Ranking the Free Agents: Quarterbacks

| February 23, 2011

We all know the quarterback spot it the most important on the field. It’s why they have more column inches devoted to them than any other position, and why the blue-chippers get $30 million guaranteed without even taking a snap. So when you’re lacking that department you’re in trouble, and need to find a solution as soon as possible — but candidates are few and far between.

To the surprise of precisely no one, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick received the exclusive franchise tags and are both off the market, leaving a quarterback class isn’t exactly anything you’d feel could turn a franchise around.

But there are guys on the free-agent market (click here for the complete list) who have done a job, and could do a job. And so, as it is our sworn duty to do so, we’re going to rank them.

1. Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks

Age as of September 1st 2011: 36

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

Key Stat: Completed 60.2% of passes when blitzed.

Behind The Numbers: It was far from a vintage year from Hasselbeck, and if it wasn’t for that game against the Saints we’d probably be writing him off. As it is, if he can survive a face smashing from Antonio Cromartie, Hasselbeck is the best of a bad bunch. 2010 saw his decision making become more erratic, but how much of that was down to a Seahawk team making wholesale changes?

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2. Seneca Wallace, Cleveland Browns

Age as of September 1st 2011: 31

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

Key Stat: Threw only one interception on 110 dropbacks.

Behind The Numbers: Stuck behind Hasselbeck as a Seahawk, he’s now stuck behind him on this list. Wallace has never really gotten a fair shake of things but has done an underrated job whenever he got the nod. Take 2008 for example. After struggling in his first start, Seneca put eight solid performances together. His athleticism and ability to look after the ball (just three interceptions) warrant given him a chance to compete for a starting spot. Cleveland looked an ideal situation for him, but being sandwiched in between the big-money veteran (Jake Delhomme) and upstart rookie (Colt McCoy) limited his opportunities again.

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3. Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland Raiders

Age as of September 1st 2011: 28

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

Key Stat: Four of his seven interceptions came when he threw the ball more than 20 yards.

Behind The Numbers: At the end of 2009, Gradkowski had earned himself a chance to compete for a starting spot. His leading of the team to victory in Pittsburgh in Week 13 was enough alone to warrant that. And after his week two performance against the Rams this year you figured it was a strong possibility. But he never built on it, and his last performance of the year against Miami (-3.4) suggested pretty strongly that Gradkowski is best suited for a backup role and nothing more. That said, he’s proven to be one of the best backups in the league over the past three years, and a contender would be well-served to try and get him in the fold.

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4. Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota Vikings

Age as of September 1st 2011: 28

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

Key Stat: In 2008 completed just 46.3% of passes when blitzed.

Behind The Numbers: A tremendous athlete, Jackson got his chance at stages throughout 2008. Outside of a terrible performance against the Eagles in the Wild Card game, Jackson was showing enough development to suggest he could be a player. But then the Brett Favre circus came into town and since then we’ve seen him on the field for just 221 snaps. So we don’t really know where Jackson is as a player right now. His development has been so stop start, and the commitment to him so inconsistent it’s a leap of faith to suggest he could go in and start. But he’s a low risk acquisition and worth putting into a camp battle.

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5. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins

Age as of September 1st 2011: 31

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

Key Stat: Threw away 12 balls in limited action as opposed to the seven Donovan McNabb did.

Behind The Numbers: Seems such a long time ago that Rex Grossman (and his many nicknames) stood as a favorite topic of many general NFL conversations. Then one breakdown in a QB/head coach relationship, and all of a sudden Rex was back in the spotlight when most fans weren’t even sure what team he was on. And he didn’t do too badly. Staying away from forcing throws and playing in a more conservative manner, Rex was more game manager than game winner, but you wonder if he can keep that discipline about his game over a whole season.

  • dpowers120

    Does Vince Young not qualify as a free agent yet?

    • Nathan Jahnke

      Nope, even though the Titans have stated Young will not be back on the team, he is still under contract and hasn’t been released.

  • UncleScurvy

    If Kyle Orton is released, does he leap to the top of the list? And where would McNabb stand?

    • Nathan Jahnke

      If Kyle Orton was released, I would put him at #1. However I believe he will stay in Denver. McNabb would probably be somewhere in the middle maybe. He really didn’t look good in Washington.

  • yaopau

    For the future position rankings, maybe list the guys by value instead of current ability? None of these guys listed are starting caliber QBs. Hasselbeck looked good against the Bears, but he’s 35 and has had a rating of about 70 over the past three years. Whatever flashes he showed were in a pan three years ago, heyo!

    There are some intriguing guys on the free agent list though: I’d put Alex Smith, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Leinart, Dennis Dixon, Drew Stanton, Caleb Hanie over anybody on this list for intrigue alone.

  • Nathan Jahnke

    While I could see an argument for Alex Smith and Tyler Thigpen, I can’t see one for the others. Matt Leinart has had a negative rating in 2008 and 2009(didn’t play in 2010). Dennis Dixon only has three starts in the past three years, and he had a negative rating in each. Drew Stanton has a negative rating over his games in the past two years. Caleb Hanie looked good in comparison to the other QB’s against the Packers, but still was only average in his time.

    While those players are younger than the players we listed have shown at some point recently that they are capable of being an alright starter. I don’t think any of them are long term solutions, but we haven’t seen anything to show that those younger guys have what it takes ether. Yes the sample sizes have been small, but the guys we listed at least in my opinion are safer bets.

    I also think at most of the other positions there will be less of an issue with this. At most positions, there are a number of players who are proven starters in the league. The quarterback class this year is just not very good.