NFL free agency preview: Some interesting possibilities at quarterback for a change

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When the Washington Redskins gave quarterback Kirk Cousins the exclusive franchise tag Tuesday, it took the most intriguing name off the market. Cousins can’t negotiate with any other team under that tag.

Still, there should be some intriguing options in free agency, especially if Tony Romo, Tyrod Taylor and Jay Cutler are cut. Romo and Cutler will likely be released if their respective teams can’t find trade partners. Taylor will be free if the Bills don’t pick up his massive option or renegotiate his deal. (And the Bills are taking their time on this one.) Former Philadelphia Eagles starter Nick Foles could also be a free agent if the Kansas City Chiefs decline his sizable option, and he’d be a top-10 free-agent option. Colin Kaepernick also entered the mix when it was announced on Wednesday he would officially opt out of his San Francisco 49ers contract. That’s a lot better group of quarterbacks than you’ll find most years in free agency.

There’s a decent mix of reliable backups and intriguing young players beyond Romo, Taylor and Cutler, who will be 1-2-3 on this list in some order if and when they’re available. Here are the top-10 quarterbacks slated to hit free agency on March 9:

TOP 10 FREE-AGENT QUARTERBACKS

1. Mike Glennon: He played well his first two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Then Jameis Winston entered the picture and Glennon threw 11 passes the next two seasons.

Glennon is a big, strong-armed pocket quarterback, just 27 years old and shouldn’t command an enormous contract, yet could be a starter for a team in need. If there’s one name on this list that has underrated potential it’s Glennon, a third-round pick in 2013.

Mike Glennon is an intriguing 2017 free agent. (AP)
Mike Glennon is an intriguing 2017 free agent. (AP)

2. Brian Hoyer: Hoyer played well last season (98 rating) with the Chicago Bears before he got hurt. He wasn’t as bad as you remember with the 2015 Houston Texans either, he just had a horrendous playoff game. At 31, he could still be a stop-gap starter or a very good backup.

3. Colin Kaepernick: He did some positive things in 2016. He had some good moments (16 touchdowns, four interceptions, 90.7 passer rating) on a 49ers team that was barely NFL-level quality. If you want to be optimistic, you guess how well he could have played last season on a real team, think back to the immense promise he showed in 2012 and 2013. Remember, he’s just 29 years old and the picture starts to look pretty enticing. Then you study the tape and realize there are still flaws that caused his downturn in 2014 and 2015. And none of that even touches on the possibility of some teams disagreeing with his political stance.

4. Josh McCown: Last year, McCown was involved in many trade rumors. The shine is off a bit after he struggled last season. He’ll turn 38 in July but could be a solid backup. The Dallas Cowboys make a ton of sense, considering they’ll need a new backup to replace Romo and McCown is from Texas.

5. Geno Smith: If quarterbacks are available in free agency, there’s a reason. So don’t expect to find your next Pro Bowl starter here. So despite your best Smith jokes, he’s not a bad option. He has 30 career starts with the New York Jets, was a second-round pick and is just 26 years old. He has played only three games the past two seasons due to injuries, but he’s not the worst option as a backup.

6. Case Keenum: Keenum held off top pick Jared Goff for nine starts (which might say something about Goff), but he didn’t really play well, with nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions. However, he was playing on a horrendous Los Angeles Rams offense. He has 24 career starts, but is best suited as a backup.

7. Ryan Fitzpatrick: There wasn’t much market for Fitzpatrick last year at his asking price, then at age 34 he posted a 69.6 passer rating for the New York Jets, worst among NFL starters. There’s a risk after last season that Fitzpatrick could be done as a competent quarterback, though he played well in 2015 and might still serve as a solid backup at the right price.

8. Landry Jones: Although Jones got four starts with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he didn’t show he can be a full-time starter in the NFL. However, reports say the Steelers view him as a high-level backup, which counts for something.

9. Matt Barkley: Given a chance to start late last season for the Bears, Barkley showed he can probably be a solid backup. He was inconsistent, but had some OK moments. That’s a step forward for Barkley, who previously looked like an NFL bust.

[Related: A list of the franchise-tagged players]

10. Matt Schaub: Schaub once led the NFL with 4,770 passing yards in a season. That was with the Texans in 2009, though it feels like a few decades ago. But there might be a lifeline for the two-time Pro Bowler, as the San Francisco 49ers apparently could be interested in him as a starter in new coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. If the 49ers come up with a better option, Schaub could return as the Atlanta Falcons’ backup.

More on Yahoo Sports:
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Colin Kaepernick officially opts out, needs a new home
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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!