If you’re looking for a quarterback in free agency, it’s typically thin. Though there could be some more interesting options, if a few teams cut their 2018 starters as expected.
The market got a boost when the Philadelphia Eagles decided to not franchise-tag Nick Foles. That puts a Super Bowl MVP on the market. But good quarterbacks rarely hit the open market.
The good news for NFL teams is, not too many are looking for a starting quarterback. The Jacksonville Jaguars stand out in that group, but most teams have a quarterback in place, are talking themselves into the option they already have or don’t have the financial flexibility to dump their current starter.
Other than the Jaguars/Foles fit that seems too obvious (and, based on reports, may already be unofficially done), it’s hard to figure out where some of the other top quarterbacks on the market will go. Here are the top 10 available quarterbacks, which includes three 2018 starters who could be cut before free agency:
Not free agents yet but could hit the market
Ryan Tannehill: The Dolphins are hard to figure out, but it has been long reported that Tannehill will be cut. Tannehill was not a terrible quarterback with the Dolphins, but he never got over the hump to be a good quarterback either. Injuries each of the past three seasons, including a knee injury that wiped out his 2017, have been another obstacle.
It’s hard to figure out which team would sign Tannehill as a starter, but he’ll be just 31 years old with 88 career starts and a decent 87 passer rating.
Case Keenum: A year ago, Keenum got a contract that was larger, on average, than Fletcher Cox’s, Antonio Brown’s, J.J. Watt’s and DeAndre Hopkins’, among others. He was really good in 2017 with the Vikings. He was not as good last season with the Broncos, and Denver’s trade for Joe Flacco makes him expendable.
Assuming the Broncos don’t find a trade partner for Keenum and he’s cut, he’s certainly an interesting case (no pun intended). Again, it’s hard to find teams that are dying for a starting quarterback. But that 2017 (22 TDs, seven INTs, 98.3 rating) isn’t too far in his past. He should be one of the NFL’s top backups, at very least, and paid as such.
Blake Bortles: Bortles has starting experience and a top-three draft pedigree. Although he mostly failed with the Jaguars, he did have moments in which he looked like a solid quarterback. There just weren’t enough of those moments. Not even close.
Some team will look at Bortles, see the mechanical flaws, and figure they can fix him. The physical skills that made him a high draft pick are still there. Assuming the Foles-to-Jacksonville report is true, Bortles’ release will be the corresponding move.
Top free-agent quarterbacks
1. Nick Foles: The legend of Foles grew late last season when he played very well, carrying the Eagles to a late burst and a playoff spot, and then again after he led a last-minute drive to beat the Bears in a wild-card game.
Foles, who famously took over for injured Carson Wentz two seasons ago and led the way to a Super Bowl win, is inconsistent. His highs are very good, but his lows exist too. Still, a quarterback with his résumé rarely hits the market. Teddy Bridgewater is the other top quarterback on the market, but Foles has a longer track record and is the No. 1 target at the position. That’s why Jacksonville is reportedly not wasting any time.
2. Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater is a quality quarterback. Still, there’s risk.
If you go back and search Twitter for the reaction to Bridgewater’s 2018 preseason, you’d have thought 1984 Joe Montana was back on the field. And while Bridgewater was good in the preseason, it was just 38 passes, mostly against deep backups.
When Bridgewater got some regular-season work, in Week 17 for the Saints, he struggled. He was 14-of-22 for 118 yards. Maybe that was because the Saints, having clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, were disinterested and sitting some starters. But it’s still Bridgewater’s only significant regular-season work since a horrific knee injury before the 2016 season. Now what?
Bridgewater is 26 years old, has a first-round pedigree and is well liked by teammates. He was good with the Vikings, though probably not as great as people like to remember (28 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 212.1 yards per game). He has just 25 passing attempts over three seasons.
Bridgewater is good, and certainly miles ahead of the type of quarterback usually available in unrestricted free agency. He’s still a complicated case at a position that commands enormous contracts.
3. Tyrod Taylor: Taylor should never have been starting over Baker Mayfield early last season with the Browns, but that’s not Taylor’s fault. That’s on Hue Jackson.
It doesn’t mean Taylor can’t be a decent stop-gap starter or very good backup.
Though it seems Taylor has been around a long time, he’s just 29 years old. He had three good seasons with Buffalo, posting a 92.5 rating over 44 games. He adds value to an offense as a runner, too. It’s doubtful any team would invest in Taylor as a long-term starter, but in a thin quarterback class he still looks pretty good.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick: Fitzpatrick is a really good backup. We have memorably seen him get white hot for short stretches. We’ve also seen him be exposed as a full-time starter. But even though he’s 36, he should still be a top backup option on the market.
5. Colin Kaepernick: Not a new name on this list. Does a settlement with the NFL over his collusion grievance mean he’ll get signed? The same reasons NFL teams weren’t signing him before the grievance claim are still in place, so probably not. What has changed since then? Also, more than two years have passed since his last game. Make no mistake, Kaepernick deserves to be on an NFL roster. He’s better than many quarterbacks on NFL teams’ depth charts. That’s why he’ll stay on this list, though it still seems unlikely he’ll be signed.
6. Robert Griffin III: Griffin’s NFL reemergence with the Baltimore Ravens was a fun story last preseason. The former NFL offensive rookie of the year could become a nice long-term backup in the league.
7. Ryan Griffin: Griffin has the benefit of the unknown working for him. He has never thrown an NFL regular-season pass. But he has played well enough in preseason to keep getting jobs. Teams love buying into the hypothetical upside of quarterbacks who haven’t played much (Chase Daniel is a multi-millionaire due to this).
Other notable free agents: Josh McCown, Geno Smith, Brett Hundley, Trevor Siemian
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