NFL Free Agency 100: Top 5 Free Agent Quarterbacks
In the NFL media world, we like to rank things. You'll see plenty of rankings this offseason talking about the best job openings, the best draft prospects and the best free agents available. But how many of these lists break down why a player is ranked at his respective spot in the order?
This list does that.
Everyone wants to know who the best available free agents are this offseason, and we'll tackle that, but we're also looking at what makes the best players so valuable in the same way an NFL front office evaluates available free agents. By scouting each player and assigning a number grade to him, we're able to objectively look at players' value and upside as they hit the market.
And thus, the NFL Free Agency 100 is born.
In this series, we'll look at the best available quarterbacks, ranking their Production (30 possible points), Durability (10 points), Intangibles (15 points), Upside (20 points) and Value (25 points) for a possible 100 overall points.
Production: Not just stats, but is the player able to produce if given starting reps? This area looks at on-field ability and success.
Durability: NFL teams won't spend big money on a player who can't stay healthy. Durability addresses existing injury concerns.
Intangibles: The "it" factor, intangibles looks at a player's presence in the locker room, with the media, in the huddle and how he'll impact the team's chemistry and dynamics.
Upside: What does the player have left in the tank? Can he improve with better coaching, better talent around him or a new scheme?
Value: Are we talking about a starter, a backup or a potential sleeper? Here is where the player's value on the open market is weighed.
Michael Vick, New York Jets
At 34 years old during the 2014 season, we saw a slower Michael Vick who is still injury-prone and no longer able to overcome his passing inefficiencies with dazzling athleticism. He's a backup only at this stage.
Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck's backup doesn't see the field much, and at age 39, it's more likely Matt Hasselbeck will retire before he takes on any serious quarterback reps in 2015.
Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams
Shaun Hill has been a solid stopgap starter in his career, and it's possible the Rams try to keep him around in case Sam Bradford gets hurt (again). Hill is a good No. 2 but not a long-term solution at 35 years old.
Jason Campbell, Cincinnati Bengals
Jason Campbell may intrigue some team as a one-year option for a starting job, but he's shown his goods as an NFL quarterback. It's hard to think he's one of the 32 best in the game anymore.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings
A one-time first-round pick, Christian Ponder has smarts and short-field accuracy, but injury history and a lack of arm strength keep him out of the top 100 free agents.
Colt McCoy, Washington
Colt McCoy played well enough in 2014 to warrant a new contract in Washington, but he was once again injured and still struggles with deeper passing. He's a solid backup but not a top-100 player.
Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks
Will his time in Seattle make Tarvaris Jackson more valuable on the open market? Maybe, but NFL teams shouldn't be fooled. He still lacks the accuracy needed to be even a short-term starter.
Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers
Matt Flynn has gone from backup to high-paid starter to backup again in the NFL. This time around on the free-agent market, teams know who and what he is—a good No. 2 in a West Coast system.
Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco 49ers
Another former first-rounder, Blaine Gabbert won't have much value on the market even as a reclamation project after his ugly showings in the 49ers' preseason games.
5. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins
Matt Moore has been a steady producer when given reps throughout his career and offers a good projection as a spot starter or short-term option while a team grooms a young quarterback. Moore could realistically be a one- or two-year starter.
Moore comes into 2015 with a clean bill of health and a history as a dependable, injury-free player when given max reps. He isn’t an injury concern.
Moore is the type of player you want in the locker room with a young quarterback. He’s proved to be a hard worker but also a capable teacher and mentor for Ryan Tannehill in Miami.
At 30 years old (31 when the season starts), Moore still has productive years left ahead of him. He may not project as a player capable of becoming a top-15 quarterback, but he can provide a steady hand with solid numbers in a scheme that allows him to work short to intermediate targets.
Moore is one of the safer bets at quarterback this offseason. He may not be flashy or offer much upside, but he’s consistent and has the experience and knowledge to lead an offense.
