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NFL QBs who have started for five or more teams

NFL QBs who have started for five or more teams

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Ryan Fitzpatrick continues into uncharted territory in quarterback travel history. Fitz’s Washington signing places him on track to become the first QB to start for nine teams. Several other passers, some more accomplished, blazed this trail over the past several decades. Here are the QBs to have started for at least five teams in NFL history.

 
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Steve Beuerlein

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Beuerlein played for six teams in 17 seasons. The Raiders drafted him in the 1987 fourth round, but a contract dispute with Al Davis led to an awkward 1990 practice-only year. The Raiders shipped him to the Cowboys in 1991; he went 4-0 as a starter for the ’91 team and collected a ring a year later. The Cardinals signed Beuerlein as a free agent in 1993 but left him exposed for the 1995 expansion draft when the Jaguars took him. Beuerlein’s best work came with Carolina. He led the NFL in passing in 1999 and threw 36 TD passes, en route to his only Pro Bowl at 34. Beuerlein wrapped his career as Jake Plummer’s Broncos backup in 2003.

 
Matt Cassel

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Matt Leinart’s USC backup parlayed Tom Brady’s 2008 ACL tear into a 14-year career. Cassel started for six teams. After their 11-5 year with Cassel, the Patriots completed a tag-and-trade with the Chiefs. Cassel guided the 2010 Chiefs to the playoffs, but his four-year starter run there led to bridge/backup gigs henceforth. Cassel bridged to Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, was Tony Romo’s primary injury fill-in in 2015 — when he also stopped by for one Bills start — before the Titans needed him on multiple occasions for an injured Marcus Mariota. Cassel’s 2018 Lions gig did not lead to a start.

 
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Chris Chandler

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A third-round 1988 Colts pick, Chandler started for six teams in 17 years. He led the Falcons to their first Super Bowl and netted the Colts the No. 2 overall pick in a trade. A July 1990 trade sent Chandler from Indianapolis to Tampa Bay for the second pick in the ’92 draft, and Chandler joined Beuerlein as journeymen on the ’93 Cardinals. After a one-season Rams drop-in, Chandler served as a two-year bridge while Division I-FCS QB Steve McNair trained. After said training, the Oilers shipped Chandler to Atlanta. The ’98 Falcons went 14-2 behind their Pro Bowl QB. Atlanta kept Chandler around for 14 starts to groom Mike Vick in 2001, before late-30s stays in Chicago and St. Louis.

 
Kerry Collins

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A six-team starter in 17 seasons, Collins made two Pro Bowls — 12 years apart — and led the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV. Off-field issues led the Panthers to waive their promising top-five pick, and after the Saints claimed Collins in 1998, the Giants signed him in free agency to stop their post-Phil Simms revolving door. Collins started five seasons for the Giants, ahead of their 2004 Eli Manning trade. Collins helmed two bad Raider teams but resurfaced in the spotlight after replacing an ineffective Vince Young in 2008. Those Titans earned the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Collins finished his career as one of three QB1s for a 2011 Colts team missing Peyton Manning.

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Steve DeBerg

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The famed QB groomer provided bridges for Joe Montana, John Elway, and Vinny Testaverde. DeBerg played 18 years, starting for six teams — including the 1998 Falcons, who brought him out of retirement at 44. Montana sat for all but one game in his 1979 rookie year, and DeBerg started nine 49ers games in 1980. He started over John Elway in a Broncos 1983 playoff game, before being traded to the Bucs. DeBerg’s penchant for play-action wizardry peaked on the “Martyball” Chiefs, whom he led to the playoffs in 1990 and ’91. A stop filling in for a third Hall of Famer (Dan Marino) preceded DeBerg’s first retirement in 1994.

 
Trent Dilfer

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A Buccaneers top-10 pick, Dilfer did not pan out in Tampa. But he beat his Bucs teammates to a Super Bowl ring. Dilfer’s one-year Ravens deal in 2000 led to him replacing Tony Banks and riding shotgun alongside Baltimore’s defense to a Super Bowl XXXV romp. The Ravens, however, ranked Dilfer behind Brad Johnson and Elvis Grbac as 2001 free agents, leading Dilfer to three more teams to close out a 14-year career. In between stints backing up Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith, Dilfer received his final starter nod with the 2005 Browns, who acquired him for a fourth-round pick. Dilfer succeeded Jeff Garcia in Cleveland but played just one season there.

 
Ryan Fitzpatrick

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As the NFL’s top character actor prepares for Team No. 9, no other QB has started for more than seven. The 2005 Rams seventh-rounder migrated to Cincinnati, where he replaced an injured Carson Palmer in 2008 (12 stats). This prompted the Bills to sign him. Fitzpatrick’s longest stretch with one team came in a four-year Buffalo stay. The Titans and Texans gave him shots in 2013 and ’14, respectively; the latter traded him to the Jets in 2015. Fitzmagic peaked in New York, with a Jets-record 31 TD passes in 2015, and with an explosive 9.6 yards per attempt for the 2018 Bucs. Fitz is 59-86-1 as a starter, including a surprisingly effective 9-11 mark in Miami. He has never made the playoffs but at 38 will helm a contender in Washington.

