Top 10 Free Agent Quarterbacks 2017: After ‘Captain Kirk,’ Brian Hoyer and Ryan Fitzpatrick next best
By Neil Dutton. There is no more pivotal position in the whole world of sport than quarterback in the NFL. Players who show they can perform this role to a high level reap all the financial rewards, and enjoy huge contracts when they come to be negotiated. But for the players just below this level, there is always another chance to earn a crust. Here are ten free agent quarterbacks who should hear their phone ringing mere minutes after free agency commences.
2016 Stats 406/606, 4917 yards, 25 Touchdowns 12 Interceptions
Kirk Cousins, after quickly signing his franchise tag tender last season, delivered on his end of the bargain with the Washington Redskins, passing for over 4000 yards and 25+ touchdowns for the second straight season. Only Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Phil Rivers have more passing yards in the last two season than Cousins tally of 9083, while only six QBs have averaged more passing yards per game than his 283.8 average. Many assumed these deeds would lead to a lucrative long term deal. These assumptions do not appear to be correct. Recent rumblings indicate that Cousins is not best pleased with the teams apparent reluctance to commit to him long term, and while he has said he will sign the tag again if he is slapped with it, apparently, Cousins and the Redskins may not be destined to be together forever. The Redskins did place the exclusive franchise tag on Cousins on Tuesday. So, while he’ll be back with the Redskins for the 2017 season, his future with the team is still not certain.
- Brian Hoyer
2016 Stats 134/200, 1445 yards, 6 Touchdowns 0 Interceptions
With the Chicago Bears now actively looking to move long time starter Jay Cutler, there is every chance the Bears re-sign Brian Hoyer, if only to act as a veteran bridge before bringing in a younger model. Aside from a truly historically bad outing in the 2015 playoffs, Hoyer has remarkably followed the last two seasons, with a 25 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio. He was the best option tried at quarterback for the Bears last season, becoming the first Bears QB to throw for 300 yards in four consecutive games, before breaking his arm. This injury cut short his season. The Bears have been one of the many rumoured to be getting involved in the Jimmy Garappolo sweepstakes, and if that happens the Bears probably will not keep Hoyer. Hoyer enjoyed a good run with current 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan back with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 before the team faded away down the stretch, and Shanahan may believe Hoyer can tide his team over at quarterback until the next Joe Montana or Steve Young walks into the 49ers facility. It would be hard to place any redraft faith in Hoyer, but he could have weekly streaming appeal depending on his landing spot.
- Ryan Fitzpatrick
2016 Stats 228/403, 2710 yards, 12 Touchdowns 17 Interceptions
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s quest to play for all 32 NFL teams will continue into 2017, as his stint with the New York Jets has come to an end after two seasons. After setting a franchise record for touchdown passes with 31 in 2015, Fitzpatrick was nothing short of awful last season. He lost his starting job twice, first to Geno Smith (who suffered an injury in his start) and then to Bryce Petty, neither of whom should be first on the list of any team seeking to build a successful offense. Fitzpatrick has shown that he is a capable backup and spot starter. He’ll be 35 during the 2017 season, but he should be employed holding a clipboard for someone.
Career Stats 374/630, 4100 yards, 30 Touchdowns 15 Interceptions
If Mike Glennon’s career figures were the result of a single seasons work, he would be set for a huge pay day this summer as a free agent. Alas, they represent a full body of work spanning four NFL seasons, with three head coaches (Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter), three offensive coordinators (Koetter, Mike Sullivan, Marcus Arroyo, Todd Moncken) and at least three benchings. Possessing a big arm, Glennon is not the most mobile of signal callers, and can occasionally resemble a dear in the headlights. With 2015 first overall selection Jameis Winston entrenched as the starter, the Bucs are not likely to bring Glennon back. His positive TD to INT ratio will count in his favour, as will his arm strength. The Arizona Cardinals, preparing for a time after Carson Palmer, makes sense given their head coaches pedigree. Bruce Arians “hates the West Coast offense” and wants his quarterbacks to take deep shots and exploit the speed of receivers like John Brown and J.J. Nelson. If Glennon landed in the desert and sat for a year, it could be a match made in heaven.
