Ranking the top 10 free agent quarterbacks

PFF Analyst and former NFL QB Zac Robinson runs down the list of 2017 free agent quarterbacks set to hit the market.

| 3 months ago
Mike Glennon

(Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Ranking the top 10 free agent quarterbacks

This offseason is set to be an intriguing one in terms of quarterback movement around the league. While most of the action looks like it could take place with trades or the draft, a few potential starters and some solid backup options lie behind Washington QB Kirk Cousins.

Here’s a look at the top 10 free agent quarterbacks currently set to hit the open market.

[Editor’s note: For players who took enough snaps to qualify for a position ranking in the 2016 NFL season, their 2016 PFF overall grade has been noted in parenthesis.]

1. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins (85.9 overall grade in 2016 season)

Cousins has shown he is the man moving forward in Washington the past two seasons, with all signs pointing to the team locking him up to a big deal. He finished 2016 with an 85.9 overall grade, good for eighth-best among qualifying QBs. There are some good pieces around Cousins to contribute to his success—with him needing to cut down on a couple mistakes throughout the course of a game to take the next step—particularly in the low red area.

2. Mike Glennon, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

While Glennon has played just 15 snaps since the start of the 2015 season, he has shown enough to warrant a chance to be a starter somewhere. Throughout his 18 career starts from 2013–2014, Glennon has balanced in some really solid play, and some uneven as well, with not much in between. His blend of pocket instincts, poise, and an ability to click through progressions give him a good chance to be a starter for someone in 2017.

3. Brian Hoyer, Chicago Bears

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Brian Hoyer #2 of the Chicago Bears at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Hoyer was playing some of the best football of his career in Dowell Loggains’ system, grading in the top half of quarterbacks from Weeks 2–7 before an injury derailed his season. For Hoyer, it’s about putting together a full season of consistency. As colleague Sam Monson has pointed out, some interesting splits throughout Hoyer’s career have seen him post a passer rating of 93.1 in September to October, and 70.2 from November on. Hoyer is a capable starter, a very good backup, and at the very least, can be a bridge for a team with a young quarterback coming in.

4. Matt Barkley, Chicago Bears (73.8)

Through Weeks 12–15—his first four starts—Barkley sat behind only Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and New England’s Tom Brady in terms of overall quarterback grade before recording two poor outings to finish the season. He has shown a considerable uptick in arm strength since entering in NFL in 2013. Barkley’s poise and ability to get through progressions was impressive this past season, but he needs to cut down on the big mistakes that seemed to show up more as the season went on. Barkley’s play solidified him as a solid backup option for years to come, and potentially more if he can cut back on the crucial mistakes.

5. Case Keenum, Los Angeles Rams (49.6)

While Keenum had his struggles throughout the 2016 season, the Rams’ offensive problems lied much deeper than him. Keenum is still capable of being a high-percentage passer in the right situation, and his creativity outside the scheme is still a plus. He likely won’t get a chance to start anywhere any time soon, but brings valuable experience and enough game to the table to be a solid backup for years to come.

6. Shaun Hill, Minnesota Vikings

Hill may ultimately choose to retire this offseason, but if he chooses to come back, he is still a top backup quarterback option even at age 37. Hill’s greatest strength is knowing who he is as a player; he operates efficiently no matter the system and takes care of the football. The wealth of knowledge he could pass along to a young QB is invaluable if the right backup situation presents itself for the 2017 season.

7. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets (42.1)

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets drops back to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half on September 25, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

We’ve seen throughout the years just how streaky Fitzpatrick can be. 2016 exemplified what his absolute worst can look like, and his poor play showed up more consistently than it typically does in a given year. His days of starting are likely over, but if Fitzpatrick can accept that and slide into a backup role, he would add a lot of value to a quarterback room. His value would come with helping out young quarterbacks and potentially entering games in relief duty if required, where he may be at his best.

8. Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders

McGloin has established himself as a gritty backup that possesses many of the traits teams look for in their No. 2 quarterback. While his play hasn’t always looked perfect, McGloin is a very capable backup option, showing he can get through progressions cleanly at times and make a few outside-the-scheme plays to keep an offense moving.

