Predicting Where the Top NFL Free-Agent Quarterbacks Will Land
The quarterback position is traditionally weak in free agency, as all the good ones are usually retained by their teams.
This year, though, free agency might welcome a decent quarterback or two to the frenzy once March rolls around—depending, of course, on whether or not most impending free agents re-sign with their current teams.
Let's take a look at the five best options set to hit free agency based on recent performance and age. We'll only include players currently slated to be unrestricted free agents, as opposed to potential offseason cuts.
5. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs
Possible Suitors: Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers
It's just about time that Chase Daniel gets an opportunity to start, right?
The career backup has been on an NFL roster since 2009, but he has just 77 pass attempts to show for it. In what little action he has seen, however, Daniel has shown a bit of promise. He completed 100 percent of his passes (2-of-2) this year.
In reality, there aren't many career backups hitting the market worth discussing as top options. While we may not know much about Daniel, he is a 29-year-old with more promise than a handful of guys who started games even last season.
It's possible Daniel re-signs with the Kansas City Chiefs, content to back up Alex Smith under head coach Andy Reid. But if he wants a shot at a starting gig, opportunities await.
One such opportunity might open up with his former offensive coordinator who took a gig out east.
4. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets
Possible Suitors: New York Jets, Cleveland Browns
The emperor may have actually gotten new clothes this season, but that amounted to little when it counted most.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best season in the NFL in his first with the New York Jets. He can thank a solid offensive line and a good set of receivers for that.
When it was all over, though, Fitzpatrick played his team out of the playoffs with an abysmal close to the 2015 season, laying a massive egg against the Buffalo Bills with a golden opportunity staring him in the face.
The Jets were left wondering what to do about the quarterback position yet again, and not just because Fitzpatrick's success was a bit of a mirage.
Sure, the 33-year-old set career highs in passing yards and touchdowns, but he dipped below a 60 percent completion rate and 7.0 yards per attempt. Worse, Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 27th-best player among qualifying quarterbacks.
Still, Harvard's most famous NFL alumnus this side of Matt Birk is the best New York has had in a long while. The Jets aren't likely to find an immediate replacement in the draft, so Fitzpatrick will probably stick around for another couple of years.
That, and the fact Fitzpatrick has muddled his way through five other NFL teams already.
Signs with...New York Jets
3. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos
Possible Suitors: Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington
We caught an extended preview of life without Peyton Manning this season. Reviews were mixed.
Brock Osweiler was actually more productive—and less damaging—than the future Hall of Famer. Osweiler, 25, had a higher completion percentage, more yards per attempt, more yards per game and a higher touchdown rate while posting a far-lower interception rate.
In fairness, Manning was playing hurt before giving way to his would-be heir for a few weeks. But Osweiler's performance was an encouraging sight for the Broncos.
The bad news? Osweiler is a free agent. The good news is, however, that the Broncos won't likely be on the hook for $19 million currently owed to Manning.
Whether he retires or Denver cuts him before the new league year, Manning is probably a goner. That frees up a ton of cap space to retain Osweiler, among other important players.
Signs with...Denver Broncos
2. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
Possible Suitors: San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns
Once upon a time, an oft-injured, disappointing former first-overall draft pick was offered a $72 million extension. He turned it down. Laughter ensued.
Actually, that may not be true.
"That offer must have gotten lost in the mail," Bradford said, according to Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I never saw that one."
Whatever the case may be, Sam Bradford turned in a tepid season that helped get head coach Chip Kelly—the architect of his move to Philadelphia—fired.
Granted, Bradford was just as doomed in Philadelphia as he was in St. Louis. His team fell apart around him in open revolt against the headmaster, so we should take his statistics with a grain of salt.
He was 12th in PFF ratings this season—not bad considering he missed a couple of games—but just 24th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA), according to Football Outsiders. Instead of taking off in Kelly's vaunted offense, Bradford had trouble getting off the ground yet again.
Adding in his injury history, it's tough to see any team throwing a ton of money at the 28-year-old. But he will have options and suitors, not least of which will be his current team.
San Francisco will be a popular predicted landing spot for Bradford, as he'd be following the guy who traded for him out west. But that seems too easy, and the 49ers already have Colin Kaepernick, though replacing the latter won't be too difficult.
How about landing on a playoff team with a star receiver, an established head coach and a good defense? The Houston Texans make a ton of sense.
Signs with...Houston Texans
1. Kirk Cousins, Washington
Possible Suitor: Washington
You know what enjoyed Kirk Cousins' ride into the playoffs the most? His bank account.
Cousins played well enough last season to wrest the starting gig away from Robert Griffin III. A few big games and a viral tagline later, the fourth-year quarterback made that change permanent. He also made himself a lot of money.
Nobody is going to confuse Cousins for Aaron Rodgers, despite both having statistically similar seasons and an overplayed catchphrase. The 27-year-old is, at best, a mid-level quarterback in the NFL who can take advantage of a good situation.
Washington plays in the NFC East, pretty much the ideal situation for any team in the NFL last season. What will happen when the schedule isn't so easy?
That's the big question that will haunt Cousins in free agency, even if he is destined to re-sign with Washington before he can hit the open market.