Key stats for top free-agent quarterbacks still available

Sam Monson dives into the PFF data for a statistical look at Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, RG III, and more.

| 2 months ago
(Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

(Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)

Key stats for top free-agent quarterbacks still available

NFL free agency continues to bubble away in the background, but most signings of significance have now been made, and there is little more to happen as teams turn their attention towards the draft.

Quarterback, though, is a unique position in today’s NFL, and the rules are a little different. A passer that has ever shown an ounce of ability to start, play well and win games in the NFL will get an endless sequence of chances to rediscover that magic, because teams just can’t find reliable starters easy enough.

The list of NFL quarterbacks still on the open market would be cast aside if they were equivalent players at any other positions, but because they are QBs, most, if not all of the top eight or so remaining will find a new team for the upcoming season.

So, let’s take a look at their numbers:

Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler stats


  • Cutler has typically been quite accurate over his career, topping 70 percent in adjusted completion percentage eight times.
  • His touchdown percentage has also typically been high, but his interception rate can also rise to meet it.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick stats

  • The fall-off in 2016 of his numbers is evident, with drops across the board.
  • Fitzpatrick has been an incredibly aggressive QB with a very high touchdown rate in most seasons
  • His interception rate and play under pressure is typically the flip-side of that coin, and has been his career weakness.

Blaine Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert stats

  • Despite being a former first-round pick, there is little to like about Gabbert’s career numbers
  • His passer rating under pressure has been disastrous at times, with three years under 40.0.
  • Gabbert has never topped 3.5 percent in touchdown percentage in a season that consisted of more than eight dropbacks.

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick stats

  • Colin Kaepernick actually has the second-best career interception rate in NFL history.
  • His passer rating when kept clean in the pocket is usually excellent—above 90.0 in every season.
  • Kaepernick’s touchdown percentage has always been respectable—over 4 percent in four of five seasons with meaningful snaps.

Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III stats

  • RG III’s career year was his rookie season, and everything has been downhill from there.
  • 2014 showed parts of that excellent rookie season, but it was without the big plays, with a TD percentage more than 3 percent lower than his rookie season.
  • 2016 saw Griffin less efficient when kept clean in the pocket, with a passer rating of just 72.4 in a new offense.

Case Keenum

Case Keenum stats

  • Case Keenum has typically been good when kept clean, but a disaster when pressured, with a peak passer rating of 51.7 under duress.
  • He has been accurate, with his past three seasons topping 70 percent in adjusted completion percentage.

Matt McGloin

Matt McGloin stats

  • McGloin’s career is just 277 pass attempts old, or less then half an average total for the 2016 season.
  • He has a good touchdown rate, but has an interception rate to match it.

Chase Daniel

Chase Daniel stats

  • If McGloin is an unknown quantity, Daniel is even more so, with just 78 career passes to his name in regular-season action.
  • Daniel has been accurate, with 73.9 percent of his passes hitting their mark.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Dr__P

    even though Romo is not a FA YET, you might want to add his stats

    • crosseyedlemon

      I doubt the Cowboys will just cut Tony. They know at some point during the season some team is going to become thin at the QB position and come calling with a trade proposal.

  • Malachi

    surprised chase daniel has never gotten a chance anywhere, great college numbers and being coached up by andy reid is typically a very good thing for QBs. (at least in the short term, right mike vick & nick foles?)

    • crosseyedlemon

      Good point concerning coach Reid. He’s obviously happy with Alex Smith but I’ve always wondered what he could have done with Teddy Bridgewater had he got him right out of college.

  • crosseyedlemon

    It’s generally a safe bet that at least a few teams will be forced to go 3 deep on the QB depth chart at some point during the season. In those kinds of scenarios there’s even hope for someone like Geno Smith.

  • MosesZD

    It’s funny how you people ignore your own stats. Kaepernick holds the ball brutally long. Which means he rarely gets a ‘clean’ pocket. You don’t blame him, you blame the line. Which is, frankly, BS.

    2.8 seconds to pass, run or throw it away is the golden rule pushed by HOF coaches like Parcells, Walsh and Gibbs. And if the QB hasn’t made that decsion, the sack is (in great part) his fault.

    Yet your own stats show that Kaepernick holds the ball longer (relatively speaking) than most QBs. Which means, his ‘dirty pocket problems’ and ‘high sack rate problems’ are mostly on him because he’s so slow.

    Your own ‘signature stat’ article from 2013 shows this. Where you determine a 22.1% average sack rate on 3.6+ second drop backs. Yet:

    Kaepernick – 138 leading to 29 sacks (21%)
    P. Manning – 30 leading to 6 sacks (20%)
    Wilson – 164 leading to 32 sacks (20%)
    Newton – 134 leading to 35 sacks (27%)
    Luck = 126 leading to 21 sacks (17%)

    Manning’s like gets good grades by you people, yet his low sack rate is far more a product of Manning getting rid of the ball quickly than good blocking. Meanwhile you savage ‘high sack’ lines every year, yet they’re being savaged because they’re protecting QBs who hold the ball either in panic (Kaepernick) or trying to extend the play (Wilson, Newton).

    • PFFSamMonson

      If only we’d thought to factor that into how we grade. Oh wait, we have, and do.

      Manning’s lines have routinely NOT graded well, DESPITE his ability to get rid of the ball and mitigate pressure.

      Kaepernick used to hold the ball a very long time, but has sped that up almost each season of his career. Last season his timing numbers were basically the same as Kirk Cousins, despite having an objectively far worse line blockin for him.

      His sack rate has always been high, but this is not a direct relationship with time in the pocket. QBs that hold the ball can have a low sack rate, and those that get rid of it quickly can have a high one. That number is more to do with how QBs react when pressured, at which point the OL is typically already beat, and the only question is how bad the QB makes that look.

      Kaepernick may never make his line look better than it is by reducing the sack numbers they surrender, but it’s a tough sell to claim that he’s actually making them look worse with that sack rate, especially when you factor in the plays he turns good with scrambling.

      Also, the 49ers line remained terrible when Gabbert was back there, so that argument is probably DOA.

  • Frank Yi

    Does this mean that Keenum would be a serviceable player for a team with a solid o-line? It seems from, simply basing it off of this list and the data presented, that Cutler, Kaep, and maybe Keenum should be the top QBs pursued given the right fits. Maybe there could be some analysis about where would be the ideal fit (assuming uniform team needs, so maybe where could a player be a solid backup), and who should be the most interested teams?