One of my favorite columns to write toward the end of every NFL season is a look at which possible vacancies might appeal to the league's top head-coaching candidates. There's a lot to be learned from evaluating where each team stands, scoping out what their roster looks like over the next couple of seasons and how each organization tends to treat the people they hire when things go wrong.
Let's approach a similar problem through the same lens. By my count, there are 13 teams that could plausibly add a veteran quarterback to their roster who could start for them in Week 1 next season. In some cases, those teams have no choice but to add a signal-caller. Others would only make the move if they failed to come to terms with their current starter.
I'm going to rank those 13 possibilities from least desirable to most. Obviously, quarterbacks want great receivers and a brilliant offensive mind, but there's more to consider. Do those teams have great defenses to take some of the load off the offense? Do they play indoors in an income-tax-free state, or are they traveling further than any other team? Are they likely to be replaced by a rookie before the season ends? Do they give their coaches time to develop, or does ownership make rash decisions? Do they even have a coaching staff at all?
The first veteran quarterback moves could come at any time, with Derek Carr on the trade market and Aaron Rodgers potentially joining him. Tom Brady won't be involved, but Jimmy Garoppolo is expected to follow them in free agency, and 2022 standouts Daniel Jones and Geno Smith could be on the move if they don't work out deals with their current teams.
Where should they hope to land? Let's start with the least exciting situation, where the NFL's most confusing team has a lot of work to do before finding its latest starter:
Jump to a team:
49ers | Buccaneers | Colts
Commanders | Falcons | Giants
Jets | Panthers | Raiders
Saints | Seahawks | Texans | Titans
13. Indianapolis Colts
Pros: Division, indoors, running game
Cons: Ownership, coaching questions, receivers, offensive line
It seems close to impossible to assess the Colts until team owner Jim Irsay makes a coaching decision. Given what Irsay decided last time he needed a coach, there's obviously a wide swath of possibilities for Indianapolis, ranging from incumbent Jeff Saturday to any one of 10 other candidates who received interviews and remain on the market. The fact that Irsay hasn't yet hired a coach might hint he's leaning toward someone still competing for a Super Bowl title, which would identify Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen as the most likely option of the remaining candidates.
It's also likely the Colts spurn the veteran quarterback market and finally draft a player to be their long-term replacement for Andrew Luck. They cycled through short-term options over the last few seasons -- plus a solution that turned into a short-term option in Carson Wentz -- and own the No. 4 overall pick in April's draft. Given that Indy likely will move on from Matt Ryan and Nick Foles and have a wide-open depth chart, though, we can't rule out the possibility of the team drafting a passer and bringing in a bridge option to serve as the Week 1 starter.
That signal-caller would get to play indoors and hand the ball off to running back Jonathan Taylor. That's about all we know. Indy's offensive infrastructure cratered last season. An offensive line that had once been the league's best fell apart amid holes at left tackle and right guard. Michael Pittman Jr., who had looked to be on the verge of becoming a No. 1 wide receiver, averaged just 9.3 yards per catch. Taylor's efficiency fell off even before suffering a series of ankle injuries. It's difficult to evaluate any of these players amid the shuttle of quarterbacks and coaches the Colts endured in 2022.