Top 10 NFL QBs with the Most on the Line in 2024

The draft dust has settled. Free agency has come to a slow crawl. Let’s now shift to players on existing deals. Specifically, we’ll examine QBs because they’re so interesting. Among these players, who has the most on the line this upcoming NFL season? That’s what I’m here to talk about in this post. Many of these signal callers are in contract years or signed prove-it deals. Those players have so much to gain because they are literally playing for their next contract. Others are deep into their rookie contracts, hoping for big paydays. Therefore, in no particular order, here are the top 10 NFL QBs who have the most to gain…and lose…in 2024.

1. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

A year ago, the Giants chose to extend Jones rather than franchise tag him. New HC Brian Daboll instantly reached the playoffs, and everyone was drinking the Kool-Aid. At this point in time, that 4-year, $160M deal looks horrendous. Jones was ineffective before subsequently tearing his ACL in the first year of the new contract, and the second year is also guaranteed. The guarantees run out after the 2024 season, making this year absolutely critical for Jones. He has just one campaign to prove whether 2022 was a mirage or a true harbinger of things to come.

He’s lucky to even get this chance. The Giants tried to trade up to #3 in April’s draft for Drake Maye. That tells me the team soured on Jones enough to bet a boatload of capital on his replacement. New England didn’t bite, thus bailing Jones out. To make things even better, the team spent their pick on WR Malik Nabers, a #1 option that Jones hasn’t possessed as a pro. Jones is set up to succeed if he can recover from his injury and regain his athleticism. It’s up to him to show that NYG doesn’t need to look elsewhere. Otherwise, he’ll go from making $40M as a starter to a fraction of that sum as a backup.

2. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Akin to Jones, Murray just came off an ACL tear that limited him to 8 games in 2023. Another similarity is that his team prematurely signed him to a long-term contract. The Cardinals might have escaped it by now if not for the ridiculous amount of guaranteed money they would’ve owed Murray. That contract has bought him another year, but this is the make-or-break season. While cutting Murray would still hurt, it wouldn’t be impossible. He has shown some unteachable playmaking capabilities, particularly with his legs, and his arm talent is not in question,

The diminutive QB has a couple of things going against him though. His small size has led to several injuries in addition to the aforementioned ACL tear. I also think it’s fair to say that Murray hasn’t produced the way the team envisioned. Arizona drafted WR Marvin Harrison Jr 4th overall to help him, enabling them to evaluate him in the fairest way possible. Murray’s career stands at a crossroads: he can either solidify his status as franchise QB or prove the exact opposite point. I’m not entirely optimistic, but hopefully for his sake he can prove me wrong. His NFL future depends on it.

3. Russell Wilson, Pittsburgh Steelers

When you’re on your 4th head coach in 4 years, it might be time to consider whether you’re the problem. That’s the situation facing Wilson right now. He forced himself away from Pete Carroll in Seattle before subsequently getting Nathaniel Hackett fired in Denver. Sean Payton was supposed to salvage Denver’s trade for the Super Bowl champ, but that move only led to Wilson’s benching and release. He now finds himself in Pittsburgh, which is a fantastic scenario…but also his last chance to return to his previous level of play.

The Steelers are putting Wilson in a position to succeed. They beefed up the offensive line in the draft and also selected WR Roman Wilson. This is the most talent Wilson has possessed around him in years, especially on defense. Now, it’s on him to make the most of it. A team that just made the playoffs with Mason Rudolph at QB is expecting a lot from someone with Wilson’s pedigree. That said, how short is his leash? HC Mike Tomlin needs to do more than just beat .500 this year, and Justin Fields is waiting in the wings. Unless Wilson wants to be considered a lost cause, he needs to perform immediately.

