Best landing spots for top free-agent QBs
Even though Sam Bradford and Kirk Cousins have already re-signed before free agency, there are still plenty of teams in need of a quarterback. With reports today of Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets being far apart on a contract, and the report of Robert Griffin III’s release, there will likely be at least some quarterback movement this offseason. Here’s how the rest of the QB-musical-chairs could play out:
Los Angeles Rams: Brock Osweiler (71.3 overall 2015 grade)
With Peyton Manning retiring, there is no question that the Broncos would like Osweiler back. He hasn’t re-signed with Denver yet since there are plenty of quarterback-needy teams who would be willing to pay him. Of the non-rookies, Osweiler had the best 2015 season, and has the most potential to be a quarterback of the future. Among the teams that don’t have a high enough draft pick to draft a first round quarterback, the Rams have the most salary cap space. If teams like the Broncos, Rams, and Texans get into a bidding war, Los Angeles has the best odds of outbidding the competition.
Where Osweiler would improve the Rams the most is in their short-passing game. Osweiler had an accuracy percentage of 84.7 percent on passes between 1–10 yards in the air, which was fifth-best among quarterback with at least 50 of those attempts. On the other hand, Nick Foles was fourth-worst at 73.1 percent, and Case Keenum was fifth-worst at 73.3 percent.
Houston Texans: Ryan Fitzpatrick (59.6)
While the Jets would like to have Fizpatrick back, recent reports say they are far apart on a deal. The Texans have a lot more cap space to spend on a quarterback than the Jets do, and can afford Fitzpatrick’s contract demands. If Houston can’t win the bidding war for Osweiler, then a reunion with Fitzpatrick would be helpful for both the Texans and their former QB.
For the Texans, Fitzpatrick in 2014 was much better than Hoyer in 2015. When the quarterbacks were not under pressure, Fitzpatrick was completing 70.1 percent of his passes, compared to just 64.2 percent for Hoyer. Fitzpatrick had a better touchdown-to-interception ratio without pressure, as well, at 13-to-3 compared to 15-to-6. Already having a connection with DeAndre Hopkins gives him an edge over other quarterbacks that could be had by trade or free agency. Fitzpatrick has 995 yards and six touchdowns when throwing to Hopkins, which is better than any quarterback in Hopkins career.
New York Jets: Colin Kaepernick (48.6)
While Kaepernick isn’t currently a free agent, he has said his preferred destination would be to play with the Jets—a franchise in need of a QB if Fitzpatrick signs elsewhere. While there is no guarantee that Kaepernick can turn his career around, the Jets could give him more of an opportunity than most teams. The 49ers would need to be willing to trade Kaepernick, but if San Francisco can bring in another quarterback, then they would no longer need the former Nevada standout.
Where the Jets could really use him is his deep passing. In 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw the ball deep 86 times, tied for the second-most among quarterbacks. Only 31.4 percent of his deep passes were accurate, which was the fourth-lowest accuracy percentage among starters. Since 2012, Colin Kaepernick has been accurate on 43.1 percent of his deep passes, which is the sixth-best rate amongst quarterbacks over that timespan. The Jets could have one of the worst offensive lines in the league in 2016, and Kaepernick’s running ability would be an asset as well.
Denver Broncos: Robert Griffin III
With Peyton Manning retiring, if they can’t bring back Brock Osweiler, they will need to hit the panic button at quarterback. While they would likely spend a draft pick at some point at quarterback, they would also need to bring in a veteran to compete. The player who has shown the most promise, at least at one point in his career, is Griffin.
As recently as 2014, Griffin looked good as long as there was no pressure on him. He completed 79.4 percent of his passes without pressure, and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt. What made Griffin look worse in 2013 and 2014 compared to his rookie season is his play under pressure. He had an NFL passer rating of 53.0 under pressure in 2014, compared to 87.7 in 2012. He also takes too many sacks. As recently as 2014, the Broncos had the best offensive line in pass-blocking efficiency, at 86.2. That number was lower in 2015, but they were without left tackle Ryan Clady, who will be returning from injury, and second-round tackle Ty Sambrailo. Having the best receiving options of his career, as well as a decent offensive line, might be all Robert Griffin III needs to resurrect his career.