 
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Nick Foles

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Despite being a Super Bowl MVP barely three years ago, Foles appears headed to a sixth team soon. Other than a one-game Chiefs sample, the former second-round pick has flopped outside of Philadelphia. His straight-up trade for Sam Bradford led to a near retirement post-St. Louis, the Jaguars quickly cut bait on their $22 million-per-year 2019 agreement — doing so after eating big Blake Bortles dead money — and the Bears’ Justin Fields pick has Foles a nonfactor. Foles’ Philly work (NFL-record-tying seven TD passes in a 2013 game, a dominant 2017 playoffs, saving the Eagles’ 2018 season) more than buoys his reputation. 

 
Gus Frerotte

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Eighteen years before Kirk Cousins usurped Robert Griffin III, Frerotte (Round 7, 1994) supplanted Heath Shuler (No. 6 overall, 1994) in Washington. A Pro Bowler in 1996, Frerotte migrated to Detroit in 1999 and Denver in 2000. He played a role in both teams reaching the playoffs, leading the Lions past the eventual champion Rams and quarterbacking the Broncos after a Brian Griese injury. Frerotte finished his career by going 8-3 as the 2008 Vikings’ first-stringer, at 37. In between, the six-team starter stopped over in Cincinnati, Miami, and St. Louis. He led the Dolphins to nine wins in 2005 and lasted 15 years in the pros.

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Jeff Garcia

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Garcia started for five teams despite not beginning his NFL run until age 29. The former CFL standout, and not 1997 first-rounder Jim Druckenmiller, became Steve Young’s heir apparent. Garcia’s 4,278 yards in 2000 remain a 49ers record. He led the 49ers to the playoffs in the following two years, making three straight Pro Bowls. A 49er rebuild routed Garcia to one-and-done stays in Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia in the mid-2000s. The Philly stop proved memorable. Garcia replaced an injured Donovan McNabb and navigated the Eagles to the playoffs. At 37, he steered the 2007 Bucs to a January date, adding a fourth Pro Bowl in an eventful 11-year career.

 
Jeff George

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Rough around the edges with an all-time arm, George cycled to five teams in 12 seasons. The Colts gave up plenty to draft him No. 1 overall in 1990, but after his four-year tenure did not lead to an Indianapolis rise, the team still came out OK after a 1994 trade to Atlanta ended up sending Marvin Harrison to Indiana. George flamed out in Atlanta and Oakland but flashed in both places. The playoff-bound ’95 Falcons were the second team with three 1,000-yard wideouts; Tim Brown’s best season came with George in 1997. The Vikings also benched Randall Cunningham for George in 1999 and advanced to the divisional playoffs. George was in Washington a year later.

 
Brian Hoyer

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Hoyer is on his third stint with the Patriots — the seventh team to use him as a starter. Tom Brady’s backup at multiple junctures, Hoyer has just one New England start (in 2020) despite spending parts of six seasons there. Hoyer did the bare minimum to reach seven-team status here, logging one start with the Cardinals (2014) and Colts (2019). He went 1-10 with the Bears and 49ers combined. Hoyer, however, delivered in Cleveland — when the northeast Ohio native had the Browns at 7-6 before the Johnny Manziel disaster — and Houston, which he helped to the 2015 playoffs. At 35, Hoyer has time to catch Fitzpatrick for journeyman volume.

 
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Case Keenum

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Keenum offered up one of the best seasons of the journeyman catalog, replacing Sam Bradford to lead the Vikings to the NFC championship game. The 2017 QB DVOA leader, Keenum won 12 games as Minnesota’s starter — the last of which among the more memorable moments in NFL playoff history. Beyond this, Keenum has settled into high-end backup/shaky starter territory. The former Texans UDFA became Jared Goff’s Rams stopgap and showed in Denver his 2017 season was an aberration. Still, Washington traded for Keenum in 2019 and Cleveland has him in place as quality Baker Mayfield insurance.

 
Dave Krieg

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Krieg quarterbacked three teams to the playoffs in one of the longest careers in QB history. The three-time Pro Bowler played 19 years, the first 12 of which with Seattle, and started for five teams. Krieg replaced Jim Zorn in 1983, and the Seahawks made a surprise venture to the AFC championship game. The Seahawks changed course in 1992, cutting their longtime starter. Krieg promptly piloted the Chiefs to the playoffs and became vital Joe Montana insurance a year later. Krieg kept the ’94 Lions afloat, en route to the playoffs, after a Scott Mitchell injury. Later a Bear, Krieg made 16 starts for the 1995 Cardinals. This produced a “Jerry Maguire” cameo.

