Now that we've passed the franchise tag deadlines, it's on to free agency! The 2014 free agent quarterbacks don't feature any sure starters, but some key backups and potential stop-gap starters could find new homes very soon. Let's take a look at the top 5 free agent quarterbacks, and where they could possibly land.
5. Matt Flynn
2013 stats (combined Packers and Raiders): 124 of 200 (62.0%), 1,392 yards, 8 TD, 5 INT
After signing one of the most coveted free agent quarterbacks in 2012, Oakland sent Flynn to Seattle last off-season, where he eventually lost the starting job there as well. He signed as a backup in Buffalo before the Packers lost Seneca Wallace, leaving Scott Tolzien as their starter. Tolzien struggled, and Flynn took advantage looking similar to his 2010 form, going 2-2-1 including an incredible 2nd half comeback against the Cowboys in week 15.
After failing to obtain / retain a starting job in three different cities (Seattle, Oakland, Buffalo), Flynn won't be looked on as a starter anywhere. However, he's proved his worth to the Packers, who would be wise to sign him until they can actually hit on a draft pick as a backup.
Prediction: Flynn tests the market, but doesn't find what he seeks. He'll re-sign with the Packers and continue collecting paychecks above veteran minimum.
4. Josh Freeman
2013 stats: 63 of 147 (42.9%), 761 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT
After Freeman's tumultuous release from the Buccaneers, he signed with the Vikings for $3 million...for one start. He had one of the more lucrative years in the NFL, netting $11.4 million after salary and termination pay from the Bucs. However, this year won't be as kind to Freeman.
Despite being young (26) and having a strong arm, Freeman's reputation is not strong right now, so he carries very little clout or leverage. He'll be starting with another coaching staff even if he returns to Minnesota, so he'll have to prove that he can learn quickly, which he hasn't been able to do thus far in his career.
Prediction: Greg Olsen was Freeman's offensive coordinator during his best years in Tampa. Olsen now resides in Oakland, who has a huge hole at QB after the Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin experiments didn't pan out last year. For a franchise that always wants to win now, Freeman provides them with veteran experience (6 years in the league) that will probably be offered a one-year "prove it" type of contract.
3. Matt Cassel
2013 stats: 153 of 254 (60.2%), 1,807 yards, 11 TD, 9 INT
Cassel becomes a free agent quarterback for the second consecutive off-season, but this time he's on the rise. Cassel took over the starting job for good in week 14 and looked good in his first two weeks, including a 382-yard performance against the Eagles in week 15. While Cassel wasn't great, he opened up the offense much more than Christian Ponder or Freeman could.
Prediction: Cassel's age (31) will scare off any long-term contracts, but makes him a prime target for someone looking for a stop-gap QB. I wouldn't be surprised if Houston grabbed Cassel for a couple of years so he can teach the guy they pick up in the first or second round. While Cassel has a link to new Texans coach Bill O'Brien, it's a stretch to think that O'Brien's time as a WR coach made him enamored with Cassel. This is a logical fit more than a building block from a previous relationship.
2. Josh McCown
2013 stats: 149 of 224 (66.5%), 1,829 yards, 13 TD, 1 INT
McCown had the best stretch of his career when Jay Cutler went down with ankle and groin injuries. However, I think I could have had a great run as well with Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall hauling in my passes, arguably the best 1-2 WR combo in the NFL.
McCown will be hard-pressed to find a starting job or a long contract (he turns 35 this summer), but will surely be offered a contract as a backup with a team that is unsure of its incumbent starter.
Prediction: The Jets make sense here, but they make more sense elsewhere (keep reading!). Tampa Bay, however, makes even more sense. With new head coach Lovie Smith coming in, McCown has a head coach that knows him from their time in Chicago together. The coaching staff may also not be high on Mike Glennon, as Smith said the Bucs have to consider a QB with the #7 overall draft pick. I think Smith wants to keep that #7 pick for a defensive or skill position player, and snags McCown as a safety valve for Glennon.
1. Mike Vick
2013 stats: 77 of 141 (54.6%), 1,215 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT
I don't think anyone had higher expectations in a contract year than Vick last season. With Chip Kelly's high-powered offense playing to Vick's potential strengths, Vick had the potential to become the highest coveted free agent quarterback of the off-season. Instead, the offense fluttered under his control, and his lack of time in the pocket resulted in 15 sacks in just over 5 games.
Vick's speed and skills as a running threat are still real. However, his ability to throw the ball accurately continues to hamper his true quarterbacking abilities. Learning a new system could take a bit of time, so he'll likely seek out a team that employs an old coach.
Prediction: The Jets' offensive coordinator is Marty Mornhinweg, who coached the Eagles offense when Vick was at the top of his game. Incumbent starter Geno Smith was not spectacular last year (not entirely his fault), but has plenty of potential. Vick's experience could help Smith on and off the field (recall that Smith received heavy criticism for signing with Roc Nation out of college). Vick has become a veteran voice, which the Jets severely lacked last season. I expect the Jets to sign him for a relatively cheap, incentive-laden contract, giving Vick the motivation he needs to push Smith even harder on the field.