Blog Entry

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Posted on: February 21, 2012 1:10 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 5:01 pm
The 2012 free-agent quarterback class is an, um, diverse group. (Getty Images)
By Will Brinson

Leading up to the start of free agency on March 13, we're compiling lists of the best 2012 NFL free agents by position. These are the quarterbacks.

Though the list of free-agent quarterbacks for 2012 isn't necessarily the greatest crop of players in NFL history, it does have the potential to be one of the most intriguing in years, because of one man: Peyton Manning. Manning's saga is well-documented at this point; the back-and-forth between Manning's camp and Jim Irsay dominated the freaking Super Bowl.

Releasing him into the wild seems like a mere matter of timing. So we're going to take that assumption and add Manning to our lists of free agents. We're also including the Saints Drew Brees and 49ers Alex Smith on this list, since both are technically unrestricted free agents, until they receive the franchise tag from their respective teams. There's a better likelihood of Jimmy Clausen unseating Cam Newton than there is Brees not returning to New Orleans, but maybe someone in the Saints office will forget to fax in the franchise-tag paperwork.

Brees offseason could be interesting.  (Getty Images)

1. Drew Brees

Breakdown: The biggest problem for the Saints isn't that Brees might leave. He's not going to unless something really ridiculous happens. The biggest problem for the Saints is that if they're forced to use the franchise tag on Brees, they could end up losing Carl Nicks and Marques Colston. That won't make Brees any happier when it gets down to brass-tack negotiating.
Potential Landing Spots: Saints

2. Peyton Manning

Breakdown: Perhaps you've heard of Manning before. He's third all-time in passing yards (54,828). He's third all-time in passing touchdowns (399). He's won more MVPs than anyone in NFL history (four). And he's second in his own family with Super Bowl rings (one). That last item isn't a shot at Manning, though. It's the reason we believe he's not done when it comes to football, and that he'll come back to the game supremely motivated. No one knows whether or not he'll be fully healthy by the time the 2012 season begins. We do know he won't be fully healthy by the time March 13 rolls around, though. Which means that anyone who signs him will be engaging in a serious high-risk, high-reward game of chicken with Manning's neck.
Potential Landing Spots: Cardinals, Dolphins, Seahawks, Jets, Redskins

3. Matt Flynn

Breakdown: Flynn's attempted just 132 passes at the professional level, but 81 of them are pretty impressive. Those came in the only two starts of his career, when Flynn managed to go 55 of 81 for 731 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. There are concerns that Flynn can't make every throw (right now) and that he might be a product of Green Bay's system. But that system's in Miami now, as former Packers quarterbacks coach Joe Philbin is the Dolphins head coach. If Miami doesn't make a run at Flynn when free agency opens up, that should be a big red flag for anyone else interested in Aaron Rodgers backup.
Potential Landing Spots: Dolphins, Seahawks, Redskins

4. Alex Smith

Breakdown: Smith resurrected his career under new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and, in the span of about two playoff minutes against the Saints, nearly flipped the entire narrative of his career. As it is, Smith's improvement in 2011 is impressive; according to Pro Football Focus, he had the third-highest accuracy percentage in the NFL (factoring in drops, throwaways and spikes) last year, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Smith's said he isn't interested in leaving San Francisco, and Harbaugh's gotten his back publicly, even though there's zero chance they'll use the franchise tag on him.
Potential Landing Spots: 49ers
Henne could surprise in the right spot. (Getty Images)

5. Chad Henne

Breakdown: Miami drafting a quarterback in the second round: an April tradition unlike any other! But no, seriously, Henne's in a long line of signal-callers that the Dolphins took in the second round who didn't pan out. He's had serious problems with interceptions; Henne's got a 3.5 percent INT rate over his career and only nine of his 36 NFL games have not featured him throwing a pick. And Henne tends to look particularly robotic at times in the pocket (these things go hand in hand). But he's only 26 and it's not fair to blame him for all of Miami's woes the past three years. Henne can make all the throws and flashed some serious potential at times during his tenure in South Beach. He's the highest-upside backup quarterback out there and he's got several former coaches -- Brian Daboll, Tony Sparano -- coaching in spots that could use a backup quarterback.
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs, Jets, Broncos

