2014 NFL Free Agents: Exploring the Quarterback Market

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2014

2014 NFL Free Agents: Exploring the Quarterback Market

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    NFL free agency is almost upon us. The league year rolls over on March 11, and with it comes the annual open-market frenzy.

    Quarterback is one position that doesn't traditionally have much movement during free agency. There aren't as many players, but teams rarely let their starters get away.

    Still, there is a supply and demand for quarterbacks, however minimal. Most of the players set to become available are backup-caliber, but there are plenty of teams that need a solid second-stringer. The players on this list were chosen based on their ability to be an NFL starter or backup for 2014 and beyond. 

    Let's take a look at the quarterback market.

Josh McCown

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics: 66.5% passing, 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns, 1 interception—13 carries, 69 yards, 1 touchdown

     

    Perhaps the best option on the market, not named Michael Vick, is a 34-year-old journeyman.

    Josh McCown came out of nowhere to lead the Chicago Bears to some critical victories last season after Jay Cutler was knocked out for a few games with an injury. McCown was instrumental in keeping the Bears from imploding with their starting quarterback out, going 3-2 in games he started.

    By a quirk in the CBA, per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Chicago won't be allowed to offer the veteran quarterback anything more than a one-year contract until free agency opens up. That means McCown will be allowed to test free agency, perhaps getting a bigger deal than had he simply re-signed with Chicago.

    Whether the market will give an aging, retread quarterback a long look is another matter, but McCown certainly acquitted himself well enough to merit a good inspection.

Matt Flynn

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics: 62.0% passing, 1,392 yards, 8 touchdowns, 5 interception—20 carries, 65 yards

     

    There is something about playing for the Green Bay Packers that brings out the best in Matt Flynn.

    That is not to say Flynn is very good, but his disastrous stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders make his tenure in Green Bay seem like Brett Favre's football career reincarnated.

    Flynn landed back with his original NFL team after his release from the woeful, quarterback-needy Raiders this season, and he was instrumental in the Packers' run to the postseason.

    The 28-year-old was thrown into the fire as Scott Tolzien and Seneca Wallace floundered while Aaron Rodgers recuperated from a broken clavicle. Flynn kept the Packers afloat just long enough to make the playoffs, though the faltering Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions certainly helped.

    Whether that was enough to get him to another nice contract remains to be seen. Flynn hasn't exactly been impressive outside Green Bay.

Tarvaris Jackson

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2013 Statistics: 76.9% passing, 151 yards, 1 touchdown—4 carries, 1 yard, 1 touchdown

     

    "That's right, the quarterback who closed out Super Bowl XLVIII can be yours for the right price."

    The above quote is an artist's rendition of Tarvaris Jackson's agent advertising his client's availability in free agency.

    It was interesting to watch Jackson in Seattle last season, where he was rather stunning during the preseason and his short time on the field during the regular season. Was he simply ahead of his time?

    Perhaps. But Jackson thinks his time as a starter may have passed, per the Star Tribune:

    I still think about it. Of course, I’d rather it went a lot different, but I feel like I have nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve actually been thinking about it the last few days. Just being here, thinking about wanting to be a starter in this game. Recapping my career, I unfortunately wanted it to be different, but it is what it is.

    You look around the league, and you’re like … maybe I have a chance. But I haven’t played football in two years, so who knows. It’s a different experience, but I’m trying to take it in and take it as it comes.

    True, Jackson hasn't seen the field much, but he has proven to be a pretty good backup in Seattle. It might be the best place for him. 

Josh Freeman

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    2013 Statistics: 42.9% passing, 761 yards, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions—5 carries, 20 yards

     

    It has been a long, hard fall for Josh Freeman.

    The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer and Minnesota Viking showed plenty of promise in his first two seasons, but it has been nothing but trouble for him since then. Freeman flamed out in spectacular fashion with Tampa Bay, then somehow convinced Minnesota to give him $2 million to ride the pine for much of the rest of the season.

    Despite his struggles, Freeman's career is still salvageable. He's big, he's young, and he has a strong armall enticing features for potential suitors.

