Leading up to the official start of free agency on March 12, packers.com will examine the league’s unrestricted free agents, position by position. In the first installment, we look at the quarterbacks.
GREEN BAY—Assuming Joe Flacco re-signs with Baltimore, there isn’t anyone classified as a headliner in the crop of free-agent quarterbacks.
Flacco would be the headliner, of course, as the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but talks are reportedly ongoing between Flacco and the Ravens to keep him in Baltimore.
As long as there’s at least progress on a long-term deal, there’s virtually no way Flacco hits the open market. If needed, the Ravens could use their franchise tag on Flacco to, in effect, extend their negotiating window beyond March 12.
After Flacco, the next quarterback to keep an eye on could be Matt Moore, the only available signal caller who might legitimately seek an opportunity to start. Moore was beaten out in Miami last season by first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill after Moore had gone 6-6 in 12 starts for the Dolphins in 2011. The stretch included a 6-3 finish after losses in Moore’s first three starts that season.
From there, a long list of quarterbacks with starting experience exists for teams looking for a veteran backup.
Jason Campbell was a major signing for the Bears last season to back up Jay Cutler, but it’s difficult to say how much attention Campbell will command this year. Campbell wasn’t particularly effective in subbing for an injured Cutler, though to be fair, he was thrown into a rain-soaked game against Houston and then started against eventual NFC champion San Francisco on the road in prime time. Campbell wasn’t able to deliver the one more win the Bears needed to make the postseason, but he was asked to do it against the teeth of Chicago’s schedule.
Similarly, Byron Leftwich didn’t do himself any favors with a forgettable game in his one start for Pittsburgh in 2012, but his 18-for-39, 51.1-rated outing came in a loss to Baltimore in which Leftwich played nearly all of the game with a rib injury.
Packers fans have seen Drew Stanton perform adequately for Detroit in the past – he won a low-scoring, second-half duel with Matt Flynn at Ford Field in 2010. Stanton wasn’t needed when Matthew Stafford finally stayed healthy in 2011, and then he lost any chance to step in for Mark Sanchez with the Jets last season when the Jets acquired Tim Tebow. Stanton was traded to the Colts and backed up No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck instead.
Other former starters who will be looking for backup jobs include Bruce Gradkowski, Derek Anderson, David Carr, Kellen Clemens and Rex Grossman. There’s loads of experience in that group, but aside from Grossman’s one Super Bowl run with the Bears seven years ago, not a lot of success to speak of.
At the other end of the spectrum is Chase Daniel, who has never started a game in New Orleans in four years but has served as Drew Brees’ primary backup for the past three. He would welcome a chance, any chance, to prove himself.
Two additional former first-rounders would like another chance, but to this point Matt Leinart’s and Brady Quinn’s names have been bigger than their games. If the Raiders and Chiefs, respectively, don’t re-sign Leinart and Quinn, both will be moving on to their fourth teams in the last four years.
The Packers have made a regular practice of developing their backups to Aaron Rodgers from within, first with Flynn and now with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman. So it’s unlikely, barring an injury, that the Packers will have any interest in a free-agent QB.
A homegrown option behind a franchise quarterback is always more salary-cap friendly, and the risk is mitigated with a coaching staff like Green Bay’s that has proven it can develop young QBs. In 2010-11, Flynn proved the Packers’ way had merit, while in 2012, the Bears showed the veteran approach provides no greater guarantee.