6. Jason Campbell

Breakdown: It's hard not to feel sympathetic for Campbell. The former Auburn star and first-round pick has had roughly 25 offensive coordinators since he started taking snaps in college and he's about to start out on his third NFL roster once the free-agency shuffling begins anew this year. He's 30 and hasn't played a full season in the past two years, either because of injury or being benched. The latter was for Bruce Gradkowski, so it's hard to tell what's worse for his reputation. He makes a lot of sense for a team that wants someone to push their starter without making a stink in the locker room.
Potential Landing Spots: Chiefs, Eagles, Jets

NFL Free Agency

7. Kyle Orton

Breakdown: Orton's was a "winner" with the Bears, he was a stat-hog for a season with the Broncos, he flirted with the Dolphins and finally he was a streak-killer with the Chiefs. He's not going to be anyone's starter in 2011, unless Washington seriously misplays everything in free agency and the draft (not out of the question). But he's an above-average backup in the NFL and could certainly compete with the starters that various teams -- KC, Washington, Jacksonville, for example -- will trot out in 2011. Orton doesn't want to deal with being a "stop-gap option" but it's unlikely he'll have a choice next year.
Potential Landing Spots:
Redskins, Chiefs, Jaguars, Bears, Broncos

8. David Garrard

Breakdown: Pete Prisco's second-favorite quarterback missed the entire 2011 season after the Jaguars cut him and he underwent surgery for a herniated disk in his back. There was interest in the 34-year-old last year after teams lost quarterbacks to injury, but he decided to recover from the surgery instead. While that's the smart move, Garrard won't find the market as friendly for his services this time, especially since his agent said on February 15 Garrard would be ready in "four to six weeks." Expect someone with a steady starter and tenuous backup to look to Garrard.
Potential Landing Spots: Bears, Broncos, Buccaneers, Rams, Raiders

9. Shaun Hill

Breakdown: Hill's 32 and not exactly a spring chicken. But he performed admirably in place of Matthew Stafford in 2010 and the fit between he and the Lions is a nice one. The Lions are tight with cap space, but Hill appears to like where he's at, and it's not like he'd break the bank in another location anyway.
Potential Landing Spots: Lions
VY's likely to remain a backup. (Getty Images)

10. Vince Young

Breakdown: Now seems like a good time to remind you that the guy who coined "Dream Team" in Philly was indeed the backup quarterback and someone on a one-year contract. His personality and turnovers will cause a problem for teams looking to sign him. Unless that team happens to run the read-option offense and could really use a mobile quarterback with success in the NFL to step in and freelance if/when Tim Tebow gets hurt/melts down.
Potential Landing Spots: Broncos

11. Rex Grossman

Breakdown: Did you know that Rex Grossman is actually "Rex Grossman III"? Poor Mike Shanahan had RG3 on his roster the whole time and didn't even know it. Sigh. Anyway, Grossman's not going to attract a lot of attention on the market, and nor should he. As the old saying goes, though, "love the one you're with." And Grossman and the Shanahans are with each other, even if Rex isn't starting next year. It would be surprising to see him playing anywhere else in 2012.
Potential Landing Spots: Redskins


Unrestricted Free Agents: Dennis Dixon, Josh Johnson, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Donovan McNabb, Dan Orlovsky, Drew Stanton, Caleb Hanie, Charlie Batch, Kellen Clemens

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Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: March 13, 2012 1:38 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Blake, Dilfer, Cassell, Miller, Jim "Choke"Kelly?  I guess you never heard of Bart Starr or Johnny Unitas.  Its an insult to leave these two guys off the list and put Trent Dilfer on the list.  Dilfer was absolutely the worst QB I ever saw play the game.  I don't care how SB rings he has, he backed into them.  What a barker he was on the field.  A QB is just one of 53 guys you need to win plus the five best guys you have left after final cut on the taxi squad.  Way too much emphasis placed on the QB position.  Give me an O-Line and a guy that pound it between the tackles and a guy that runs a 4.3 forty yard dash and I will crush the Peyton Mannings and Tom Bradys of the world.  Mix it with a little defensive pressure and well you've seen how the movie ends too!