    Perhaps he will be best served signing a deal to back up an established starter for a year or two. Mike McCoy, head coach and quarterback whisperer for the San Diego Chargers, might be Freeman's best bet at a career resurrection.

    Of course, given the choice between playing backup or perhaps starting somewhere like Oakland or Houston, Freeman might rather take his chances as a starter.

Chad Henne

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    2013 Statistics: 60.6% passing, 3,241 yards, 13 touchdowns, 14 interceptions—27 carries, 77 yards

     

    It seems Chad Henne falls into at least a semi-starting gig wherever he lands.

    After his failed time with the Miami Dolphins, the former Michigan Wolverine landed as a backup in Jacksonville. Because of injuries and otherwise putrid play, Henne ascended to the starter role for the Jaguars at various times during the past two seasons.

    Now he hits free agency, a proven backup quarterback good enough to potentially push a rookie. In fact, he has proven himself enough to the Jaguars that they want to keep him around, as indicated by Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union in an article published on Feb. 6.

    Indeed, in a quarterback-driven league where having a solid backup is increasingly important, Henne might command a good deal of attention on the open market.

Matt Cassel

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics: 60.2% passing, 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns, 9 interceptions—18 carries, 57 yards, 1 touchdown

     

    For all the flak Matt Cassel has taken since leaving the New England Patriots, last season was not a bad one.

    In fact, it was good enough to make Cassel decide to void the second year of his contract, one that would have paid him a decent $3.7 million. The decision made him an unrestricted free agent heading into free agency, but the Minnesota Vikings aren't just going to let him get away.

    Brian Hall of Fox Sports North reported on Feb. 10 that Minnesota wants to re-sign Cassel:

    Cassel's decision leaves Christian Ponder currently as the only quarterback signed into next season. But the team isn't ruling out the possibility that Cassel could return to Minnesota. New offensive coordinator Norv Turner said his son, Scott, had spoken with Cassel and there seemed to be interest from both sides in a possible reunion. Scott Turner is the team's new quarterbacks coach.

    The Vikings might be on the outside looking in for the top quarterback prospects in the 2014 draft. It might not be a bad idea to keep Cassel around as the starter given his performance last year, even if they manage to snag a quarterback early in May.

Colt McCoy

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics: 100% passing, 13 yards—6 carries, -6 yards

     

    One hundred percent passing? How is Colt McCoy going unnoticed?

    The former Cleveland Brown essentially got on the field in 2013 to present the victory formation, something he wasn't quite used to in Cleveland. But where does he go after his one-year stint in San Francisco?

    He could easily stick around—the 49ers don't exactly have another reliable backup quarterback—but he could make solid money on the open market if he explores free agency.

Michael Vick

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics: 54.6% passing, 1,215 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions—36 carries, 303 yards, 2 touchdowns

     

    Michael Vick is the only viable starting option in free agency. The 33-year-old still flashes his dynamic ability. The problem is he also has a penchant for turnovers.

    Still, Vick represents a tantalizing option for quarterback-starved teams, even if those teams are in a position to draft a quarterback-of-the-future in the first round, as NFL.com's Judy Battista wrote on Feb. 7:

    "There are too many teams that are in need of an upgrade for him not to be looked at as a starter," the personnel executive said. "I could see a team signing him, and developing a young guy. Vick could be a very good bridge starter for two to three years."

    And that, despite his advancing age, is a remarkable improvement from where Vick was the last time he hit free agency.

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    And this is why his résumé will be enhanced among those willing to take a chance on him this spring.

    It happened long before Vick and (Nick) Foles stood shoulder to shoulder at a joint October press conference -- unheard of in a scenario where the two participants are competing for one job. That piece of theater merely underscored what people around the Eagles had been saying for a while: Vick had become an important locker room presence, a mature, steady mentor whose support of and friendship with Foles was unfailing, even as it became obvious that Foles was taking Vick's job for good.

    Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings certainly need a new starter. Even if they draft a quarterback with a high pick this May, Vick could be a nice bridge to the future.