I like to say that there are 32 franchises in the NFL but fewer than 32 franchise-caliber quarterbacks. That’s why it’s a big deal that there are several high-quality quarterbacks scheduled to become unrestricted free agents or projected to become available via release very soon, as well as a handful of good pivots in the 2016 draft.
Here’s how we rank them in terms of their chances of becoming franchise signal callers.
1. Kirk Cousins: The man had the highest passer rating in football during the second half of the 2015 regular season. Sure, that’s a small sample size, but the fact is Cousins had a Pro Bowl-caliber season and could continue to get better at the age of 27. Unfortunately for anyone but the Redskins, it looks like Washington is also on board, because Cousins is expected to be re-signed or tagged.
2. Carson Wentz: Big, strong and accurate, Wentz looks like the complete package. A lot of folks expect him to be the No. 1 overall pick, which based on precedents would give him about a 50/50 shot at becoming a star quarterback.
3. Sam Bradford: The former top pick’s numbers weren’t pretty in his first (and possibly only) season with the Eagles, but Bradford did post a solid 97.0 rating with 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions during the final seven games of the year. Plus, he proved that he can stay healthy. That might be enough to convince Philadelphia to bring him back, but if that doesn’t happen the 28-year-old should land a starting job elsewhere.
4. Jared Goff: The highly-praised Cal product is a great pure passer with some mobility and a lot of upside.
5. Brock Osweiler: The 25-year-old is the smallest sample among the veteran quarterbacks listed, but that isn’t always a good thing. He struggled immensely at times in relief of Peyton Manning in 2015 and was frequently bailed out by that great Denver defense. Still, he’s likely to return to the Broncos.
6. Paxton Lynch: The big guy has also been heavily hyped and has a Ben Roethlisberger feel. He’s probably more of a long-term project, but the kid’s 2015 stats at Memphis were out of control.
7. Ryan Fitzpatrick: The journeyman isn’t an extremely long-term solution, but he did throw 31 touchdown passes while nearly leading the Jets to the playoffs. At 33 he has a ceiling, and the Jets are likely to bring him back, but he is a good stopgap candidate and is probably better equipped to win right now than any of the quarterbacks in the draft.
8. Connor Cook: A lack of consistency and questions regarding his accuracy and decision making have hurt Cook’s stock, but he does have a ton of raw talent coming out of a superb program.
9. Robert Griffin III: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft will almost definitely be released before the start of the new league year. Three years removed from one of the best rookie seasons in the history of the game, he didn’t take a single snap in 2015, but RG3 is still only 26 and has as much natural talent as anybody on this list. That shouldn’t be enough to earn a starting spot right away, but somebody could benefit greatly by adding Griffin as a backup.