a single season once.

Jones has made plays with his legs, rushing for 1,914 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career, but he must show the ability to consistently beat defenses with his arm from the pocket.

In Week 9 last year, the Duke product tore his ACL. So, his development as a pocket passer will be key for a bounce-back season.

If Jones doesn't produce at a serviceable level with dynamic rookie wide receiver Malik Nabers, free-agent signing Drew Lock could get the call to start at some point in the upcoming term.

During the 2023 offseason, the Giants signed Jones to a four-year, $160 million extension, which included $81 million in full guarantees. However, they can release him and save $30.5 million by designating him as a post-June 1 cut in 2025.

Jones enters a make-or-break year that could end with him holding a clipboard and looking for a change of scenery.

Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

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Tennessee Titans head coach Brian Callahan has praised Will Levis for his approach to taking on a leadership position.

"He's got two things going on," Callahan told reporters. "He's trying to build relationships and be a leader, as well as learn an entirely new way of doing and playing football than he's been accustomed to in his first year.

"I've been very pleased with his demeanor, his actions as he's started the offseason program."

With that said, Levis has to make a second-year leap on the field to keep his job.

In his NFL debut last season, the 24-year-old provided an immediate spark to the Titans' offense, throwing for 238 yards and four touchdowns with a 65.5 percent completion rate in a 28-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

Levis struggled thereafter, though, throwing for four touchdowns and four interceptions in his next eight starts while battling foot and ankle injuries late in the season.

Now, the Kentucky product is healthy, and Tennessee has strengthened his supporting cast through free agency and the draft.

The Titans signed wideouts Calvin Ridley and Tyler Boyd, center Lloyd Cushenberry III and running back Tony Pollard. They also selected offensive tackle JC Latham with the No. 7 overall pick.

However, Tennessee also signed quarterback Mason Rudolph, who helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to three consecutive wins and an AFC wild-card playoff berth last season.

If Levis doesn't show improvement with the team's revamped offensive personnel, Rudolph could get a shot to showcase himself as a starter again.

Moreover, with a new offensive coaching staff in Tennessee, Levis may not have much margin for error.

Gardner Minshew II, Las Vegas Raiders

Gardner Minshew Cooper Neill/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders signed Gardner Minshew II to a two-year, $25 million contract, which includes $15 million in guarantees. He'll compete against Aidan O'Connell for the starting job.

As a rookie last year, O'Connell threw for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions with a 62.1 percent completion rate in less-than-ideal circumstances.

In 2023, Las Vegas fired head coach Josh McDaniels and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi and promoted linebackers coach Antonio Pierce and quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree, a first-time play-caller, to those respective positions.

As the new full-time head coach, Pierce said O'Connell earned first-team reps.

Yet NFL Network's Ian Rapoport seemed to believe Minshew has a leg up on O'Connell for the starting spot after the Raiders missed out on top quarterback prospects in the 2024 draft.

Because the Raiders hired a new offensive coaching staff, O'Connell doesn't have the advantage of knowing more about the system than his incoming competitor. Minshew's starting experience may help him win this battle.

However, if the 28-year-old emerges as the starter, he could easily lose the job. O'Connell is two years younger with more upside.

Remember, Pierce made the call to bench a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo for O'Connell last season.

The Raiders coach could make an executive call in favor of O'Connell again if Minshew underperforms with a passing offense that features Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Brock Bowers and Michael Mayer.

Jarrett Stidham, Denver Broncos

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The Denver Broncos will have a true quarterback competition with three candidates for the job.

Broncos head coach Sean Payton compared the QB battle to the New Orleans Saints' open competition after Drew Brees retired in 2021:

"We had it in New Orleans after Drew [Brees] left with [Jameis] Winston and Taysom [Hill]. Look, we go by what we see. We try to get them as many reps as possible. We rotate. We're rotating all of them right now. So, Tuesday, 'Stiddy' ran with the ones, and then Zach, and then Bo. We'll keep doing that right now."

Jarrett Stidham is the incumbent candidate. He put together a couple of solid starts after the team benched Russell Wilson last season.

Going into his second term with the Broncos, the 27-year-old is more familiar with Payton's offense than Zach Wilson, who was acquired from the Jets in April, and Bo Nix.

Yet in a recent press conference, Payton acknowledged that the rookie is "farther along than most would be."

If Nix impresses the coaching staff through the preseason, he could win the starting job outright. Even if Stidham or Wilson earn the position, one of them could get a quick hook in favor of this year's No. 12 pick.

Russell Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers

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This offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers made wholesale changes to their quarterback room, signing Russell Wilson and Kyle Allen, letting Mason Rudolph walk in free agency, trading Kenny Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles and acquiring Justin Fields from the Chicago Bears.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin put an end to any possible quarterback controversy when he tabbed Wilson as the starter.

However, Fields isn't going to give up on his starting aspirations.

"I definitely don't have the mindset of me just sitting all year," he told reporters.

Fields started 38 out of 40 games with the Chicago Bears, who traded him to the Steelers in exchange for a conditional 2025 sixth-round pick that can become a fourth-rounder.

Though the Steelers didn't give up much to acquire the Ohio State product, he's still 25 and believes in his upside.

"I'm not the same quarterback that I was last year," Fields said. "I'm not the same quarterback that I even was yesterday. … I think I have a lot more room to grow. I'm nowhere near my ceiling."

Barring an unforeseen change in the pecking order, Wilson will start in Week 1, but he may be looking over his shoulder at Fields throughout the 2024 season.

NFL player contract details are provided by Over the Cap, unless otherwise noted.

Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.

   

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