Ranking the 2012 Free Agents: Quarterbacks

| 5 years ago

Ranking the 2012 Free Agents: Quarterbacks

Now that you’ve seen the best-of-the-best of the free agents, it’s time to go more in depth with a position-by-position view of who is available. We begin with the most valuable position in all of sports, the quarterback.

While everyone knows the big names, there are a handful of guys that will be available who are capable of starting in the league. Outside of one or potentially two men, there isn’t anyone in the group who is likely to be elite. However, they’ve shown themselves at various times to be capable of getting the job done. If anything, if your team is in need of a solid backup, there are players looking for a deal.

That works well, as only a few teams are definitely looking for new quarterbacks, but there are a number of them that could use a second quarterback to foster competition. Five of the top eight men are likely going to be in a new home once the fall begins, so there will definitely be movement.


1) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 33

2011 Grade: +70.7 (including playoffs)

Key Stat: When he was not under pressure, Brees averaged 8.9 yards per pass.

Behind The Numbers: You rarely see a quarterback of Brees’ status hit the open market. It sounds like the franchise player wants to return to New Orleans, and the Saints want him back, so chances are he isn’t going anywhere. On the off chance he did leave, almost every team would make a move for him. He’s gone 28 straight games with a PFF pass rating of better than -1.0, which shows his consistency and is yet another example of how amazing he is.

2) Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 27

2011 Grade: +4.6

Key Stat: Has averaged 7.7 yards per attempt on his 132 career pass attempts.

Behind The Numbers: After spending four years as a backup, Flynn may have made more money thanks to one game than any player in NFL history. Against Detroit he showed he could handle the Packers’ offense about as well as Aaron Rodgers does, by making throws all over the field as well as under pressure. Of the available quarterbacks not named Brees, he holds the most potential.


3) Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 28

2011 Grade: +11.2

Key Stat: Smith earned the third-highest regular season Accuracy Percentage at 75.1%.

Behind The Numbers: After being labeled a bust and given one last chance in 2011, Smith made the most of his opportunity. When a team has an elite defense and a good run game, the quarterback’s job is simply not to make mistakes and Smith did exactly that. He made the safe throws and executed them accurately. The chances are very good that he will remain in San Francisco unless the 49ers opt to upgrade. While he has been in the league for a number of years now, he still is young enough to have plenty of seasons ahead of him.

4) David Garrard, Free Agent

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 34

2011 Grade: 0.0

Key Stat: Was the fifth-most accurate passer on deep passes in 2010 with an Accuracy Percentage of 49%.

Behind The Numbers: This is probably the biggest wild card on the quarterback market. On the bright side, he ranked in the Top 12 of our quarterback ratings in each year from 2008-2010, and–after missing a year of football–he’ll hopefully be at full strength. On the down side, it has taken him this long to recover and he still isn’t at 100% and, at the age of 34, he doesn’t have many football years left. Capable of being a solid starter, but just a short term solution at the position.

5) Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 30

2011 Grade: +3.7

Key Stat: Took only five sacks on 61 pressured drop-backs last season; a Sack Percentage of just 8.2%.

Behind The Numbers: After a rough time in Washington followed by a not quite as rough start in Oakland, he’s had a +13.1 overall rating over the last 15 games. An injury caused the team to go all-in with Carson Palmer, which means Campbell is likely in need of a new home. When healthy, he has proven he can produce, and has done so more consistently than the quarterbacks ranked below him here. The big question is whether he can remain healthy or not.

6) Kyle Orton, Kansas City Chiefs

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 31

2011 Grade: -2.9

Key Stat: He had a PFF rating of +5.1 when not under pressure, and -10.9 when pressured.

Behind The Numbers: At times, Orton has looked like a capable NFL quarterback like he did for most of the 2010 season. However, when Orton is bad, he has been terrible and it usually lasts for a number of games. As a Chief, he was able to show he is still capable of performing well, as he helped hand the Packers their only regular-season loss. The question is if he can do that with any consistency. The Chiefs want competition for Matt Cassel, which could come from Orton, or he could find a third home since the start of the 2011 season.


7) Chad Henne, Miami Dolphins

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 27

2011 Grade: +3.9

Key Stat: Has a career PFF pass rating of +31.6 on passes thrown beyond 10 yards, and a rating of -14.4 on passes 10 yards or less.

Behind The Numbers: For the past three years, Henne has tried to prove he is the solution in Miami. For a while it looked like he had what it takes, but then he struggled late in 2010. His bad luck continued as he was injured by Week 4 of 2011. Like a number of quarterbacks on this list, he has a history with injuries, and has only shown flashes of being a solid option as a starting quarterback. Those flashes paired with his age will be enough for someone to give him a chance to compete.

8 ) Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 32

2011 Grade: +0.4

Key Stat: In 2010 (his last time with significant playing time), he was the sixth-most accurate quarterback at 76.1%.

Behind The Numbers: He has never been given a chance to be anything more than a backup, but he has done a good job of that. In 2008 and 2009 in San Francisco he showed he could produce, and did so again in 2010 in Detroit with Matt Stafford hurt. While he isn’t the best when it comes to the deep ball, he can be very consistent on throwing short passes and being more of a game manager.

9) Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 29

2011 Grade: -8.2

Key Stat: He averaged 9.4 yards per attempt when he wasn’t blitzed, and 3.3 yards per attempt when blitzed.

Behind The Numbers: Last year Young was one of the more intriguing quarterback available. No one would take him as a starter, so he spent the season as a backup in Philadelphia which hurt his case more than helped it. He showed he was nowhere near the quarterback Michael Vick is in terms of passing and running. At this point, he would be lucky to find a place to compete for a starting job.

10) Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Age as of September 1st, 2012: 26

2011 Grade: -0.5

Key Stat: In his one start over the last two years, he averaged 8.5 yards per pass attempt.

Behind The Numbers: While we don’t know much about Johnson, we know enough to be more intrigued about him then the rest of the free agent class. In 2009 he had four starts and didn’t look good in them. Since then, he’s had two more years to mature, and looked adequate as a starter against the Panthers this past season.


2012 Free Agent Tracker | PFF’s Top 50 Free Agents


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| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • Big ken

    Good list but I think Orton should be #3 . He will only be 29 on September 1st. After a pretty good year(2010) he was derailed by Tebowmania and forced into run heavy offense by Fox . Id put him no worse than 3rd because of Flynns age but he has shown that he is at this point a QB who can game manage and can sling it all over the field if need be .

  • Rick

    Orton has proven he is not an NFL quality QB. Please stop tryng to make it seem that he is and the same goes for Alex Smith. If anything Henne has proven to be much better tha either of those chumps as he has carried a team with no defense or running game to seven wins on his back. Neither Orton or Smith could do that.