9. Mark Sanchez, Dallas Cowboys

One poor preseason game against the 49ers last year ultimately removed Sanchez from contention for the starting job in Denver. He was able to resurface in Dallas as the backup for most of the season, where we saw him constantly discussing and aiding rookie Dak Prescott. Sanchez may not get another shot to start, but is a high-end backup, and showed he was comfortable with that role.

10. Geno Smith, New York Jets

The last spot on this list was a toss-up between Smith and Ryan Mallett, with both players having talent, but a lack of consistency to break through as a starter. A change of scenery will greatly benefit Smith after some up and (mostly) down times with the Jets. Playing on time and in rhythm with decisiveness is something he will look to improve upon with a new team.

Want more free agent rankings? Check out PFF’s Top 50 free agents for the 2017 offseason now. 

| Analyst

Zac Robinson is a former three-year starting QB for Oklahoma State. He was drafted by the New England Patriots in the seventh round in 2010, and spent time with the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions before finishing his pro career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

  • jim

    Case Keenum is the best of the bunch. Get him to start on a team with a decent OL, average receiver corp, and 2 good running backs and he will be a pro bowl QB , completing 70 percent of his passes and leading the team to a minimum 11-5 record.

    • Tim Edell

      He would need to play on the pro bowl team to go 11-5!

      • jim

        He tied the Rams record for most completions in a row and came within one pass of matching the Texans record for most completions in a row. Both of these achievements came with less than 20 NFL starts with the 2 teams that had perhaps the worst OL’s in the entire league. He has a winning record overall with the lowly Rams as a starter.

        • Mark Erickson

          Records on consecutive completions is almost completely irrelevant. Not only does it do nothing to indicate the players entire body of work, it doesn’t consider context for any of those passes. Doesn’t take much to string completions together on dump-offs and slants. Also his overall Win/Loss record as a starter is 9-15, so yeah…nothing encouraging. Also a 78 career passer rating and a 22-20 TD/INT ratio….Keenum shouldn’t be a starter anywhere.

          • jim

            Your comments are disjointed, poorly written, and shallow.

          • Mark Erickson

            Brilliantly-formulated reply, why bother with an argument that has a foundation of evidence and fact when you can just post the first three negative/insulting adjectives that pop in your head? Well, that comment didn’t do anything for me, so hopefully it brought you some level of comfort and self-validation, I’d hate for you to be wasting to your time (like I’m doing right now, for example). Anyways, I’ll save you the suspense and inform you I won’t reply to anything you have to say from this point on….hope you learned something.

          • jim

            A simple and frustrated response from a simple and frustrated man. At least you try. I’m sure it somehow helps you. I hope you find peace.

    • PKLIP

      Case Keenum is god awful, he has no place on a professional football field. When he played the Giants last year he was playing pitch and catch with the Giants secondary!

  • crosseyedlemon

    There’s nothing beyond Cousins that would stifle a good yawn by GMs. With the pickings this thin, maybe Micheal Vick should have put off retiring a bit longer.

    • PKLIP

      You must not have watched many of his games, have you?

  • Sufferfortribe

    If Vince Young decides to try a comeback, does he make this list?

    • crosseyedlemon

      Geez, there might even be hope for Matt Hasslebeck and he’s 41…lol.

    • TorreyAnderson

      Good question. I’d say yup. That’s how sad this group is.

  • Raphael

    I agree. Cousins is the best out of this sorry bunch. He’s not that good either. Not worth $24million.

  • GiveNoFuq

    I think Geno Smith can be a real sleeper. He’s never really gotten a chance to progress as a QB and when he has he was surrounded by scrubs. Sometimes it take time and the right OC i.e. Ryan Tannehil.

    • Justin Potts

      i think the dudes a bum and a wasted top 50 pick.

  • Scot Hickerson

    I’m sorry but Landry Jones belongs at the top of that list. Why ignore one of the top performing College QB’s of all time who just finished a 4 yr. Internship with a future HOFer . He may have limited nfl experience but equalled Ben’s Stats this year in his 2nd and 3Rd start. Landry averaged 279 ypg with a 2-1 td/ int ratio. BEN averaged 272 ypg. With a 2-1 td to int ratio. Plus he has 3 come from behind victories in 3 starts and two relief appearances. He has 58 more pass yards than Jimmy Grappolo in his two starts.