Every year, NFL free agency brings with it the movement of start players to new teams, but rarely are those star players quarterbacks. This year’s free agency class is unprecedented, with multiple Pro Bowlers and future Hall of Famers hitting the open market.
Not all of these signal-callers with play for different teams next year, but even so, this group of QBs is unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history. Here are the 10 best in an absolutely loaded class.
10. Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears
Prior to the 2018 season, Daniel signed a two-year $10 million contract to back up Mitchell Trubisky in Chicago. Over his two seasons with the Bears, Daniel started three games, going 1-2. He completed 98 of 140 attempts for 950 yards, six touchdowns, and four interceptions.
Daniel isn’t great, but he’s a solid backup who can win games with a good team around him. If he has to play a game or two, the season isn’t over for his team. He likely won’t make $5 million a year again, but Daniel will certainly find work somewhere, backing up another young NFL QB.
9. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
Keenum is essentially the definition of replacement-level starter. Over the first five seasons of his career, he started 24 games, going 9-15 and throwing 24 TDs to 20 INTs. In 2017, he signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings worth less than $2 million, and led them to an 11-3 record, going 325 of 481 for 3,547 yards, 22 scores, and seven picks.
The Vikings finished in first place in the NFC North and beat the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs thanks to the legendary Minneapolis Miracle. Keenum’s performance earned him a two-year $36 million deal from the Denver Broncos, but things didn’t go so well. Keenum did start all 16 games, but the Broncos went 6-10 and Keenum threw 18 TDs and 15 INTs. He was released and signed with the Redskins for $3.5 million.
In his eight starts, Keenum led the Redskins to a 1-8 record before being benched for Colt McCoy and ultimately rookie Dwayne Haskins. Keenum finished with 1,707 yards, 11 TDs, and five picks. It’s unlikely he’ll ever play like he did in 2017 again, but Keenum can provide competition and a solid veteran presence, as well as a trusty backup in an emergency. He should be able to make a decent amount of money for the remainder of his career.
8. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
The former second overall pick in 2015 has not had the career many envisioned when he was drafted. Mariota does provide a running threat, but he’s never played a full 16 games, and hasn’t developed much as a passer.
Last season, he started six games, going 2-4, throwing for 1,203 yards, seven TDs, and two INTs. Since he threw 15 picks back in 2017, Mariota seems somewhat timid throwing the ball, almost too conservative. He’s shown flashes of high-level play, but he isn’t nearly consistent or reliable enough.
Mariota will want to start for his next team, and there could be as many as 14 jobs open around the NFL. A short-term prove-it deal is the best-case scenario for him, although with the other players available, he may end up having to settle for a backup spot with the chance to compete for a starting position.
7. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston, who went one pick ahead of Mariota, is in a similar situation as the former Tennessee Titan. Winston has had short stretches of elite play, but he’s never been able to string them together. He is potentially the most volatile QB in the entire NFL.
His physical gifts are tremendous; he has great size, a rocket arm, good mobility, and can make any throw on the field, no matter how tight the window is. The problem is he thinks he can make any throw, at any time. Over his first four seasons, Winston threw for 14,628 yards, 88 TDs, and 58 interceptions. He was maligned for his poor decision-making and complete lack of consistency.
When famed QB whisperer Bruce Arians was hired as head coach, the hope was that he’d finally be able to unlock Winston’s full potential. Winston did set career-highs in yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33), and he also set two NFL records; the problem is, they aren’t good records to have. He became the first QB in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season, and also threw seven pick-sixes. He was also sacked on 7% of his dropbacks. If anything, Winston’s volatility increased.
It is unclear what the Buccaneers intend to do with Winston. What is for sure is that no team should be willing to bet their future on Winston at this point. He’s far too unreliable. There will almost certainly be organizations comfortable taking a short-term risk on him, but nothing more than that.