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Josh McCown

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McCown has Fitzpatrick beat for team volume, suiting up for nine, but only six deployed the 19-year veteran as a starter. The 2002 Cardinals’ third-rounder broke in the Larry Fitzgerald-Anquan Boldin tandem in Arizona and started nine games for the Raiders in JaMarcus Russell’s rookie year. But it took until a Jay Cutler 2013 injury, after which McCown impressed for a contending Bears team, to return him to the QB1 radar. The Browns, Buccaneers, and Jets each signed him to be their starter. McCown kept the runway clear for a 2018 Jets QB pick (Sam Darnold) and later relieved a concussed Carson Wentz in a 2019 wild-card game.

 
Jim McMahon

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McMahon’s injury woes kept the Bears from dynastic status, capping their run at one championship. When he suited up, Chicago was close to unbeatable. From 1984-88, the Bears went 36-5 in his starts. The Chargers dealt a second-round pick for the ex-Super Bowl champ in 1989, but that partnership lasted one season. McMahon became much-needed Randall Cunningham Eagles insurance, replacing the injured QB in 1991, and the Vikings gave him his last starting gig in 1993. McMahon and the Carters — Cris and Anthony — advanced to the playoffs. Cycling through journeymen in the ’90s, the Cards gave McMahon his final start in 1994.

 
Earl Morrall

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A former No. 2 overall pick, Morrall was traded four times and started for six teams. Not easy feats before free agency. The 49ers dealt him to the Steelers a year after drafting him; the Steelers, despite Morrall making the 1957 Pro Bowl, shipped him to the Lions for Bobby Layne in 1958. Following years of inconsistency as a part-time starter with the Lions and Giants, Morrall stunned the NFL world with an MVP season for a Colts team that lost Johnny Unitas. The Super Bowl III loss aside, Morrall stayed a key Colt contributor through 1971. The 21-year vet collected rings with the ’70 Colts and, more famously, as the ’72 Dolphins’ Bob Griese injury sub.

 
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Kyle Orton

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Known mostly for his presence on the Bears and Broncos and inclusion in 2009’s Jay Cutler trade, Orton stopped through Dallas and Kansas City and finished his 10-year career by being Buffalo’s primary triggerman in 2014. Summoned to fill in for an injured Rex Grossman as a rookie in 2005, Orton played a minimalist role for an 11-5 Bears team. He fared better for a 9-7 2008 team but was the Broncos’ primary QB during their turbulent Josh McDaniels period. Denver cut Orton midway through Tim Tebow’s surprising 2011 run, but Orton gained a forgotten revenge measure in Week 17 of that season by beating his ex-backup as a Chiefs waiver claim.

 
Norm Snead

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Like the Raiders and Oilers in 1980 or Rams and Eagles in 2015, Washington and Philadelphia traded their QB1s in 1964. Being dealt for Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen began a nomadic path for Snead, a Washington Pro Bowler in 1962 and ’63. The former No. 2 overall pick started for five teams in a 16-year career. While this three-time zone run included zero playoff games, Snead made four Pro Bowls — adding one apiece with the Eagles and Giants — and was traded for two Hall of Famers. The Vikings included Snead in their 1972 deal to reacquire Fran Tarkenton. Like Morrall, Snead was traded four times. 

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20 of 21

Vinny Testaverde

Vinny Testaverde

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The former Heisman winner checks in as a seven-team starter, doing so through his age-44 season. Though Tom Brady is poised to eclipse this, Testaverde’s six starts for the 2007 Panthers represent the high-water mark for mid-40s starts as a non-kicker. In the first year of free agency, Testaverde left the Buccaneers for the Browns. He then led Cleveland to the 1994 playoffs, doing well enough Baltimore kept him after the 1996 relocation. Testaverde set Ravens and Jets single-season TD pass records that each stood for around 20 years, and the Cowboys made him their full-time starter in 2004 at age 40. Vinny and Brady played together in 2006, but the latter made 16 starts.

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Wade Wilson

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A five-team starter, Wilson broke through in his late 20s with the Vikings. Succeeding Tommy Kramer, Wilson quarterbacked Minnesota to three straight postseasons in the late 1980s. He guided the Vikes to upset wins over the 12-win Saints and 13-win 49ers, with those 8-7 Vikes falling just shy of Super Bowl XXII. The Vikes cut Wilson ahead of the 1992 season, and after a stopover in Atlanta, Wilson caught on with the Saints in 1993. That marked Wilson’s final year as a full-timer, though QB2 gigs with the Cowboys and Raiders enabled the former eighth-round pick to play 18 seasons.

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.

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