Andrew Martin
The NFL’s Top Free Agent Quarterbacks Top Level

The market is filled with talented QBs

Tom Brady is just one of a number of star free agent QBs (Photo via Wikipedia)

The Super Bowl is right around the corner but that doesn’t mean that fans aren’t already looking forward to next season. The upcoming offseason promises to be a busy time, as teams will be preparing for the draft and shopping among a large crop of free agents. While some of the available players will remain with their current teams, others will land in a new home. Let’s take a look at the best of those who will be available, starting with the quarterbacks.

*This is taking into account my belief that Drew Brees will either re-sign with the New Orleans Saints or retire.

Dak Prescott: Teams seeking a young, but veteran signal caller will want to look no further than Prescott. He won’t turn 27 until the summer and is coming off the best season of his four-year career. Although his Dallas Cowboys stumbled to an 8–8 record, he passed for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns while relinquishing just 11 interceptions. He is also durable, starting all 16 games every year since being drafted in the fourth round in 2016 out of Mississippi State. With 1,221 rushing yards and 21 scores on the ground during his career, he is athletic enough to be more than just a threat with his arm.

Understandably, Prescott is seeking large, if not record-setting, contract. The chances of him returning to Dallas looks good, especially in light of their recent hiring of Mike McCarthy as their new head coach. The former Green Bay Packers leader has a reputation for being quarterback developer, including guiding Aaron Rodgers during the early days of his career.

It had been debatable previously how high Prescott’s ceiling might be. However, his strong breakout season amid a disappointing Cowboys’ campaign should help ease those concerns. Anything is possible, but it would be a surprise if he isn’t back in Dallas leading a revamped team in 2020 and deep into the future.

Tom Brady: Following a disappointing first-round playoff loss there was a brief collecting of breath to see if the 42-year-old would be interesting in considering his legendary 20-year career. People didn’t have to wait long, as he already took to social media, stating his belief that despite nine Super Bowls, including six wins, he still has things to prove.

The Patriots won 12 regular season games but bowed out of the playoffs in the first round after Brady threw an game-losing interception returned for a touchdown in the waning seconds against the Tennessee Titans.

The team was blessed with a staunch defense but saddled with a disappointing offense. Brady threw for 4,057 yards and had a 24/8 touchdown/interception ratio. They weren’t the best numbers of his career but are much more impressive when considering the relative lack of weapons he had to work with.

As of right now it would be a surprise if Brady played anywhere besides New England in 2020. Team owner Robert Kraft told reporters for NBC Sports that “My hope and prayer is №1 (Brady) play for the Patriots. Or №2, he retires. He has the freedom to decide what he wants to do and that’s in his own best personal interest.”

It was once speculated Brady might like to play close to his childhood home in California. However, both the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams are committed to good young quarterbacks. New England needs someone under center and TB12 clearly wants to keep playing. The two appear to need each other, so look for their successful union to continue for at least one more year.

Jameis Winston: No quarterback on the market has better physical tools than the 26-year-old Winston. However, his decision-making leaves a lot to be desired. He had one of the most bizarre seasons in NFL history this past year for the Tampa Bay Bucs, throwing for a league-leading 5,109 yards, to go along with 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions, which the last number was a whopping nine more than the next closest signal caller. He also struggled against good teams, posting a 1–5 record against squads with winning records.

Winston came into the NFL with a luggage rack full of baggage from college and has seen that bleed into his pro career. Any team making a commitment to him is faced with a wider variation of possible outcomes than practically any other available player. That being said, he is undeniably talented, and he should field multiple offers to for generous contracts — attached with the hope that his vast potential can be fully unlocked.

If you want to boil his shortcomings on the field down to one thing, it is quite simply turning the ball over. In his 72 career games he has thrown 88 interceptions and fumbled an additional 50 times. There is no possible way to consistently win with that type of carelessness. It’s possible that he could return to Tampa, but another intriguing option would be if were paired with quarterback guru Jon Gruden, head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Philip Rivers: After 16 years with the San Diego Chargers, it’s a real possibility that their franchise quarterback could be playing for a different team in 2020. Rivers may be 38 and coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro, but still has some gas in the tank. This past season, his team stumbled to a 5–11 record, but he still passed for 4,615 yards, 23 scores and 20 interceptions.

He has always been prone to picks, posting double digits every season and leading the league twice in the past 10 years. However, he is also one of the best veteran signal callers and a likely future Hall of Famer. If San Diego decides to go in another direction, he would be an excellent candidate as a stopgap and/or mentor for any team with a hole or a young QB not yet ready for prime time.

Ryan Tannehill: The surprise entry on this list, no free agent quarterback did more to increase their value this past season that Tannehill. Starting the season on the bench for the Tennessee Titans, he took over for Marcus Mariota to start the last 10 games. He wound up leading the NFL with a 117.5 Quarterback Rating, throwing for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. His success was not due to relying on the short game, as he also led the league with 9.6 yards per pass attempt and 13.6 yards per catch, stretching the yard markers more than anyone else at the position. The improvements he made from the previous six seasons he spent starting for the Miami Dolphins were striking.

Most importantly, Tannehill was 7–3 as a starter, guiding the Titans into the playoffs where he promptly knocked off the mighty Brady and the Patriots. He followed that up by dispatching Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens before succumbing to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game. He will only be 32 at the start of next season, so can expect to receive some multiple year offers. His turnaround from a player, who was perhaps entering the backup phase of his career to showing he can be an impact starter has completely rewritten the book on his value.

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