6. Ryan Tannehill,, Tennessee Titans
After six average seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Tannehill was traded to Tennessee to back up Marcus Mariota. Six games into the year, Tannehill took over as the starter and never looked back. He completed 201 of 286 passes (70.3%) for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and only six interceptions.
He was named the Comeback Player of the Year, made his first Pro Bowl, and led the Titans to stunning upsets over the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. He will turn 32 before the 2020 season, and it’s only 10 games of great play, but Tannehill was able to execute Tennessee’s offensive gameplan almost flawlessly, and the team’s top priority this offseason is to re-sign him.
5. Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints
A first-round pick in 2014, Bridgewater had two decent seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before suffering a devastating knee injury that nearly ended his football career. He missed the entire 2016 season, and attempted only two passes in 2017. He signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets that guaranteed him just $500k. However, he never played a game for New York.
He was traded, along with a sixth-round pick, to the Saints for a third-rounder. He started the final game of the 2018 campaign, as New Orleans had already clinched the #1 seed. He stayed with the Saints on a one-year contract worth $7.25 million. Last season, Bridgewater started five games in place of the injured Drew Brees, and performed admirably. The Saints offense didn’t skip a beat, as Bridgewater went 5-0, completing 133 of 196 passes for 1,384 yards, nine scores, and two picks.
With Brees likely to return to the Saints for at least one more season, Bridgewater will be looking for a new team to start for. After everything he’s been through, he deserves it, and should have a healthy market over the next few weeks.
4. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
It’s difficult to imagine Rivers playing for any team except the Chargers, but that’s what’s going to happen. He spent 16 years in San Diego and Los Angeles, and owns nearly all of the franchise’s passing records.
Rivers will turn 39 in December, but has aged well as a player; he’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in seven straight seasons, and has played in every game since 2005. He did throw 20 picks last year, but is still better than the majority of starters currently in the league. Who knows how many years he has left, but Rivers wants to keep playing, and he’ll be doing that for a team looking to win now.
The Indianapolis Colts make almost too much sense, but there should be plenty of teams vying for Rivers’ services, especially if they have a young QB who needs mentoring.
3. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott is practically guaranteed to be back with Dallas, either on the franchise tag or a new contract. The question is how much will be be paid? Prescott reportedly is seeking a four-year deal, while the Cowboys are prepared to offer him $105 million over three seasons.
He’s been under a lot of scrutiny during his four years starting for Dallas, but in his contract year, he performed very well, throwing for 4,902 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 picks. The problem is his team went 8-8 and missed the playoffs, leading to head coach Jason Garrett being fired.
Is Prescott really a borderline elite QB, capable of leading a team to a Super Bowl? Or does he just put up empty stats? The NFL will find out soon enough.
2. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
If Rivers is hard to imagine in a different jersey, Brady is all but impossible. However, reports are that he and the Patriots are not seeing eye-to-eye at the moment. Brady will be hitting the open market, and while a return to New England is not out of the question, he’ll have multiple suitors lining up to pay him whatever he wants.
Brady has repeatedly signed for less than his market value with the Pats, allowing them to make other moves to improve the team. His most recent contract was worth $41 million over two years; a total bargain for the greatest of all time.
Brady’s play has dipped slightly over the past two seasons, but to be fair, his supporting cast has been less than stellar. Brady led his team to another Super Bowl in 2018 and won 12 games last season. He’s still a great player and although his career is nearing its end, he’s not done yet. Brady (and the Patriots) have been doubted in the past, and they’ve almost always proven their doubters wrong.
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Brady is still going relatively strong heading into his age 43 season, and at age 41, Brees is going even stronger. He made his 13th Pro Bowl and threw for 2,979 yards, 27 TDs, and four picks despite missing five games due to a thumb injury on his throwing hand.
The NFL season ended in disappointment, as the Saints lost to the Minnesota Vikings in the wild card round, but they will still be legitimate contenders next season, as long as Brees returns, which is what he’s expressed intent to do.