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Five under-the-radar NFL quarterbacks

Rachel Wold

It is difficult to ignore the many awkward NFL quarterback situations headlining the news this offseason.

For example, how exhausted are we hearing about Sam Bradford’s hurt feelings when he is slated to make nearly $20 million this year? Cry us a river, Sam.

On the other hand, the league’s top quarterbacks naturally make the news for both positive and negative stories.

From attending community events to getting tangled up in scandals surrounding ball pressure, it’s the quarterback position that’s highlighted the most around the NFL.

This leaves many middling quarterbacks coasting under the radar. Therefore, it’s time to stir the pot and focus the limelight on these five quarterbacks, who for various reasons, are also worth some focus.

Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

Courtesy of USA Today Sports

The heated quarterback competition between Taylor, EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel was the talk of Western New York in Rex Ryan’s first summer as the Bills had coach last year.

Now that Taylor has emerged as the Bills’ starter, the hype has fizzled and there isn’t much buzz surrounding the 26-year-old former late-round pick.

In his debut season as a starter in the NFL, Taylor wasn’t all too shabby. He recorded 3,035 passing yards with only six interceptions, the latter number representing a league-best total.

On the downside, Taylor dealt with a few injuries and averaged only 1.42 touchdowns per game.

This obviously must improve if the Bills are going to be more competitive in the AFC East and earn their first playoff spot since the Bill Clinton Administration (1999).

Whether Taylor will be the face of the Bills’ franchise for years to come remains to be seen. Currently under contract at $1 million annually, Taylor is obviously going to want a raise here in the not-so-distant future.

With a long-term deal likely on the horizon, we could definitely hear noise turned up from Taylor’s camp suggesting a raise should be Buffalo’s priority. After all, Brock Osweiler’s free-agent deal with the Houston Texans at $18 million annually set the bar here.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

As long as Bridgewater keeps handing the ball off to Adrian Peterson and the Vikings defense remains stout, the third-year starter doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about.

Fortunately for the Vikings, this worked in the team’s favor last season when they claimed the NFC North title. Though, in picking apart Teddy’s contribution to the squad, his numbers weren’t so stellar.

Bridgewater’s 14 passing touchdowns represented a low-water mark for all NFL quarterbacks that started a minimum of 12 games. He also put up nine picks, making his touchdown-to-interception ratio average at best.

Thus, it isn’t too shocking that Bridgewater achieved an 88.7 overall quarterback rating, ranking him 22nd in this category.

Entering his third season, it is high time for Bridgewater to take his performance to the next level.

Among many other reasons, the fact that Peterson is 31 years old has to play a role here. Though, some sort of a backhanded compliment, Peterson recently indicated that his quarterback is “great at those mediocre passes.”

If the Vikings want to dominate their division for years to come, Bridgewater must get up to speed and improve through the air. That’s only magnified with Peterson hitting the twilight of his career.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Keeping on topic with overall quarterback ratings, Tannehill tied Bridgewater at No. 22 in 2015.

For an NFL quarterback finishing the first year of a lucrative new contract, Tannehill was somewhat of a disappointment when his level of production dropped in various areas.

USATSI_8928864_168380823_lowresFans hoping that Tannehill might benefit from some off-season mentoring sessions held with former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning got duped.

A string of alleged upcoming tutoring sessions turned out to be a chat over lunch when Manning visited the Dolphins’ facility.

Adding some upgrades along the offensive line, including first-round pick Laremy Tunsil, should help Tannehill improve his production this upcoming season.

How many times did we see Tannehill scramble to recover a botched snap or have to run for his life?

Overall, the former Texas A&M standout was sacked a whopping 45 times and has seen himself taking down 184 times in four seasons as Miami’s starter.

If this area improves under first-year head coach Adam Gase, Tannehill should perform at a higher level in 2016.

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Considered a team that was already doomed early last year after suffering losses in Weeks 2-6, the Chiefs and Smith found their way to two postseason appearances.

This all came with Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles sidelined for a vast majority of the season.

Smith isn’t a name that crosses headlines often, but last year he accomplished enough to keep the Chiefs afloat in Andy Reid’s run-centric offensive scheme.

The addition of Jeremy Maclin did wonders for Smith, who failed to connect on a single touchdown pass to a receiver the previous season. Maclin scored eight touchdowns in 2015, providing the underrated Smith with that consistent outside receiving option.

Smith has also built some strong chemistry with tight end Travis Kelce, who tied Rob Gronkowski for the most receptions at that position with 72 last season.

In no way is Smith the flashiest of NFL quarterbacks, nor are his passing yards anything to write home about.

What standouts here is the fact that Smith doesn’t make mistakes and remains calm under pressure. After all, Smith has thrown just 30 interceptions in his past five seasons (71 starts).

Lastly, it is somewhat ironic that Smith is on the uptrend considering how he was ousted out of his starting job with the San Francisco 49ers years back.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler

While everyone was criticizing the Detroit Lions in the NFC North last season, Cutler was coasting in Chicago, allowing fellow quarterback Matthew Stafford to take all the heat. It sure was a change from previous seasons.

Interestingly, statistics tell us a story of a player in Stafford that was on par with Cutler. The Lions quarterback completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 4,262 yards with 32 touchdowns and 13 picks.

Meanwhile, Cutler completed just over 64 percent of his attempts for 3,659 yards with 21 scores and 11 interceptions.

Clearly, Cutler’s numbers overall were worse. The Bears also finished last in their division after winning only six games. The summer narrative each year is that Cutler is somehow going to break out of his career-long funk. But in the end, mediocrity prevails.

The Bears finding a way to downgrade Cutler’s weaponry has also played a role in his floundering career. Chicago traded away Brandon Marshall last spring, only to see him put up a historical performance for the New York Jets.

Gone from last season are both Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, two players that have acted as safety valves for Cutler in the past.

He’s now left with an injury-plagued Alshon Jeffery and a second-year receiver in Kevin White who missed his entire rookie campaign to injury.

If Cutler somehow improves on what was a slightly encouraging 2015 season, it could help the Bears move up from the cellar in the NFC North. Though, there’s a lot working against him here.