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The 7 most unkillable journeymen quarterbacks in the NFL

There's a good chance that at one time or another your team's hopes were riding on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer or one of the NFL's other well-traveled signal callers.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Superstars dominate sports, and rarely switch teams. When players like LeBron James, Wayne Gretzky or Peyton Manning swap jerseys, it comes with plenty of attention, headlines and chaos that only sports can muster.

Franchise quarterbacks are the biggest stars that football has to offer and it's difficult to imagine Tom Brady playing for any team other than the New England Patriots or Aaron Rodgers leaving Green Bay, but players like Manning and Joe Montana transitioned to different teams late in their careers.

But for all the attention that superstars get, "journeymen" play a big factor in the sports world. And a capable journeyman quarterback can help a team ignore the fact that it doesn't have a star at the position yet. Chris Chandler played for eight different teams in his 17-year NFL career, despite two trips to the Pro Bowl and helping to lead the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl in 1998.

Trent Dilfer even won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, his second of five career teams. Better still, Mark Rypien won two Super Bowls and a Super Bowl MVP in his eight seasons in Washington before finishing his career with six different teams.

The NFL lost one of its great journeyman quarterbacks after the 2014 season when Kyle Orton abruptly rode off into the sunset without really telling anyone he was leaving. Still, there are a few teams relying on a journeyman as a stopgap, which hasn't been the worst strategy, historically.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Geno Smith's jaw is broken, so for now, the New York Jets are turning the reins over to Fitzpatrick. A starting role is nothing new for Fitzpatrick, who has at least eight starts in the last seven seasons, although the Jets are his fifth team since he first became the starter for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008.

Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Bengals that season while Carson Palmer recovered from an elbow injury, but finished with just eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. He left in free agency to join the Buffalo Bills, where he started 53 games over the next four seasons, including 32 in his last two seasons there.

He then started nine games for the Tennessee Titans in 2013 and 12 for the Houston Texans in 2014. His last season was his best, when he finished with a career-best 63.1 completion percentage and 95.3 passer rating. At 32 years old, Fitzpatrick might still have some journeying to do if he manages to stay as efficient as he's been recently.

The Jets are a long shot for the Super Bowl (currently sitting on +10000 odds, via OddsShark), but with a tough defense and better group of offensive skill players, they could sneak into one of the AFC Wild Card spots.

Fitzpatrick map

Josh McCown

McCown has already been named the starter for the Cleveland Browns over Johnny Manziel, and whether or not that lasts long, it stands to be the seventh different team he has played for in his 13-year career.

A third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in the 2002 NFL Draft, McCown started 22 games in four seasons with the Cardinals before leaving to join the Detroit Lions in 2006. He spent the next six seasons as a backup for the Lions, the Oakland Raiders, the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears, although he did start nine games in Oakland in 2007.

It wasn't until 2013 when McCown was cast back into the spotlight, taking over for an injured Jay Cutler and finishing with 13 touchdowns and just one interception in five starts and eight games. He parlayed that performance into a two-year, $10 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but that didn't go so hot and was released after just one season, but landed in Cleveland shortly thereafter.

Brian Hoyer

Hoyer just earned the starting quarterback job for the Houston Texans, beating out Ryan Mallett in a close battle that spanned the first two weeks of preseason.

He got his first real taste of starting experience in his last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, leading the team to three wins in three starts in 2013 before a torn ACL ended his year. Hoyer then started 13 games for the Browns in 2014, leading the team to a 7-6 record over those starts, but throwing 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, making him one of the lowest-rated passers in the NFL.

Hoyer is currently reunited with Bill O'Brien, the former New England Patriots offensive coordinator, who coached Hoyer for the first three seasons of his career with the Patriots. After that, Hoyer made a one-year stop with the Arizona Cardinals before joining the Browns.

Out of all the teams starting a journeyman quarterback this season, the Texans are the best of the bunch. They have +5000 odds to win the Super Bowl, thanks in large part to their defense. With O'Brien's run-first offense, Hoyer's job won't be too difficult, and when he does have to throw the ball, he'll be looking for targets like Nuk Hopkins and Cecil Shorts.

Matt Cassel

Journeyman isn't the first thing that pops into my head when I think Matt Cassel, but he, like Hoyer, is on his fourth NFL team, and has seen the field consistently for the last seven years.

The two biggest differences between Cassel and the three quarterbacks ahead of him on this list is that he's had extended stays at each stop and that he's been traded twice. He spent four years with the New England Patriots before he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he spent another four years. Then he spent two years with Minnesota Vikings before he was traded to his current team, the Buffalo Bills.

Typically a journeyman is a mercenary of sorts, who signs with teams as a stopgap measure, but Cassel hasn't really been that since leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record after Tom Brady went down in Week 1 of the 2008 season. Instead he's spent most of his career as a legitimate commodity among teams, despite some seriously inconsistency numbers from year-to-year. Regardless, he has done his fair share of traveling over the last decade.

The perennial backups

Matt Flynn

Flynn is still making money in the NFL, thanks to Geno Smith and IK Enemkpali's scrap. He earned a small contract from the New York Jets, which is his fifth different team since 2012. A record-breaking performance in the final week of the 2011 season convinced a few teams to give him a starting shot, but now he's back to making his money as a reliable backup.

Bruce Gradkowski

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let Gradkowski start 11 games as a rookie in 2006, but he has just nine starts in the eight seasons that followed. He's entering his third season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, his longest-ever tenure with any team, and spent time with the St. Louis Rams, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Cincinnati Bengals.

Luke McCown

McCown is the younger brother of the aforementioned Josh McCown and, while he hasn't traveled quite as much as his brother, he's with his fifth different NFL team. Eleven seasons after he was selected in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft, McCown has just nine career starts and has played for the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.

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