4. Bryce Young

Is it really fair to put a former #1 overall pick in just his second year on this list? I counter by saying that the situation Carolina has put him in is the unfair part. Young, a Heisman trophy winner, immediately faced immense pressure to become the franchise savior. Besides being the top pick in the draft, he was selected after the Panthers traded up for him, sending 2 first-round picks and star wideout DJ Moore to Chicago to do so. Contrary to his public statements, I believe HC Frank Reich didn’t even want Young and (correctly) preferred CJ Stroud, to whom he will forever be linked.

What happened since then? Reich was fired during the season, Chris Tabor became the interim HC but was not retained, and now Young has a 3rd coach new coach in (the promising) Dave Canales. Young slogged through a terrible rookie campaign that saw Carolina win just 2 games. The Panthers earned the first pick again, but it went to Chicago as part of the trade for Young. QBs no longer have long leashes even when picked #1 overall, and the current regime did not draft Young. His career isn’t on the line this year, but his time in Carolina could be up just 2 years in if he can’t deliver.

5. Will Levis, Tennessee Titans

Like Young, Levis is entering his 2nd pro season and is already playing for a new coach. Brian Callahan is a good offensive mind, but I don’t consider him an upgrade over Mike Vrabel. Unlike young, Levis at least showed flashes in 2023. His 4-TD debut was incredible, and he upset the Dolphins in Miami later in the year. Levis had some predictable rookie struggles, but he didn’t have much of a line to protect him, and nobody aside from DeAndre Hopkins produced in the passing game. To the Titans’ credit, they spent the offseason trying to put pieces around Levis so that they could properly evaluate him in 2024.

Tennessee drafted OT JC Latham at #7 overall, and they added WR Calvin Ridley and RB Tony Pollard in free agency. While he won’t have Derrick Henry this year, Levis is still in a much better spot than he was a season ago. However, as a former 2nd-round pick, he doesn’t even have the same short leash that Young got. Moving on from a 2nd-rounder isn’t incredibly painful, so Levis likely has just this year to prove his worth. If he doesn’t show the growth the team desires in areas such as accuracy and reading defense, the Titans will draft his successor in 2025. Levis has the opportunity to change that narrative this season.

6. Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

Watson’s contract can’t save him if he flops for a 3rd straight year. It has been a whirlwind for the once-great QB since 2020. He forced his way out of Houston, dabbled too much in massages, and somehow signed a fully guaranteed $230M contract with the desperate Browns. A suspension and rusty play marred his first season in Cleveland, but he didn’t have such an excuse in 2023. Watson looked terrible, throwing inaccurate passes and struggling mightily before an injury ended his season. In perhaps the most telling sign, the Browns played better and reached the playoffs with Joe Flacco under center.

Realistically, it would be difficult for Cleveland to escape Watson’s contract before it expires due to the full guarantee. In that regard, Watson isn’t going anywhere, and that’s the only reason he isn’t ranked higher on this list. Otherwise, he’d be on the hot seat because $46M per season is excessive given what the Browns have received in return. This is a really peculiar case. What happened to the perennial Pro Bowler from Houston? I didn’t think Watson was that scheme-specific, but he’ll need to adapt. Should he fail, he might go down as one of the biggest trade busts of all time.

7. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

I didn’t really have Smith on my radar as far as a QB who could be on the way out. Intel suggests, however, that there have been rumblings about the team being dissatisfied with his ceiling. Smith has been FAR better in Seattle than he was at any other stop. His 2022 season stands out (30 TDs, 4282 yards, and playoff/Pro Bowl appearances), though he faded a bit down the stretch. The Seahawks underperformed in 2023, though Smith made the Pro Bowl again. Seattle either thought that he played well enough to keep the job in 2024 or simply didn’t value the draft QBs at his level.

Smith’s contract goes through 2025, but Seattle could cut ties without penalty after this year. They could also opt to keep him as an expensive veteran backup for a future rookie. Those don’t have to be the only outcomes. Smith has the chance, with a new HC in Mike Macdonald, to get back to his 2022 level. I imagine the Seahawks would actually extend him in that scenario. Playing at an average level likely isn’t enough to save his job and could lead to him continuing his career as a journeyman bridge QB/backup. There are definitely worse fates, but the 2024 season is Smith’s chance to transcend it.

8. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

I ranked Dak #2 on this list a year ago, and he’s entering the final year of his deal. So why did he fall to #8? As much media pressure as Prescott gets, and trust me, it’s a lot, he has one thing in his favor: that expiring contract. His massive cap hit ($55.5M) appears to be staying, and Dallas is not allowed to franchise tag him at season’s end. Basically, as long as he doesn’t put up a total clunker, Prescott is guaranteed the chance to hit free agency as the most coveted QB to hit the market in years. Whether or not he’s elite is debatable, but he’s certainly a very good quarterback in the NFL.

After a turnover-happy 2022 campaign, Prescott bounced back with a stellar 2023 season, leading the league with 36 TD passes en route to an NFC East crown. The one critique he couldn’t overcome last year: his lack of playoff success. The 2-seed Cowboys were shocked by the 7-seed Packers in the Wild Card round, dropping Prescott’s career postseason record to 2-5. Unlike last season, Prescott played decently, and it was mostly a defensive collapse. That doesn’t change the perception though. Fans will call for his replacement if he comes up short once more, even though we know owner Jerry Jones is loath to do so.

9. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

In a conventional sense, Jackson has absolutely nothing to prove. He got his long-desired mega-contract and just claimed his second career MVP award. The Ravens made it to the AFC Championship game as the conference’s #1 seed, and Jackson stayed healthy for the entire campaign. Many would suggest that I have no business including him on such a list. However, we can’t deny that Jackson has underwhelmed in most of his playoff appearances. His career playoff record is 2-4, and he hasn’t won more than one game in any single postseason. This has all come with excellent teams surrounding him.

My theory for this gap between his regular-season and postseason play is that defenses are simply much better in the playoffs. They’re also more tailored to stop him. I contend that if you keep Jackson in the pocket and prevent him from being an extreme rushing threat, he’s very beatable. Kansas City proved that exact point a few months ago, shutting him down completely. The current Baltimore offense is down 3 linemen from a season ago, but it does now possess RB Derrick Henry. Jackson is supposed to be a transcendent player who raises his team to great heights. He must show that he can do so when it matters most.

10. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

Tua’s seat is much cooler than it was a year ago. At that time, we didn’t know if he could last a full season, let alone be a franchise-caliber QB. He bulked up prior to the campaign and lasted all 17 games plus a playoff appearance. Tagovailoa threw 29 TDs and led the league with 4624 passing yards. Miami blew their AFC East lead though and went one-and-done in a frigid playoff loss in Kansas City. The team struggled against the best opponents, losing twice each to the Chiefs and Bills and getting obliterated by the Ravens. HC Mike McDaniel’s squad has a reputation for being unable to beat good teams.

Fairly or not, Tagovailoa is going to be judged by whether Miami makes a deep playoff run, not by his stats. He and the team still have not agreed to an extension, possibly becausae the Dolphins possess leverage with the franchise tag. However, they might also be wondering if Tagovailoa has what it takes to take Miami further than before. I ranked Tagovailoa at #10 because the idea of him being a franchise QB is no longer up to debate; he’s plenty good enough. To move into the elite tier though, he’ll have to win in the biggest games. That’s a team effort, and Tagovailoa did it at Alabama. Time will tell if he can do it in the NFL.


  1. Good List although so much rides on this season for Bryce Young I would have put him number 1 and think this season isn’t quite as important for Kyler Murray who I would have included at #8 or #9. Jordan Love and Brock Purdy maybe more for monetary reasons than Job Security purposes deserve an honorable mention.

    The only name not on the list I would have put on the list is Kirk Cousins. He needs to play well enough to keep his job with Penix there.

    1. That’s all completely fair! I question whether the Panthers can TRULY give up on Young so soon given all they gave up to get him. Otherwise I would’ve ranked him higher.
      Do you think Penix is ready to start? Atlanta doesn’t seem to view him as a 2024 or even 2025 player.

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