Since: Dec 6, 2010
Posted on: March 13, 2012 1:23 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Really only the top 4 worth mentioning on this list.  The big question mark is where Peyton Manning lands.  I do hope for the sake of crybaby John Elway(you remember he wouldn't play  for the Colts back in the day  cuz they sucked and held out a year to play baseball with the Yankees, yeah that crybaby) and loser John Fox that wouldn't know QB talent if it hit him in the face because he went through about 20 in Carolina most of them first round picks.  It ended up costing him a job, well the losing did as much for that too!  Sign MANNING and trade Tebow.  It doesn't matter Denver will lose with that ancient behemoth behind center because there will be no money left to sign some help after Peyton gets his truckload.  After this fiasco Tim Tebow should demand a trade because the only people that want him there are the fans not the ownership, front office or coaching staff.  Denver had a chance to return to glory but your football people are too dumb to figure it out.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:40 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Let's go through the list here and you tell me which QBs are great system quarterbacks and which are actually great QBs:
1. Brady
2. Manning (Peyton)
3. Manning (Eli)
4. Rodgers
5. Favre
6. Montana
7. Young
8. Bradshaw
9. Rothliesberger
10. Cassel
11. Warner
12. Brees
13. Chris Miller
14. Jeff Blake
15. Dilfer
16. Brad Johnson
17. Jim Kelly
18. Dan Marino

Ok, the list can go's the point: there are some great QBs and some who were made great by the system they were in.  Montana helped design the West Coast Offense (the prototype QB for the system); however, what made him great was he won...he didn't rely on his defense or specific players.  He would guide his team to a victory.  Look at Elway; his numbers were rather weak before they built a team and brought in a great system...doesn't mean he wasn't great, as he did win and always brought his team back.

On the flip side, look at Brady or Rodgers; heck, look at Warner.  The people who have replaced them, upon injury, put up similar (or in some cases, better) numbers.  Brady won those Super Bowls early, but it was his DEFENSE and his KICKER...not him.  When he needed to go a few yards to put Vinitieri into field goal range, he barely made it.  He needs his team more than his team needs him.  Rodgers is in a similar mode.  Look at what Flynn did in his stint with Rodgers on the sideline.  With those receivers, I'm positive ANY QB would put up pinball numbers (that offensive line isn't bad, either...he made them look worse by holding the ball too long or scrambling INTO pressure).  Warner, see Bulger, Marc, for a couple years...until the offensive line got old and couldn't protect him.  You can point to Arizona and such, but those teams were much better than anyone will really give them credit for.  Heck, he couldn't do anything with the Giants (lest we forget); Eli Manning came in and, with a very similar team, actually took them to the playoffs.  If you want to find out if a QB is good, see how they handle being behind in the big games (and, Pittsburgh lost to Green Bay...they choked.  It's not hard to see.  Don't give Rodgers more credit than he really deserves, which isn't much). 

Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:46 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

So the Vikings, with their depleted and poor secondary and receiving corp, despite a plethora of free agent talent in both of those pools, aren't considered a possible landing spot for any of them on your lists.  Not very well thought out. 

Since: Oct 29, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2012 7:35 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 29, 2011
Posted on: March 2, 2012 6:59 am
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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 3:51 pm

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

I give Campbell so much credit for what he did for the Raiders.  He resurrected the offense, I wish he stayed on as Palmer's back up but wish him luck whereever he goes.  As long as it is not to the Donkeys

Since: Mar 1, 2011
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:59 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Feeley signed as a Free Agent with Miami for some big money
Wrong. Feeley was a stupid trade Miami made. Not a free agent signing.

Since: Jan 5, 2012
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:20 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

4got to add, Henne could probably back up Tebow, since quinn bumped his gums & wore out his welcome!

Since: Jan 5, 2012
Posted on: February 23, 2012 9:19 am

2012 NFL Free Agency: Quarterback rankings

Flynn had ONE good game with all of GB's weapons..........I will be surprised if Orton doesn't stay put in KC!  Jason Campbell, now that's a QB that never got a fair shake -

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