NFL Free Agency Speculation: 7 Quarterbacks Who Will Open 2011 on the Bench

Barrett HansenAnalyst IIJune 13, 2011

NFL Free Agency Speculation: 7 Quarterbacks Who Will Open 2011 on the Bench

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to throw the ball during pregame before taking on the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Most free agent NFL quarterbacks, even experienced ones like long-time Seattle Seahawk Matt Hasselbeck, will find themselves on the bench for the 2011 season opener.

    The lack of offseason has forced NFL players to organize their own workouts. Players currently without a team could find themselves a step behind if they end up getting signed, as they will be even less familiar than normal with the playbook and players on their new team.

    That doesn't mean they won't get signed, and definitely doesn't mean they won't be valuable to the team that does sign them.

    Here are seven quarterbacks who might not have what it takes to start in 2011, but will be signed as a backup by an NFL team.

Matt Moore

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 24:  Matt Moore #3 of the Carolina Panthers against the San Francisco 49ers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Matt Moore did a complete 180 between 2009 and 2010 for the Carolina Panthers.

    He was supposed to be a careful, mistake-free game manager, but instead rivaled Brett Favre as the NFL's worst decision-making quarterback.

    Luckily, he kept his antics on the field.

    In 2009 Moore posted a 61.6 completion percentage with eight touchdowns to just two picks for a superb 98.5 rating.

    Just a year later the very same Moore completed only 55.1 percent of passes for five touchdowns and ten interceptions for a horrific 55.6 rating.

    Maybe the Panthers were so bad last year that no quarterback had a real chance to succeed. Teammate Jimmy Clausen somehow completed fewer passes (52.5 percent) and got a nearly as poor QB rating (58.4).

    At least one team will be willing to give Moore a free pass for a truly atrocious 2010 season and give him a job as a backup, a role he has shown he can play well. 

Seneca Wallace

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    CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Seneca Wallace #6 of the Cleveland Browns looks for a receiver against the Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

    Seneca Wallace has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL over the past five years. 

    He started eight times for the Seattle Seahawks in 2008, the most he's ever had in a season, and logged 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions for an 87.0 rating. 

    His 1,532 yards stretched over a full 16-game season would have eclipsed 3,000 yards.

    Wallace recorded a 63.4 completion percentage and 88.5 passer rating in four starts for the Browns last year. Though his numbers were solid, the team only went 1-3.

    He injured his ankle in Week 5 against the Falcons, and didn't get another start all year.

    Wallace might not want a return to Cleveland, but will likely find a suitor interested in a backup with strong starter potential. 

Matt Leinart

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 14:  Matt Leinart #9 of the Houston Texans looks on before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 14, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Matt Leinart will likely not be back in Houston for the 2011 season.

    After being unceremoniously cut by Arizona last summer, the former first-round pick was picked up by the Houston Texans, but didn't throw a regular season pass.

    A Trojan reunion in Seattle could be in the cards for Matt Leinart, who has a mediocre 70.8 passer rating in 17 career starts.

    Even if Leinart does get signed by Seattle, the Hawks won't be placing their eggs all in his basket right off the bat. Charlie "Clipboard Jesus" Whitehurst would most likely get the first crack as the starter as the player most familiar with the playbook.

    Should Whitehurst falter, Carroll might feel no qualms about switching to his Heisman winning backup. 

Vince Young

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 21:  Lorenzo Alexander #97 of the Washington Redskins forces a fumble by quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field on November 21, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Grant Halverso
    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Vince Young is another former first-round quarterback that has fallen quite far since the 2006 Texas-USC Rose Bowl showdown.

    Inconsistent play and off-the-field issues have netted Young a chance to test the market this offseason.

    Because of his versatility and ability to win games, Young stands a strong chance of being signed by a team that thinks he can resurrect his career a la Michael Vick.

    But like Vick, Young will certainly not be given the reigns out of the gate, and will have to earn a starting job from the bench.

Marc Bulger

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    BALTIMORE - AUGUST 28:  Marc Bulger #9 of the Baltimore Ravens passes against the New York Giants in a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 28, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Giants 24-10. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
    Larry French/Getty Images

    Marc Bulger experienced a significant drop-off in productivity following his 2006 Pro Bowl season.

    In his first five years in the league, Bulger ranked amongst the NFL's elite. His passer rating consistently broke 90 and reached as high as 101.5. His completion percentage ranged in the low-to-mind 60s, and he always threw at least as many touchdowns as interceptions.

    From 2007 to 2009 Bulger didn't eve record a rating above 71.4 or completion percentage above 58.5. He threw more interceptions than touchdowns in each of those three years.

    After being cut by the Rams after the 2009 season, he was signed by Baltimore. He didn't take a snap all season.

    As a veteran, Bulger has a leg up on younger free agent quarterbacks who don't have his track record of NFL success. NFL teams are likely to choose an experienced signal caller who would likely pick up a new playbook with relative ease.

    Bulger could also be useful in the mentor role for a team with a young quarterback.

    Very few teams will want to give a 34 year old free agent a starting job. But he will find a roster spot, and could see some action if on a team with a struggling young quarterback.

Bruce Gradkowski

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Bruce Gradkowski #5 of the Oakland Raiders in action against the Miami Dolphins at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Bruce Gradkowski is one of the league's most inconsistent quarterbacks.

    After having been cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams and Cleveland Browns all in the span of just nine months, Gradkowski signed with the Oakland Raiders in February 2009.

    The Raiders scooped him up the day after he was waived by Cleveland.

    Gradkowski got his first start in late November to replace the ineffective Jamarcus Russel. He immeditaely led the Oakland Raiders to two huge upsets over the Pittsburgh Stealers and Cincinnati Bengals (who were good that year).

    Against Pittsburgh, Gradkowski threw three come-from-behind touchdowns for an eventual 27-24 score. His most impressive feat was an 88 yard drive with under two minutes and no timeouts that sealed the victory.

    Unfortunately he tore his MCL in both knees shortly thereafter and missed the rest of the season.

    In 2010, for a much improved Raiders team, Gradkowski only managed a 52.9 completion percentage and 66.3 rating in four starts, over which Oakland went 1-3.

    He was benched and will likely be cut in favor of Jason Campbell.

    Gradkowski presents the biggest risk/reward opportunity of the quarterbacks in this group. A team like Cleveland or Arizona that has some uncertainty at the QB position could be interested in taking a chance on him. 

Matt Hasselbeck

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts while taking on the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    The Seattle Seahawks could very plausibly cut ties with Matt Hasselbeck, their quarterback for the past decade.

    The wily Hasselbeck led Seattle to the NFC Divisional round after pulling off the upset of the year over the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round. 

    But the team did struggle to a 7-9 regular season record and only made the playoffs because of a fluky poor all around season for the NFC West.

    Coach Pete Carroll knows not to take too many positives from the up-and-down 2010 campaign, and will be looking to rebuild the team. 

    Seattle could decide to move in a new direction at quarterback after going just 12-23 in Matt Hasselbeck starts since 2007.

    Hasselbeck, 35, is definitely in the twilight of his career. Like Bulger, he could be very useful as a mentor and experienced backup for a team looking to make a run at the playoffs in 2011.