- J. Manuel
Career Stats 319/547, 3502 yards, 19 Touchdowns 15 Interceptions
I don’t like to use the term “bust,” as an awful lot can happen even after a player experiences early difficulties in his career. But, it would take something spectacular to happen for E.J. Manuel to shed the tag after such an unsuccessful stint with the Buffalo Bills. Benched for Kyle Orton in his second season, he fell behind Tyrod Taylor before the 2015 season, and despite the best wishes, dreams, and fantasies of GM Doug Whaley, he has never looked like a viable starting quarterback. His first round pedigree should ensure he gets a backup gig somewhere, but he would more likely torpedo the fantasy football value of any player in his offense were he to be plunged into a starting role.
- Matt Schaub
Career Stats 2093/3274, 24867 yards, 133 Touchdowns 90 Interceptions
It’s easy to forget that Matt Schaub was the eleventh highest scoring fantasy quarterback between 2007 and 2012, throwing for 20,911 yards and 114 touchdowns as the Houston Texans signal caller. It’s not so easy to forget the staggering number of pick sixes he has thrown since (seven), however. Since leaving the Texans, Schaub has had to make do with back up work for the Oakland Raiders, the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons, with whom he spent the 2016 season. Reigning MVP Matt Ryan is obviously the guy going forward, and Schaub has already publicly claimed that he wants to “go somewhere where he can start.” Schaub should land a backup gig somewhere, assuming he doesn’t return to the Falcons. It is not in my immediate plans to ever recommend drafting, streaming or even considering Schaub in fantasy football again. Harsh, I know.
Career Stats 1295/2285, 15219 yards, 86 Touchdowns 86 Interceptions
The Mark Sanchez era with the Dallas Cowboys seems set to comprise a pair of sadly typical interceptions in Week 17 of 2016 against his former team the Philadelphia Eagles. With the Cowboys preferring Kellen Moore to back up Dak Prescott, and with long time starter Tony Romo set to find new pastures, ‘The Sanchize’ will once again be looking for work. Remembered for running into his own offensive lineman’s bottom, Sanchez was a viable fantasy starter with the Eagles in 2014. But that probably owes as much to the offense as it does to the player. A former first round draft pick of the New York Jets, Sanchez will ride the bench for someone in 2017.
- Case Keenum
2016 Stats 196/322, 2201 yards, 9 Touchdowns 11 Interceptions
After beginning the 2016 season as the starter for the Los Angeles Rams, former Texans quarterback Case Keenum went out of his way to lose the job. This was never more evident than during the loss to the New York Giants at historic Wembley Stadium. Four Keenum interceptions helped condemn his side to a miserable transatlantic journey home. He threw for one or fewer touchdowns in seven of his ten games last season, eventually losing his place to first overall draft pick Jared Goff. Goff, to be fair, looked little better than Keenum. Keenum is just not cut out to be a starter in the NFL, and could struggle to even land a back-up job when the season starts. He has averaged just a shade less than 11 fantasy points per game in his NFL career, and should not appear on the fantasy football radar in 2017.
- Geno Smith
Career Stats 501/866, 5962 yards, 28 Touchdowns 36 Interceptions
In the final game of the 2014 season, Geno Smith posted a 158.3 passer rating as the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins. This was the only perfect passer rating posted by anyone that season. For some, it marked a turning point in Smith’s career, and he went into the 2015 off season with some optimism. Then, in training camp, IK Ememkpali punched him in the face, and things never again looked rosy for Geno Smith. He lost the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who enjoyed a career season in 2015. After the Fitz face plant in 2016, Smith was named the starter, but tore his ACL in his first (and only) start of the season. He should be ready for training camp, and is saying all the right things as he begins looking for work. He said in a recent interview he is “willing to start from the bottom,” indicating that he would be prepared to accept a back-up role somewhere. If he is to remain with the Jets, which would seem to be a bad move for all concerned, he may have to do just that.
- Matt Cassel
Career Stats 1546/2624, 17287 yards, 103 Touchdowns 79 Interceptions
The greatest argument in favor of Bill Belichick being termed “the greatest NFL coach ever,” is that his 2008 New England Patriots won 11 games with Matt Cassel at quarterback. The big contract he earned from the Kansas City Chiefs and the AFC West division title he helped deliver seem long forgotten memories now. Cassel enjoyed success with the Minnesota Vikings between 2013 and 2014, but has bounced around ever since. He spent 2016 backing up Marcus Mariota with the Tennessee Titans, and was pushed into line up after Mariota was lost for the season during Week 16’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He almost immediately threw a touchdown pass to team mate Delanie Walker, before then throwing one to opposing cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He is unlikely to earn any guaranteed money in free agency, and should content himself to backing up a young signal caller without ever offering a viable alternative as a starter. He is close to the end of his NFL journey.