Teams around the NFL in dire need of a quarterback no longer have Tony Romo as an option, as Dallas Cowboys quarterback intends to retire.
Tony Romo is leaving football and going into broadcasting, even with Dallas planning to release him today, sources tell @toddarcher and me.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 4, 2017
Heading into the 2017 NFL offseason, we already knew this year’s free agency class was particularly sour, and things haven’t changed a whit on that front. On top of that, the impending rookies coming into the league via the 2017 NFL Draft don’t appear to be ready to play right away.
So where does that leave quarterback needy teams? Who’s the best of the rest right now?
We’re answering that question right here and now, ranking the top 10 — free agents and rookies — from worst to first.
10. Robert Griffin III
Let’s be honest, if you’re throwing RG3 out there, you’re in a desperate situation. Heck, it’s really saying something that the Cleveland Browns of all teams let him go after one campaign.
At this point in his career, it seems the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is no more than a glorified punching bag for NFL defenders. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy for a full season since…well, since forever.
He suffered a knee injury in his rookie year along with some huge hits to the head. The following year he missed three games due to injury. He wasn’t even suiting up for games in 2015 because Washington decided it was safer to keep him in bubble wrap while Kirk Cousins took over. Then he ended up on IR after playing just part of the first game last year for the Browns.
Even counting his stellar rookie campaign in which he threw 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions earning a record of 9-6, Griffin’s career numbers aren’t great. He now has a career record of 15-25 and has thrown 45 touchdowns compared to 26 interceptions.
The Baylor product still struggles to operate in the pocket. It was his glaring weakness coming out of school, and it’s something he still has yet to master. While we do expect that RG3 will likely land on an NFL roster at some point before the 2017 season begins, he isn’t any team’s long-term or short-term answer at this key position.
9. Shaun Hill
Even at his best, Hill was only good in a pinch. Never considered by any team as starting caliber, the former Maryland quarterback has started just 35 games in his 11-year-career, earning a record of 17-18.
The most action Hill ever saw came in 2010 as a member of the Detroit Lions. He came in because Matthew Stafford suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and earned a 3-7 record while throwing 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 11 games that year.
That was the pinnacle.
Since that time, Hill has thrown a combined total of 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Hill did win a game for the Minnesota Vikings last season, but he wasn’t the reason for the victory. In that game, he completed just 54.3 percent of his passes while throwing no touchdowns.
A career backup quarterback, Hill could be useful on a very short-term basis, but that’s about it.
8. Davis Webb
The first rookie on this list, Webb likely has a lot of learning to do before he’s ready to step onto an NFL field with a legitimate shot to win games.
The biggest reason for this is that Webb was playing in an offense that’s about as far from an NFL-style offense as you can get. He excelled in Sonny Dykes’ Air Raid offense, but that’s the same offense that made Jared Goff so ill-prepared for the NFL. It won’t be any different for Webb.
Still, there is a lot to like about Webb as a future prospect. First off he has prototypical size (6-foot-5, 229 pounds) and can throw the ball over a mountain. He’s also intelligent, athletic and a quick study, which is why NFL teams have told him he’s a first-round talent.
But given his inexperience running an NFL style offense, any team that drafts Webb better have someone else on the roster who can start at least one season while Webb learns the ropes.
7. Patrick Mahomes
In terms of raw football talent and elite athletic traits, no quarterback coming out of the 2017 NFL Draft class compares to Mahomes.
This kid was a prolific, record-breaking passer at Texas Tech. He is also the son of a former MLB player and more arm strength than anyone we’ve seen coming into the league in a long, long time.
— STACK (@STACKMedia) March 31, 2017
Think Colin Kaepernick without the baggage, with a stronger arm. Yeah, he’s an incredible talent.
But like Webb, Mahomes isn’t going to be able to step onto the field in Year 1 and have much success at the NFL level. He played in a similar Air Raid offense, engineered by Kliff Kingsbury, and had the benefit of going up against Big 12 defenses most Saturdays.
While the talent is clearly there, he’s not ready to help an NFL team win at this point.
6. Ryan Fitzpatrick
After his gaudy 31-touchdown campaign in 2015 with the New York Jets, Fitzpatrick reminded everyone why he’s been a career journeyman with an awful season. He ended up getting benched more than once, only to have to start due to injuries to Geno Smith and Bryce Petty.
In 2016, Fitzpatrick lost his magic in a huge way, completing just 56.6 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions (including more than a few nasty ones) in 14 games.
Essentially, the Harvard grad regressed back to the mean. Over the course of his 12-year career, Fitzpatrick is a 59.7 percent passer who has thrown 166 touchdowns and 133 interceptions, earning a career record of 46-69-1.
The one bright spot a quarterback needy team can potentially point to when considering Fitzpatrick is his 2015 season when he went 10-6 with the Jets and helped that offense thrive. Perhaps Fitzmagic strikes twice. You never know.
5. Jay Cutler
Cutler might be done. He might be ready to just call it quits after 11 years in the NFL (more on that here).
But if Cutler does choose to give the NFL another shot in 2017, expectations should be tempered regarding exactly what he can do for a club in need of a bridge. First off, there’s the matter of health. Cutler hasn’t played in a full 16-game season since 2009. He’s missed at least one game in every season since and ended up missing 11 due to injuries last year with the Chicago Bears.
