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The 5 best journeyman quarterbacks in the NFL

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May 15th, 2020

Life as a journeyman quarterback isn’t glamorous, but every once in a while, these franchise-hoppers find their moment of glory.

Let’s look at the five best journeymen QBs in the NFL, with an emphasis on those who have played with three or more franchises.

Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina Panthers

Bridgewater just barely made the cut as a journeyman quarterback, after the 27-year-old signed with his third team in the offseason.

In 2014, with the Minnesota Vikings, he set an NFL record for the best completion percentage (75.6%) in a game by a rookie and became the first rookie quarterback to complete more than 70% of his passes in four straight games.  

The next season, Bridgewater earned a Pro Bowl nomination and took the Vikings to the wild card round of the playoffs, where they fell, 10-9, to the Seattle Seahawks.

In 2017, his career took a hit in Vikings training camp, when he suffered a freak leg injury that his surgeon described as “almost like a war wound.” Bridgewater nearly lost his leg, and yet he was determined to work his way back to the field.

As a free agent ahead of the 2018 season, he signed a one-year contract with the Jets, then was traded to New Orleans.

He got his chance to shine in 2019, when he filled in for the injured Drew Brees. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter, completed 67.9% of his passes for 1,384 yards and piled up nine touchdowns.

His steady composure helped him land the projected starting job in Carolina for the 2020 season, in Matt Rhule’s first year as an NFL head coach.

Case Keenum, Cleveland Browns

As an undrafted free agent in 2012, Keenum signed with the Houston Texans and saw his first start in October of 2013, when Matt Schaub went down with an injury. He finished that game with a 110.6 passer rating, the highest by a Texans quarterback that season.

He went 0-8 as a starter and was waived by the Texans, then signed again in December of 2014. Keenum then joined the Rams in 2015 and bumped fellow journeyman Nick Foles as the starter.

Keenum's best season occurred in Minnesota in 2017, the year Bridgewater suffered his injury. Keenum recorded an 11-3 record as a starter, and completed 67.6% of his passes for 3,547 yards and 22 scores. He lost in the NFC Championship Game to eventual Super Bowl winner Philadelphia and Foles.

He went 6-10 in Denver in 2018 and rotated with rookie Dwayne Haskins and Colt McCoy with the Redskins in 2019.

In 2020, Keenum signed a three-year, $18 million contract in Cleveland and will back up third-year starter Baker Mayfield. 

Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers

Taylor didn’t see much action early on, as backup to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco from 2011-2014. In his second year in the league, he collected a Super Bowl ring, but he didn't earn a starting role until 2015, when he was with the Bills.

In Buffalo, Taylor went 22-20 as a starter and made the wild card round in his final season. During a Week 5 matchup in 2015, he became just the fifth quarterback to pass for at least 100 yards, run for at least 70, and catch a pass in the same game. He also earned his only Pro Bowl nod that season.

In 2018, the Bills traded Taylor to Cleveland. He started the first three games of the season, but an injury in Week 3 made way for Mayfield to step in and become the permanent leader of the offense.

Taylor signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2019 and is currently No. 1 on the depth chart, now that longtime quarterback Philip Rivers has found a home with the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie Justin Herbert is Taylor's top competition at quarterback on the Chargers.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins

The Harvard graduate began his career in St. Louis in 2005, then jumped to the Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, Buccaneers, and Dolphins.

He is 55-83-1 as a starter, and enjoyed just one season with a winning record (10-6), in 2015 with the Jets. That year, he set the franchise record for most touchdown passes (31) in a season.

Fitzpatrick is also the first quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game with five different teams (the Bills, Titans, Texans, Jets, and Bucs). He also recorded the most consecutive games (three) of 400 yards passing (2018, Tampa Bay) and tallied the most passing touchdowns (six) in a game by a Texans quarterback (2014).

Fitzpatrick helped a rebuilding Dolphins squad go 5-4 in the second half of the 2019 season and posted six games with multiple touchdown passes, including four against Cincinnati. He’ll start for the Dolphins in Week 1 of 2020, unless rookie Tua Tagovailoa progresses quickly in the offseason.

Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

There’s arguably no journeyman quarterback who has experienced greater success than Foles. The 2012 third-round selection started off with the Eagles in 2012 and made a name for himself by his second year in the league.

Foles received his only Pro Bowl nomination in 2013, after he led the NFL with a 119.3 passer rating and put up a record seven touchdown passes in one game, against the Raiders.

The next year, Foles broke his collarbone in Week 9 and was traded to St. Louis in 2015, where he went 4-7 as a starter. He contemplated retirement after that but opted to back up Alex Smith with the Chiefs in 2016.

Foles’ career then came full circle, when the Eagles signed him as Carson Wentz’s backup in 2017. In Week 14, Wentz tore his ACL, and Foles became the guiding force to the team's only Super Bowl title. He was named Super Bowl MVP and is the first player to throw and catch a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.

The story took a turn after that special season. Wentz regained the starting job, and Foles entered free agency in 2019. He signed a four-year contract worth $88 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but a broken collarbone again derailed his season.

The Chicago Bears traded for Foles in the offseason and are expected to bench fourth-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The scenario couldn’t be more perfect for Foles, who will reunite with Bears head coach Matt Nagy (who was with the Chiefs during Foles’ stint) and former Eagles coaches Bill Lazor and John DeFilippo.

Foles has been through a lot in his career, but his moment of glory may not be over yet.


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