After the NFL season is complete every team in the NFL is going to be looking forward to free agency in an attempt to add some quick fixes to weak positions. Among those teams, more than a few will be looking to sign a quarterback, either to immediately start or add veteran depth to the position. 2009 may be those teams’ luck year.
A handful of starters and former starts will see their contracts expire after the season, and if their respective current teams don’t make a serious effort to re-sign them, we could see some significant shifts in the distribution of talent around the NFL.
Here are the top quarterbacks set to become free agents after the season is complete.
1. Kurt Warner – Arizona Cardinals – UFA – Kurt Warner had a Pro Bowl season in 2008, starting 16 games and lighting up opponents. The question at this point is, will the Cardinals retain him? I think so, especially if the Cardinals make a run in the postseason. Ken Whisenhunt has little faith or investment in Matt Leinart, who has proved himself to be an adequate career backup, and the Cardinals don’t really have another option at quarterback. Warner may turn 38 before the start of the 2009 season, but he’s proved his worth as an NFL starter. If the Cardinals decide to move on without him, expect him to find plenty of suitors around the NFL.
2. Matt Cassell – New England Patriots – UFA – It’s anyone’s guess whether the New England Patriots will attempt to re-sign Cassell, though Brady’s improving health and expectation to start in 2009 may make it easier to let Cassell go. Blessed by incredible talent around him, the 26-year old career backup put together some decent numbers in 2008, especially when considering expectations. Most importantly, he won games and kept the Patriots competitive and padded his resume at exactly the right time.rex grossman
3. Jeff Garcia – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – UFA – Garcia may not post gaudy numbers, but he isn’t in an offense that gives him opportunities, either. The really big drawback with Garcia is his age (39), but he’s a suitable veteran presence and would fit well with a team drafting a rookie this season. He’s a smart quarterback who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and a solid veteran.
4. Kyle Orton – Chicago Bears – UFA – Two Bears quarterbacks are unrestricted free agents after this season, and I don’t think it’s a big secret which the team would like to retain. Orton was solid in 2008, exceeding fans’ expectations and, at least sometimes, reminding us, yes, the Bears can throw the football. Expect Chicago to retain this starter.
5. Rex Grossman – Chicago Bears – UFA – One of the most criticized young quarterbacks in recent memory, Rex Grossman’s resume was damaged by several poor or mediocre seasons with Chicago. The oft-injured quarterback also appeared to have a severe case of fumblitis and footballphobia – a fear of the football – which seemed to hamper his ability to get through an entire game without fumbling the ball. Grossman is a serviceable backup, however, and still young enough to have a career of some length in the NFL.
6. Kerry Collins – Tennessee Titans – UFA – Word on the street is the Titans would like to sign Collins to a new contract after the season to keep him around at least one more season. Collins did an admirable job in replacing Vince Young this season and will likely continue his role as the team’s starter next season. Like Garcia, Collins played in an offense where he was expected to not make mistakes, and to that end he was very successful. Teams looking for more out of a starting quarterback, however, may wish to look elsewhere.
7. Kyle Boller – Baltimore Ravens – UFA – Boller is the perfect example of a quarterback whose career was damaged because he was drafted and started before he was ready. Boller now exists as a backup in Baltimore, a role he may soon find is no longer his. Teams looking for a decent backup can take a chance on Boller, but it has become increasingly obvious over the years he will never be an adequate NFL starter.
8. Charlie Batch – UFA – Pittsburgh Steelers
9. J.T. O’Sullivan – UFA – San Francisco 49ers
10. Patrick Ramsey – UFA – Denver Broncos
11. Luke McCown – UFA – Tampa Bay Buccaneer