NFL Free Agency: Top 10 Quarterbacks Available

Dan MoriCorrespondent IJuly 18, 2011

NFL Free Agency: Top 10 Quarterbacks Available

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    The NFL lockout has blocked all free agent signings.  The labor dispute is nearing a resolution and there will be a fast and furious whirlwind of activity to sign the top free agents on the market.

    Many teams are looking for potential starters and others are in need of a quality back up signal caller.  This report will examine the top ten free agent quarterbacks available.

    Future Hall of Fame member Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts is by far the top free agent quarterback, but since he will undoubtedly rejoin the Colts, there is nothing to analyze here.  For this reason, I am leaving him off the top ten list.

    Also omitted is Brett Favre.  It can only be hoped that he will stay retired once and for all.  The media hoopla and speculation is far too much for any sane fan to go through yet again.

    I do not see Favre signing with anyone prior to the season, but if a team in the playoff hunt has a rash of injuries at the quarterback position during the course of the season, who knows.  Favre may get the itch to play again and some GM may be desperate enough to take a chance on him.

    So, after the omissions of Manning and Favre, let's take a look at our top ten.

10) Bruce Gradkowski

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    Bruce Gradkowski has toiled in relative obscurity in Oakland.  He reminds me of Jeff Garcia in that he does not have a great arm, but has good mobility and can get the job done if given the opportunity.

    Garcia had the good fortune of playing for the San Francisco 49ers when they were good and also a very solid Philadelphia Eagles team.  Gradkowski, on the other hand has played with a poor team with questionable coaching and under the watchful gaze of Al Davis.  

    Gradkoski has played five unspectacular years in Oakland, but he has shown promise at times.  His 53.2 completion rate is low, but then again, he has not been blessed with a good group of receivers or a strong pass blocking offensive line. 

    Gradkowski has thrown 20 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions.  This, again, is not a good rate, but he has kept the Raiders competitive and won games for them. 

    I would rate Gradkowski as a very capable backup and any team in need of a competent number two man should consider him.

9) Billy Volek

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    Billy Volek has played eight seasons in the NFL, four with the Tennessee Titans and four with the San Diego Chargers.  I have always thought Volek was a very capable quarterback.

    In his eight years, Volek has completed 337 out of 561 attempts, a percentage of 60.1.  This is a very good showing for a backup who started only when a number one quarterback was injured.

    Volek has thrown 27 touchdowns compared to only 15 interceptions.  Again, this is an excellent ratio for a backup. 

    At 35 years of age, it's unlikely Volek will be a top starter to begin 2011, however he is one of the most qualified backups in the league.  Most teams need a strong second string quarterback and Volek would be an excellent fit.

    If you have Volek and your number one man gets hurt, you still have confidence that your team can have success.  An experienced and capable backup like Volek can still win games for you.


8) Mark Bulger

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    Marc Bulger has proved himself as a quality NFL signal caller.  He has a good arm and he is very accurate.  Bulger is also a good leader and has started a total of 95 games in the NFL.

    Bulger joined the NFL in 2002 and played eight seasons with the St. Louis Rams.  He has completed 1,969 out of 3,171 pass attempts, a 62.1 completion percentage.

    Bulger has thrown 122 touchdowns against 93 interceptions.  He did not play in 2010, so he is probably healthier than he's been in years.

    The main drawbacks with Bulger are he lacks mobility and he has shown a propensity for injury. Any team signing Bulger should have a strong offensive line that can protect him.  It will be a risk, but if healthy, he can still produce.


7) Matt Moore

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    When the 2011 season gets underway, Matt Moore will be 27 years old and the time is now for him to take a positive step forward.  Moore had a very promising start to his career and I thought he was ready to emerge as a very solid NFL quarterback.

    In his first two seasons, 2007 and 2009, (he did not play in 2008 due to injury). Moore completed 59.4% of his passes and had 11 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  Moore led Carolina to a 6-2 record in games he started.

    2010 was a year of regression for Moore.  The Panthers were not very good and they were 1-4 in games he started.  His completion rate fell to 55.2% and he threw twice as many interceptions with 10, as touchdowns, only 5.

    The Carolina Panthers won only two games in 2010 and made Cam Newton the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. Newton is the quarterback of the future in Carolina and they did not draft him to sit around for long.

    This means Moore will be relegated to the bench soon enough, if he stays in Carolina.  It makes sense for Moore to move on and try to earn a starting job with another team.  He has had success in the past and I think he can have success again.


6) Trent Edwards

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    Veteran Trent Edwards will bring a lot of good qualities to ant team that has him.  He will be 28 years old in October, but has a maturity that goes well beyond his years.

    Edwards, a product of Stanford University, is a very intelligent quarterback and a student of the game.  He is also young enough that his skill level is still high.  The one thing that has dogged Edwards throughout his career is injuries.

    Over the past four seasons, Edwards has started 33 games, with a record of 14-19.  While that may not seem very good, you must keep in mind that he played all but one of those games with Buffalo, which has been a struggling team for several years.

    Edwards has a career passing percentage of 60.5 with 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. 

    The team that signs Edwards will have a reliable quarterback that can either start or come in and win games as a backup.  Edwards can also be a big asset as a mentor to a young quarterback.



