2012 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Other QBs

Daniel BarnesCorrespondent IIIJanuary 10, 2012

2012 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Other QBs

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    Lots of big-name quarterbacks are going to become free agents at the end of this season. From league MVP candidate Drew Brees, to the former first overall pick Alex Smith, to the Packers' in-demand backup Matt Flynn, there will be a lot of big names at the NFL's most important position that could move.

    Here is my prediction for where every big-name free-agent quarterback will be playing in 2012.

1. Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

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    Let's get the big one out of the way first. Drew Brees isn't going anywhere. After a season where he's completed over 70 percent of his passes and led his team to a blowout win over Detroit during Wild Card Weekend, Brees solidified his already rock-solid spot as the face of the franchise.

    Brees' new contract will be enormous, and so far, it looks to me like he's earned it.

2. Alex Smith: San Francisco 49ers

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    This one isn't as certain as Brees, but for now, I think Alex Smith will stick around in the City by the Bay.

    Smith has finally been a consistently decent quarterback this season; he has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 3,144 yards and earned a QB rating of 90.7, which is 14 points higher than his career average.

    However, there is one unknown factor, and that's second-round pick Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick boosted his draft stock after leading Nevada to victory over Boise State and then looked like the best quarterback on the field during the Senior Bowl.

    He has had no real time on the field, so outside of the 49ers front office, no one knows how he's coming along. However, the fact that Smith is still the starter tells me that they think that Kaepernick still has a ways to go.

    Smith will stay in San Francisco for now, but I don't know how long his stay will be.

3. Kyle Orton: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Matt Cassel was terrible this year, and while Kyle Orton isn't going to blow anyone away, he certainly seems like an improvement.

    The Chiefs would've loved to draft a quarterback in the 2012 draft, but with Landry Jones and Matt Barkley staying in school, the class has suddenly become very thin. Even if one of the projected second-round quarterbacks (Nick Foles, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins) steps up in the Senior Bowl and the combine, the Chiefs have too late of a pick to get them easily.

    For now, Kyle Orton seems like their best bet.

    For Orton, on the other hand, the Chiefs may also be his best suitor. They were the only team willing to take him on, and they were rewarded for that, so he may decide to stick with the staff that gave him a chance.

    The only real question is if both sides can come together on how much money will change hands.

4. Jason Campbell: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    With Carson Palmer in town, Jason Campbell will be out of Oakland, but he's still a pretty good quarterback, so where will he go?

    My money is on Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert was terrible this season—and I'm talking Jimmy Clausen-levels of awful—the Jaguars aren't in a position to easily replace him, and with as much as they have invested in him, they won't give up on him just yet.

    However, if they want to be competitive in any way right now, they need to bring in someone else who can help Gabbert share the load (and maybe take over if it gets bad enough). Campbell fits the bill.

    Before he sustained a season-ending injury, Campbell had completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 1,170 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for an additional two touchdowns.

    At 30 years old, Campbell won't be the future for anyone, but he can be the kind of veteran player to help take the reins until Gabbert is ready to take over.

5. Chad Henne: St. Louis Rams

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    Chad Henne lost his job permanently when he led the Dolphins to zero wins and then saw them do a complete 180 under his backup, Matt Moore.

    Now, the way I see it, Henne will find his way onto a team that needs a capable backup, which is exactly what he is.

    If I were a betting man, I'd bet on the St. Louis Rams.

    Sam Bradford had a horrible year, largely because he had no protection and bad receivers. He missed a lot of games due to injury as well.

    With Jeff Fisher possibly coming into St. Louis as the new head coach, he's going to want to have a veteran backup like he did while with the Tennessee Titans. Henne would be a pretty good one.

    If Bradford really is a bust (I've heard him described as nothing but a check-down quarterback), then Henne would give the Rams a player that's good enough to stay semi-competitive until they can replace Bradford.

6. Rex Grossman: Green Bay Packers

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    Rex Grossman: the quarterback who couldn't decide if he was good or not.

    Grossman's landing spot is hard to predict. I don't think he'll stay in Washington; they're done with him there. But then, who wants him?

    Since he's going to be a backup wherever he goes, I'm putting him with a team that'll be in the market for a new backup: the Green Bay Packers.

    The one game that Rodgers didn't play in showed everyone that under Green Bay's offense, you don't have to be as good as Rodgers to score a lot. Still, the chances of Matt Flynn returning are slim to none, since he could compete for a starting job somewhere else.

    With Flynn gone, the Packers will need a new backup, and Grossman would give them one that's good enough to not tank the season if Rodgers were to miss games with injury.

7. Matt Flynn: Seattle Seahawks

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    Here's the one everyone is waiting to see.

    Matt Flynn looked great in his one start this season, throwing for 480 yards and a franchise-record six touchdowns. Last season, when he started against the Patriots for an injured Aaron Rodgers, Flynn again looked good, throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns.

    A lot of teams need quarterbacks, but only two will be getting them via the draft, so who will make a move for Matt Flynn? The Seahawks.

    The Seahawks won eight games this season despite having Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback. They're one of the many teams that would love to have drafted a quarterback in the draft, but won too many games to land one. Instead, they're going to go for the best free agent they can get their hands on, which happens to be Flynn.

    If Flynn is as good as advertised, the Seahawks could get a legitimate starter and could be competitive again.

8. Peyton Manning: New York Jets

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    Technically, Peyton Manning isn't a free agent. However, if the Colts are not just blowing a lot of smoke, then he won't be there for much longer. I see no scenario where Andrew Luck will sit behind Manning. It wouldn't be good for Luck, it wouldn't be good for Manning and it wouldn't be good for the Colts.

    If he does leave the team, then he's going to want to go to a team that can immediately contend for a Super Bowl. That team is the New York Jets.

    Up until recently, the Jets have been one of the best defensive teams in the NFL. They still have the best corner in the NFL in Darrelle Revis, and a good running back in Shonn Greene. Their biggest problem, seemingly, has been quarterback play.

    Mark Sanchez has been too inconsistent to take his team to the next level, and the coaching staff knows that. Manning would be a huge upgrade for their offense and Peyton's ability to rack up points would allow the Jets defense to make teams throw against Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

    Also, who wouldn't want to see Brady vs. Manning twice a year? I know I would.