A good chunk of quarterbacks in the league are up for grabs this year. Free agency sometimes brings some big names to the market. This year doesn’t have many, but it does have at least a few guys who will show up on starting rosters next season.
Without a doubt, this year’s biggest free agency name is Kirk Cousins. Cousins is the most talented guy on the list and there is a lot of talk about where he might end up next season. Washington fans are hopeful he’ll stay, while others in the league could desperately use a quarterback of his caliber.
This year’s free agent quarterback list may not be a star-studded as seasons past, but there is a solid group of guys once you wade through the always-been backups. Even with the backups in this free agency class, there are guys who would be valuable to some organizations in the league.
Without a doubt, some of the guys on this list will stay put. However, some guys will choose to leave while others are forced out of town. In the NFL, quarterbacks are the primary decision-makers on the team. So, we often see them getting moved around quite frequently. Especially when it comes to this year’s free agent class.
There is not a lot of guys on the list who will stay put. Some might, but there is a chance that every quarterback that follows might be playing for another team in 2017. With this list, we rank the free agent quarterbacks to find out who’s best. And we’ll also look at where they will be going.
15 DAN ORLOVSKY: DETROIT LIONS
Dan Orlovsky barely made the cut. To make the 15th spot, Orlovsky beat out Josh Johnson and Thaddeus Lewis, who are two other guys who have had trouble finding time on the field over the past four seasons. Orlovsky has been around longer than the other two, and he has better success finding time on the field in the NFL. Orlovsky’s last team was Detroit. It’s been a tough journey finding playing time for Orlovsky, and it’s not going to get any easier.
The Lions will keep Orlovsky around just because he has spent a few recent years with the team (he also started his career in Detroit). Though, Orlovsky, who has just 512 passing attempts since joining the league in 2005, will not likely get any playing time.
14 CHRISTIAN PONDER: NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Christian Ponder once led Minnesota to a 10-6 record. For a third-string quarterback, that’s really good. But that’s also why Ponder won’t be staying in Minnesota. Although Ponder’s 10-win season was largely due to Adrian Peterson’s monster year, he still facilitated the offense to a really good season. Ponder has only won two games out of his 10 starts since then, but he’s itching to get back on the field as a starting quarterback. He won’t be given any spots though right off the wire.
Ponder’s best chance at starting again will be waiting until an aging veteran bows out to retirement, or is forced out because of injury. Looking around the league, a few guys are getting up there to that point. Among the oldest is Drew Brees, who will be 38 next year and doesn’t have much left in the tank.
13 CASE KEENUM: ATLANTA FALCONS
Case Keenum had his chance as the Rams starter at the beginning of last season and failed. Although Keenum won some games, his stats weren’t much better than Jared Goff’s, who followed up with an 0-7 record after taking over as the starter. Keenum likely won’t be a starting quarterback, but he deserves a team that will allow him to grow on the bench.
When the Falcons begin looking forward to next year, they will realize a backup quarterback is needed. Odds are Matt Schaub will move on, and if not, the team could still use a third guy to backup two aging veterans. Keenum would be able to learn from Matt Ryan and may eventually become a solid NFL starter with that experience behind Ryan.
12 MATT McGLOIN: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Matt McGloin was put in an impossible position at the end of the regular season. He was thrust into the starting role one week before his team entered the playoffs. That was because Derek Carr was injured a week prior. McGloin did have some starting experience in his rookie season, but he won one of his six starts.
He hasn’t been able to produce in any of his chances with the Raiders, so it is likely that the team will pass on offering him another contract. It will be tough for McGloin to find a roster spot, but he’ll be a solid third-string guy who can compete for the second-string spot. Seattle is a good place for that. Currently, the Seahawks don’t have a third quarterback and they’re not looking for anyone to replace their starter.
11 SHAUN HILL: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Although Shaun Hill may not even play in a game next season, he fits well on the Vikings bench. Sam Bradford holds the starting spot, and giving his track record, the Vikings need to be well equipped at quarterback (that’s way a guy coming up will also be on the Vikings offensive roster next season). Hill has been in the NFL since 2005 when he started with Minnesota.
That, however, was his only year with the Vikings before 2015 – he played for San Francisco, Detroit and then one season in St. Louis. Through his lengthy career, he’s only played in 49 games and started just 35 of those. So, Hill is used to riding the bench, which will continue for the remainder of his career.
10 EJ MANUEL: BUFFALO BILLS
EJ Manuel never had much of a chance to become a starting quarterback in Buffalo, but the Bills remain his best chance at becoming a starter if he ever will. In Manuel’s first season, he started 10 games. Since, he’s started in just seven games but he’s learned the ins and outs of the Bills offense after four seasons. He’s shown some good starts, but he’s also had some bad starts like the loss to finish off last season. In Manuel’s only start in the final game of 2016, he went 9-20 for 86 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. That poor performance makes it seem like Buffalo will toss him out, but the Bills won’t. They’ll forgo training another guy to fill that bench spot and leave Manuel to backup Tyrod Taylor.
9 BLAINE GABBERT: INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Blaine Gabbert is 9-31 as a starter, but he has been in San Francisco for the past three seasons. The 49ers gave Gabbert some opportunities the last couple of seasons, but he’s pretty much let those slip through his fingers. In the 13 games that Gabbert was the starting quarterback, he won just four times. So, even though he might be familiar with the 49ers offense after three years, he shouldn’t be offered a roster spot next season.
Instead, Gabber would be better suited on a team like the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts are currently working with just one backup quarterback. No doubt, Andrew Luck is going to be the Colts starter. But they only have one guy sitting in relief. The Colts need another quarterback and Gabbert will probably sign for cheap given his flakey record.