Secondly, there’s a simple matter of math. Cutler cannot stop turning the ball over. In 139 career games, he’s thrown 146 interceptions. More than one per game is a terrible ratio in today’s NFL, yet that’s what Cutler has done throughout his career. Sure, he’s thrown 208 touchdowns, but turnovers lose ballgames. Period.
Still, despite all that Cutler does provide excitement when he plays. You never know when he’s going to throw a brilliant touchdown pass most quarterbacks couldn’t dream of tossing (watch here). On the other side of the coin, you never know when he will decide to let ‘er rip into triple coverage for a sure interception.
Anyone ready to roll the dice?
4. Mitch Trubisky
Everyone loves the way Trubisky can sling the pigskin. He has a tremendous arm and showed some promise that he knows how to use it at the highest level of competition.
Starting all 13 games for North Carolina last year, Trubisky was very accurate, especially when he set his feet. He finished with a 68-percent completion rate and threw 30 touchdowns compared to just six interceptions. Those are tremendous numbers.
But the glaring issue surrounding Trubisky is that he couldn’t find a way to beat out a mediocre starter in Marquise Williams during the 2014-15 campaigns. This is an issue that has been “bugging” Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, who probably spoke up for many NFL personnel evaluators in the process.
“A really talented player,” Arians said. “The growth potential is obviously there. The question is why wasn’t all that talent starting for the last three years? That’s always bugging me. So you have to go and answer those questions with him, with his coach, but the physical talent is there.”
A player many NFL draft writers believes will be the first quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft, we’re not convinced he’s going to pan out. In fact, if this scribe had to make a comparison to an NFL quarterback, it would be Blaine Gabbert, who never lacked talent but couldn’t cut it against NFL pressure.
3. DeShone Kizer
There is a lot to like about Kizer, who might just be the most NFL-ready rookie coming into the league this year. But there are a ton of question marks surrounding this kid as well.
First off, he never really earned the staring job at Notre Dame. It was essentially his job by default in 2015 because Malik Zaire got injured. Even last year, Zaire and Kizer were battling for the starting role, though Kizer ended up getting the lion’s share of work.
We also cannot ignore that Kizer’s 2016 season was pretty stale. He struggled with accuracy and late-game decision making, finishing his campaign with a 58.7-percent completion rate (very low for college ball) while throwing 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It’s also worth noting his Irish went 4-8, and Kizer struggled to elevate the play of his teammates during this difficult campaign.
NFL general manager John Lynch spoke in depth with Kizer about all this and gave a glowing report at the combine, yet we’re not convinced the young gunslinger is anywhere near ready to lead an offense at the next level.
2. Deshaun Watson
The one quarterback coming out of college in 2017 that won’t shrink under the bright lights is Watson, who excelled in pressure situations during his time with the Clemson Tigers.
He took on the biggest challenge college football had to offer the past two years, earning a 1-1 record against Alabama in title games while completing roughly 64 percent of his passes while throwing for 825 yards with seven touchdowns and just one interception. He also added 106 yards and a touchdown rushing in those two games and is an underrated runner who scored 26 touchdowns on the ground in three seasons with the Tigers.
Obviously, the learning curve in the NFL is steep. And it would be crazy to assume Watson can just step into that environment and thrive. Yet he does have the chip-on-his-shoulder attitude, the leadership and demeanor, not to mention the physical skills to make the transition.
Accuracy is an issue. So is his skittishness in the pocket. He needs to learn how to settle into it, rather than escape every chance he gets.
Yet Watson appears to possess everything that is required of an NFL passer. Including a wealth of experience at the college level, much of which was attained in a high-pressure environment.
1. Colin Kaepernick
Despite being more skilled than pretty much every quarterback that’s been signed this offseason, Kaepernick remains jobless.
While many people disagree about the reasons for this, it cannot be argued that, at least in part, he’s without work because of his public stance against the national anthem in 2016. If you believe some of the reports coming out, NFL executives either cannot stand Kaepernick or are scared of hiring him because of the backlash they’ll face.
Baggage aside, Kaepernick should have a job. He’s not one of the best 12 quarterbacks in the NFL as Richard Sherman has suggested, but he’s certainly better than some of the starters right now — a topic we explored in detail here.
Facts are facts. Last year, despite playing on one of the NFL’s worst teams featuring the least amount of talent on the offensive side of the ball, Kaepernick threw 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions while playing in 11 games. Over the course of his career, he’s completed just below 60 percent of his passes while tossing 72 touchdowns and just 30 interceptions while earning a record of 28-30 (that counts his 1-10 record in 2016).
Then there’s the dual-threat aspect of Kaepernick’s game that has always made him one of the league’s most dangerous playmakers. He’s rushed for 2,300 yards and 13 touchdowns in his career, averaging 6.1 yards per carry.
There are teams that could do a lot worse than Kaepernick, and they actually have. He’d be a better option for the New York Jets than Josh McCown. He’s a better option for the Houston Texans than Tom Savage. He’s better than Cody Kessler in Cleveland. Heck, in a backup role he’d be a perfect fit for the Seattle Seahawks.
Simply put, Kaepernick is the best quarterback still out there.