Good quarterbacks rarely hit free agency in their prime.
Look at the history. The available quarterbacks through the years are usually well past their prime, hopelessly flawed, coming off a major injury, or Kirk Cousins. This offseason seems different.
While the quarterback carousel could end up disappointing as teams settle for the status quo, the possibilities seem endless now. Including a potential move for one of the greatest players in NFL history.
Here are the top 10 quarterbacks who could be available when free agency starts on March 18:
Bonus: Dak Prescott and Drew Brees
Technically, Prescott and Brees are set to hit free agency. But Prescott will get the franchise tag from the Cowboys if a long-term contract can’t be reached, and there is no indication Brees will entertain leaving New Orleans. Things can change, but at this moment let’s not count them on the “available” list.
10. Matt Moore, Kansas City Chiefs
You’re not getting a starter this deep down the list. But a veteran backup? Moore fits. The Chiefs might not have won a Super Bowl without Moore filling in well for injured Patrick Mahomes, helping them win some games and playing a role in K.C. getting a first-round playoff bye. He’s 35 but fills his role well.
9. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
In 2017, Keenum had a tremendous year for the Minnesota Vikings. He’s unlikely to recapture that magic, and will likely be on his fifth team in five years, but he’s a good backup for most teams. He’s a reliable veteran and has played at a high level. He might not be a great starter, but he’s going to collect many more NFL paychecks.
8. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
It’s hard to rank Hill. To think that he could be a traditional quarterback is a huge leap of faith. He has 13 career pass attempts. He has done OK in the preseason (99.8 passer rating on 59 attempts last preseason), but what does that mean? Hill is valuable, at least how the Saints have used him. He can make a big impact on special teams, running the ball, catching it and throwing on occasion. What’s that worth? Hill is one of the more unique free agent cases we’ve seen.
7. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota’s stock has tanked. Maybe that means a buying opportunity for a team that feels it can turn around the former Heisman winner and No. 2 overall pick. Mariota played well his first two seasons, but injuries have taken a toll. He seems in desperate need of a change of scenery to bring out the skills we have seen before.
6. Andy Dalton (in a trade), Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton is not technically a free agent, but he’s close enough that we can include him on the list. The Bengals are going to draft a new starter and Dalton can come at a reasonable price in a trade. He’s likely to be moving somewhere this offseason. He might not be the most exciting option, but he’s a three-time Pro Bowler with 133 career starts and he’s only 32. He would cost a draft pick in a trade, but he’s a worthwhile starter for a team in need.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints
At some point you’d think Bridgewater won’t want to wait around for Drew Brees to retire. He’s doing just fine as the Saints backup, but he could start somewhere if he wanted to. Bridgewater was efficient and effective in his five starts with Brees injured last season, and the Saints went 5-0 in that stretch. At age 27, there are still plenty of prime years left in the former first-round pick.
4. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Imagine a No. 1 overall pick coming off a 5,000-yard, 33-touchdown season hitting the open market, and having this many question marks. A 30-interception season will do that. We all know who Winston is by now: capable of making fantastic plays, but also incapable of eliminating the mistakes that have driven the Bucs crazy.
3. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
A year ago, the Dolphins took on $18 million in dead salary-cap space to dump Tannehill. Then Tannehill had an amazing season. His 117.5 passer rating last season is the fourth-best in NFL history. Was it a fluke? Tannehill will be 32 next season, which isn’t young but certainly isn’t over the hill either. If someone wants to bet that Tannehill needed to escape the coaching of Adam Gase to flourish, maybe they hit on a franchise quarterback for the next few years.
2. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
There’s no mystery with Rivers. The Chargers announced a split with their longtime quarterback long before free agency started. Rivers showed signs of slipping, posting his second-lowest passer rating since 2007, and there’s risk in acquiring a 38-year-old quarterback. But a team will believe it can squeeze another quality year or two out of the borderline Hall of Famer.
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Just seeing the name on this list is hard to fathom. Brady is synonymous with the Patriots, as closely associated with a franchise as any player has been. And all of a sudden we might see Brady start over in a Chargers or Titans uniform? Strange times. While we can have a long debate about whether it’s smart for a team to invest in a 43-year-old quarterback, even the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Brady hitting free agency is potentially historic.
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