5 BEST QUARTERBACKS STILL AVAILABLE
With NFL training camps on the horizon, the draft settled and free agency all but silenced, there’s no better time to take a look at the best of who’s left on the market. To see which players have ended up in the bargain bin that could help your team get over the hump, or at least allow Scott Hanson the opportunity to feature them on NFL Redzone without apologizing to his viewers?
We start our journey through the NFL’s leftovers with the most important position on the team — the quarterback. Whether it’s guys that remain on the trading block or have made it this far without being signed, there are some quality signal callers still available.
5. ANTHONY GORDON, FREE AGENT
2021: Did not take a snap
Gordon is a guy I’ve liked since he came out of college and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out how he doesn’t stay on a roster. He was legitimately one of my favorite quarterbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft Class and he was never drafted. His college numbers in his lone year starting at Washington State were off the charts. He completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 5,579 yards, 48 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
And while there’s a difference between professional and college football, I can’t believe a guy with that kind of accuracy and production isn’t worth a roster spot in the NFL. The kid’s college film made me think of Kurt Warner and it’s probably no accident. He didn’t get drafted either.
While Gordon has never appeared in a regular season NFL game, he’s managed to hang around the league, first with the Seattle Seahawks, then with the Kansas City Chiefs (twice) and Denver Broncos.
Perfect landing spot: Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ roster is notoriously top heavy with salaries and stars, which forces them to go cheap where they can. One of those places is back up quarterback. John Wolford has served in that spot for the last two seasons with Bryce Perkins landed there last year (and played the majority of the preseason). I like Perkins and honestly think he’s better than Wolford, but I’m betting, in a Sean McVay system, Gordon would be an upgrade over both. There’s a reason Andy Reid keeps signing Gordon, even if he does keep waiving him. While I would also love to see another QB later down the list end up with McVay, I feel like the price for Gordon would be cheaper and one the Rams would be more willing to pick up.
4. CAM NEWTON, FREE AGENT
2021: 0-5, 54.8 completion percentage, 684 yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions, 230 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns
While Newton isn’t what he used to be, the dude got a raw deal over the last two seasons. In 2020 during the height of the pandemic he was brought in to take over for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, running an offense that didn’t fit his talents with no preseason work. Last year, he sat out half a year before rejoining the Carolina Panthers. He made five starts and lost every one, again tossed into the fire with little or no preparation.
Starting 15 games two seasons ago for the Pats, Newton completed 65.8 percent of his passes in a Josh McDaniels offense. In 2018, even with an injured foot and shoulder, he completed 67.8 percent of his passes in a Norv Turner offense. This is a guy, when required to, can play from the pocket and use his athleticism as a bonus, instead of his whole game. There are still teams with major QB issues heading into the 2022 season with head coach jobs on the line. Bringing Newton in, and giving him an entire training camp to prepare, could work out well for him and a coach looking at a pink slip.
Perfect landing spot: Carolina Panthers.
That last sentence above, about a head coach with QB issues looking at unemployment in a season all applies to Panthers head man Matt Rhule. Newton belongs with the Panthers and, regardless of his current skillset, there’s no universe where he, with a full preseason of preparation, isn’t a better option than Sam Darnold. Darnold has never completed more than 61.9 percent of his passes in his career. If Carolina is going to lose double digit games, they might as well do it with the best QB in their franchise’s history.
3. JOSH ROSEN, FREE AGENT
2021: 18.2 completion percentage, 19 yards, two interceptions
Speaking of raw deals, few players in recent NFL history have experienced the career hose job that Rosen has suffered through since being drafted No. 10 overall in 2018. In case you need a reminder, that was the same draft that produced Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, as well as Baker Mayfield (who we’ll get to) and Sam Darnold. There were draft boards at the time that had Rosen ranked ahead of all of them.
His rookie season, on a bad Cardinals team with a defensive coach (Steve Wilks, who was fired after a single season) wasn’t awful. He went 3-10, completing 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in the then toughest division in all of football.
Perfect landing spot: Minnesota Vikings
It’s time for Rosen to surrender the idea that he’s going anywhere to start this season. He needs to get with a QB whisperer and learn a system, preferably the Sean McVay system since it’s also being used in Cincinnati, Green Bay and now Minnesota. The Vikings are riding Kirk Cousins this season under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, but all bets are off in 2023. Rosen could come in this summer, learn the playbook and show O’Connell and the team why he was seen as a first round QB coming out of UCLA.
2. BAKER MAYFIELD, TRADE FROM CLEVELAND BROWNS
2021: 6-8, 60.5 completion percentage, 3,010 yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 134 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
Mayfield has no future with Cleveland even though they might be open to it now (considering Deshaun Watson could be suspended for a full season). Mayfield has no interest in that so the team still has him on the block. They have to pay him his fifth year option regardless of what happens, so it’s in their best interest to find a trade partner to take some of that $18.858 million dollar guaranteed payday.
Mayfield played hurt last season and it didn’t help his cause. He’s not the first QB to do this, but what his injury showed was all the other deficiencies in his game. There’s a reason the Browns wanted an upgrade, but that doesn’t mean Mayfield wouldn’t be an upgrade for another team.
Perfect landing spot: Seattle Seahawks
Mayfield’s problem is there were too many good QB options available in free agency and he, now even after that flurry of signings, still isn’t even the best signal caller up for a trade. Reportedly the Seahawks are still interested in Mayfield and it would be a solid fit — a run-oriented, play-action offense that didn’t put too much on the QB’s shoulders. And they have no shot at the guy ranked ahead of him since the San Francisco 49ers would never make that kind of trade with a division rival.
1. JIMMY GAROPPOLO, TRADE FROM SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
2021: 11-7, 68.3 completion percentage, 3,810 yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Garoppolo is 37-16 as a starter in the NFL with two NFC Championship game appearances, one NFC Championship and a Super Bowl appearance. That should be all you need to know to solidify him as No. 1 on this list and why the 49ers were absolutely bonkers to preemptively replace him.
If Garoppolo is healthy enough to start more than 10 games, his team makes it to the title game. Last year’s six regular season losses were the most in a single season in his career and they still made it all the way to the NFC Championship. Garoppolo is the poster child for being unjustly maligned by a fan base. The Niners will miss him this season. Trust me.
Perfect landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The irony that Garoppolo could end up backing up Tom Brady when he was supposed to replace Brady in New England should not be lost on anyone. Garoppolo would be better than any QB the Bucs have on the roster outside the GOAT and could set the team up for success for years to come, saving them from entering the QB draft scramble with a low first rounder next season.
But the real answer here is the 49ers. But there’s no way they keep him. They spent too much on Trey Lance not to go all in this season, win or lose. And it will be lose.
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.