8 KELLEN CLEMENS: LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Fans might be surprised after finding out Kellen Clemens has been in the NFL since 2006 and has been backing up Phillip Rivers for the last three seasons. Clemens has started 21 games in his career, but hasn’t seen much action behind Rivers.
Since Rivers took over the starting job back in 2006, he hasn’t missed a game. He is getting older now, so Clemens might begin to see more action. But that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the Chargers. It wouldn’t be good either, though. Clemens is 8-13 as a starter, but has thrown 16 touchdowns vs. 20 interceptions. The good thing is he is a NFL veteran and knows the Chargers offense. With what else is out there, the Chargers will not be letting this guy go.
7 GENO SMITH: CLEVELAND BROWNS
Don’t expect Geno Smith to remain on the Jets for the 2017 season. Jets fans and media scrutinize this team and its players more than anyone in the league. After missing just about the entire season from an ACL tear, Smith will be moving on. He hasn’t proven himself as a starting quarterback yet and he hasn’t really played the last two seasons.
Smith’s best-case scenario would be a team that has an open quarterback competition. That won’t be much trouble this year. His best bet is in Cleveland. There, he will have a good chance at winning the starting gig, and he’ll be able to learn some things from RG3. Smith may not end up becoming the starter in Cleveland, but the Browns give him the best chance at grabbing a starting role.
6 MATT CASSEL: HOUSTON TEXANS
Matt Cassel has had a solid career with some really good seasons and some bad seasons. But that makes him a great backup quarterback. He has a lot of experience and he’s failed, so he’s not concerned with riding the bench for an entire season. But he’s capable of starting if needed.
That’s why the Houston Texans is a great fit for Cassel. Brock Osweiler is the solidified Texans starter, but he doesn’t have a long track record in the league. And currently Osweiler is backed up by two guys (Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden) who would most certainly not give the team a very good chance at winning. With Cassel, the team at least has a shot at success if Osweiler gets benched or goes down due to injury.
5 MARK SANCHEZ: LOS ANGELES RAMS
Let’s face it. The Cowboys don’t need Mark Sanchez. Dak Prescott went through more than most rookies go through in their first season and succeeded tremendously. Sure, Sanchez was probably there to mentor Prescott through those tough times, but Dak will most likely be looking to pave his own path going forward.
Sanchez would be better suited with a team who needs a true mentor. Sanchez would be better helping out someone like Jared Goff, who is struggling to find his path in Los Angeles. Sanchez might even get a chance to start again with the Rams struggling offense. With the career path Sanchez has seen, he must want a little bit of redemption, and the Rams might be the perfect place to provide Sanchez with that chance.
4 BRIAN HOYER: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Brian Hoyer is 16-15 as a starter and even had a 7-6 record one year with the Browns. He did however, go 1-4 last season with the Bears. At this point, Hoyer seems to be a lock as a backup quarterback. But he’s not a lock in Chicago after posting just one win in five games last season.
But he didn’t throw an interception in any of those games, either. Hoyer has proved he can run an offense without costing the team wins because of his mistakes. And he has eight years of experience in the league, making him a valuable asset to add depth to the bench.
The Eagles need the experience that Hoyer brings. The Eagles went through two quarterbacks who failed last year, most recently using Carson Wentz, who went 0-7. Hoyer could be a valuable mentor and even start a couple games if needed.
3 MATT SCHAUB: DENVER BRONCOS
Matt Schaub has a career 47-45 record and would be a starter on a lot of teams. Currently he sits behind Matt Ryan and is part of an amazing season for the Falcons. Schaub has got to be itching to get back onto the field after a season like that. So, the best fit for Schaub will be somewhere he has a shot to become the starting quarterback because that’s not going to happen ever in Atlanta (unless Ryan goes down with an injury).
But Schaub has spent time on failing teams, and he needs somewhere with a solid foundation like the Denver Broncos. Sure, he may not start Week 1. But Trevor Siemian will have to compete to keep his starting spot with a guy like Schaub on the bench.
2 RYAN FITZPATRICK: OAKLAND RAIDERS
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been all around the league – he’s played with six different teams – and he’s gotten a lot of opportunities as a starter. But the Jets shouldn’t give him any more chances after the miserable performance he put on last season. Fitzpatrick will find a spot somewhere though.
And the best fit would be with a team who doesn’t need a full-time starter. The Oakland Raiders would be the perfect fit for Fitzpatrick and he would be a perfect fit for the Raiders.
Since he joined the league in 2005, he’s started 116 games. That’s a solid career of work. But he’s only played one season with any signs of success. That was in 2015 when he led the Jets to a 10-6 record. He threw 31 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions that season.
He can bring that experience to a team that lacks experience on its bench. We all saw the miserable end to a great season because Oakland didn’t have anyone with experience backing up David Carr. Fitzpatrick is the perfect answer to that problem.
1 KIRK COUSINS: WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Without a doubt, Kirk Cousins is the biggest free agent heading into the 2017 season. He doesn’t have a track record like a lot of the big-name quarterbacks in the league, but that’s what makes him so interesting. He’s won with the Redskins and he’s posted some great numbers. But he’s also lost a lot and has had some terrible games.
So, are the Redskins willing to shell out a multiyear contract for Cousins?
They shouldn’t. At least not yet. Better yet, the Redskins should give Cousins another one-year deal and take the wait and see approach. It’ll keep the fans happy because they still have their quarterback, and it will allow for another season to judge Cousins. It’s still too early to tell if he’s going to be Washington’s quarterback of the future.