5) Alex Smith

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    At the end of the 2010 season, nobody expected Alex Smith to stay with the 49ers, including Smith himself.  The fans were ready to run him out of town and team ownership was on record stating that it was time to move in a different direction.

    The 49ers then hired Jim Harbaugh as their head coach and then the lockout hit.  This meant that all free agent signings were halted.  Harbaugh watched a lot of film on Smith and had many discussions with him, prior to the lockout.

    The two formed a bond and amazingly, Smith is fully expected to sign with the 49ers, once the lockout is lifted.  Harbaugh, who can be described as a quarterback whisperer, feels that Smith can be a very good NFL quarterback and believes that he can teach him how to be a productive quarterback.

    Far be it from me to dispute Jim Harbaugh and time will certainly tell if he's right.  The 49ers did trade up in round two of the recent draft to select quarterback Colin Kaepernick.  Although Kaepernick is the quarterback of the future for the 49ers, it appears that Smith will be the quarterback of the present.

    This is Smith's best chance at success in San Francisco, as he finally has a head coach who understands offensive football.  I believe Smith, under Harbaugh's tutelage and running the west coast offense, will see significant improvement in 2011. 

    If the improvement we see in Smith results in a playoff berth for San Francisco, the boo birds we hear at Candlestick Park will turn into cheers.

4) Seneca Wallace

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    In his six year NFL career, Seneca Wallace has shown flashes of brilliance.  He has also had some very poor moments, but the talent for success is definitely there.

    Wallace is a strong armed quarterback with a lot of athletic talent.  He needs to improve his consistency and avoid costly mistakes in order to take the next step to becoming a star quarterback.  The talent is there, as confirmed by his 29 career touchdown passes against only 16 interceptions.

    Wallace has completed 60.4% of his passes, a decent number considering his sporadic play.  He will be 31 years of age when the 2011 season begins and he has labored on the fringes of a first team NFL job. 

    Wallace had a chance to lead the Seattle Seahawks when Matt Hasselbeck was either injured or ineffective, but he failed to step forward and distinguish himself.  Time is beginning to run short for Wallace, if he ever is to achieve success as a starter in the league.


3) Tarvaris Jackson

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    Tarvaris Jackson will be entering his sixth year in the NFL, after playing his previous five with the Minnesota Vikings.  Jackson was relegated to a backup role when the Vikings signed Brett Favre in 2009.

    In his first three years in the NFL, Jackson started 19 games and had a record of 10-9.  In the most recent two years, with Favre at the helm, Jackson started only one game.

    Jackson's career numbers in Minnesota include a 58.7 completion percentage and a 10-10 record as a starter.  He has thrown 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions.

    With Favre gone, the Vikings need a quarterback and Jackson has a long history with them. However, there is speculation that Jackson will not return.  The veteran Jackson would make good potential starter, as well as an excellent backup


2) Matt Hasselbeck

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    Matt Hasselbeck is a 12 year veteran of the NFL.  He began his career in Green Bay, then spent the past ten seasons in Seattle. 

    There was a lot of speculation that Hasselbeck would be moving on from Seattle, however the lockout appears to have ensured his return to the Seahawks for at least one more year.

    At 36 years of age, Hasselbeck is still a very good quarterback.  He has a lifetime record of 69-62 as a starter and has thrown for nearly 30,000 yards.  His career completion percentage is 60.1 and he has thrown 176 touchdowns and 128 interceptions.

    At this stage of his career, Hasselbeck lacks mobility and any team he plays for better have a strong offensive line.  If Hasselbeck has protection, he can still throw the ball well and get the job done.

1) Michael Vick

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    Michael Vick is the top free agent quarterback on the market.  He completed a strong campaign in 2010, which saw him start 11 games, winning eight of them.

    The 31 year old Vick has excellent mobility and has improved his passing. He completed 62.6% of his passes last year, compared to a career mark of 55.3%.

    After spending his first six years with Atlanta, Vick sat out the 2007 and 2008 seasons in prison, due to his dog fighting conviction, Vick returned to the NFL with the Philadelphia, and played the past two years with the Eagles.

    Since his return, Vick has displayed new found maturity and leadership at the quarterback position.  He no longer takes off and runs whenever he's under pressure. He is content to move around the pocket or break containment and try to find open receivers down the field.

    When the situation warrants, Vick is still an excellent runner and can wreak havoc on an opposing defense.  In 2010, he rushed for 676 yards and 9 touchdowns.

    Michael Vick has improved as a quarterback and is looking for a big money pay day from the Eagles. It remains to be seen if the Eagles will give him what he wants, but the likelihood is that he will remain in Philadelphia. 


Let the Games Begin

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    It appears as though the labor dispute is nearing a resolution and once that happens, teams can begin signing free agents.  In addition to the ten quarterbacks listed in the report, there are several other quarterbacks that need to find a home.

    Other current free agents that have seen time under center include Caleb Hanie, Brodie Croyle, Kerry Collins, Chad Pennington, Rex Grossman, Troy Smith and Todd Collins. There will be a frenzy of activity once the free agent signing period begins.  Let's hope it happens soon.