4. Ryan Mallett, Houston Texans
Ryan Mallett has all the physical tools to be a starting NFL quarterback in a downfield passing game, but he lacks experience on the field and the production to back up his potential. Throughout his time in New England as Tom Brady’s backup, and before his injury in 2014 with Houston, Mallett served in No. 2 quarterback roles and hasn’t been truly tested and tried as a starter.
His 2014 season ended with a pectoral injury, but before that, he was healthy. That may be due to limited hits as a backup, but Mallett has a clean bill of health entering 2015.
The Bill Belichick factor comes into play here. The NFL tends to think anyone working around Belichick will bring some of his knowledge to a team, and that definitely adds to Mallett’s potential.
There is more of an unknown factor with Mallett than with the other free-agent quarterbacks, as he’s not seen the field as much, but that works both for and against him. There is a chance he could be a starter, but he’s a scheme-specific player due to his limitations moving in the pocket. He’s a solid No. 2 quarterback with the upside to compete for a starting job if given reps.
The smart-money move with Mallett is signing him as a No. 2 quarterback and letting him compete for the starting job. That said, he needs reps before anyone can tell what type of quarterback he’ll be. In New England and in Houston, he was never truly given starter reps or able to showcase his skills over a stretch of games. If there is a sleeper quarterback in this group, it’s Mallett.
3. Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker’s production has been limited by injuries, but when healthy, he’s struggled with accuracy. He does offer exceptional athleticism for the position and is still a very raw, workable quarterback. However, expecting his accuracy to improve is a stretch outside of what can be gained from a scheme change.
Locker’s career has been plagued by injury, and he cannot be counted on to start 16 games.
He has the intangibles to be a strong locker room presence and is a mature, steady veteran. He brings no character concerns to the table.
New coaching and a more passer-friendly scheme could result in better production from Locker, but it’s unlikely he’ll see his accuracy or tools truly improve or change. He is who he is.
As a spot starter or short-term option, Locker offers some value. He’s not a long-term fix at quarterback or a franchise signal-caller, but the former first-round pick has talent and intrigue—especially in an offense that lets him use his legs.
2. Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns
Brian Hoyer’s journey to be an NFL starter has been a long one, and in 2014, he finally got the nod as a team’s No. 1 quarterback. The Cleveland Browns' lack of weapons on offense limited his impact, but Hoyer started the season very well before fading. He’s capable of producing game manager-level numbers in the Cleveland offense and could conceivably produce better stats with more talent around him.
Hoyer was relatively healthy in 2014, but he did suffer an ACL injury in 2013. He enters 2015 with no lingering injury concerns.
Hoyer is a solid leader and a battle-tested veteran quarterback who has worked his way through multiple systems in his NFL career. He wasn’t much of a mentor to Johnny Manziel while trying to win the starting job in Cleveland, but his ability to study and prepare for an opponent is worth noting.
Hoyer offers limited skill upside, as he’s already established what type of quarterback he is. The upside comes in that he was in a smart offensive system but was surrounded by poor talent in 2014.
Hoyer showed in 2014 that he can start in the NFL, and he did so on an offense without much talent at wide receiver and with a very young running back corps. He’s not a top-15 quarterback but is a capable short-term starting option.
1. Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles
Playing in Chip Kelly’s offense allowed Mark Sanchez to show that he can produce at a high enough level to be a challenger as a starter. He does have a habit of being a high-turnover quarterback, and that continued in Philadelphia, but he takes chances down the field and enables his targets to pick up yards after the catch. It’s worth noting that he completed a career-best 64.1 percent of his passes in 2014 (second-highest mark was 56.7 percent in 2011).
Sanchez started 62 games in four seasons with the New York Jets and another eight after taking over for Nick Foles. He has no injury concerns that will affect his signing.
Sanchez was thrown into a tough situation early in his career as a rookie starter in New York. He’s not shown himself to be a problem off the field. There are no concerns here.
Sanchez played his best football in 2014, but is that a result of his play and maturity as a passer or the system? The evidence points more to the system being quarterback-friendly and is a reason to hesitate on investing in Sanchez as a starter.
Sanchez is a midlevel quarterback with starting ability but limited upside. He projects best as a short-term starter for a team looking to draft or develop a young quarterback behind him.