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Best quarterbacks for the buck list has surprises

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Best Quarterbacks For The Buck
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Best Quarterbacks for the Buck

The NFL road hasn’t been an entirely smooth one for Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore.

Originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys out of Oregon State in 2007, Moore was waived near the end of his first training camp. Picked up by the Carolina Panthers, he spent three of the next four years sharing playing time with the likes of Vinny Testeverde, Jake Delhomme and Jimmy Clausen (Moore missed the entire 2008 season with a broken left fibula).

In Pictures: The Best QBs For The Buck

But the 2011 season brought Moore his real first chance. With the Panthers clearing room for top draft pick Cam Newton, Moore signed with Miami, where he started 13 games, the most of his career. While he didn’t quite set the league on fire, Moore’s  2,497 passing yards, 16 touchdown passes and solid 87.1 quarterback rating won him the honor of team MVP.

The Dolphins still aren’t convinced that Moore is their long-term answer -- they spent their 2012 first-round draft pick on Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill to battle him in training camp. But Moore’s solid season, which the Dolphins got at the backup quarterback salary rate of $2.5 million, was enough to make him the NFL’s best quarterback for the buck in 2011. He beat out past winner Ryan Fitzpatrick of Buffalo (3,832 yards, 24 touchdowns, $3.2 million), Tarvaris Jackson of Seattle (3,091 yards, 60% completion percentage, $3.25 million) and Alex Smith of San Francisco (3,144 yards, 17 TDs vs. five interceptions, $5 million), the former No. 1 overall pick who’d been battling a reputation as a draft bust until breaking out with his best season last year at age 27.

Arriving at our top 10 was pretty straightforward. Using 2011 stats and salaries, we compared what we call each quarterback’s adjusted rating -- his final passer rating adjusted for playing time -- to his 2011 salary. Passer rating, as most know, is the standard metric used to evaluate quarterbacks that’s based on completion percentage, yards per attempt, interceptions and other stats. We adjusted that number to give some weight to the workload each QB carried last for his club. Example: Joe Flacco, who took almost every snap for the Baltimore Ravens last season, is assessed nearly his full passer rating of 80.9. But for Tennessee’s Matt Hasselbeck, who yielded nearly 20% of his playing time to Jake Locker, we adjust his rating down slightly, to 79.3 from 82.4 (both Flacco, at No. 9, and Hasselbeck, No. 7, make the cut).

One other caveat: for apples to apples sake, we stayed away from 2011 draft picks, whose rookie contracts signed under the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement were drastically reduced from those that came before. Hence, we do not include the artificially low-paid Newton, who had a terrific rookie year in Carolina, or Andy Dalton, the second-round pick who impressed after taking the starting job in Cincinnati away from malcontent Carson Palmer, who was later traded to Oakland.

The Dolphins undoubtedly hope that Tannehill wins the starting job this year, the better to justify their first round investment in him. But if he doesn’t, they’ve got a guy in Moore who has shown he can deliver more for the money than anyone in the league.

The List:

1. Matt Moore (Miami Dolphins)

2. Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo Bills)

3. Tavaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks)

4. Alex Smith (San Francisco 49ers)

5. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)

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