6. Billy Volek, ChargersScouting Report:
Volek has spent the last four years backing up Philip Rivers
, and Rivers hasn't missed a start. The 35-year-old has been shaky in preseasons, two years ago completing 70.7 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but last year regressing to a 0:4 TD-to-INT ratio and 50.7 completion rate. Volek is a frail-looking quarterback in decline. He's hit the market before, and either no NFL teams had interest in giving him a chance to start, or Volek was just satisfied with backup jobs. He'd be a very poor bet to last more than eight starts.Availability:
The Chargers didn't draft a quarterback, so they may be hoping that Volek will return behind Rivers. Position coaches under whom Volek has worked include Rob Chudzinski (current Panthers offensive coordinator) and Cam Cameron (Ravens offensive coordinator).Prediction:
Ravens on a two-year, $3.5 million contract.7. Rex Grossman, RedskinsScouting Report:
Grossman has plenty of athleticism and arm strength, but is one of the worst decision-making quarterbacks of our generation. Wildly erratic, the former first-round pick has completed 54.2 percent of his career passes and never topped the 56.0 mark in an individual season. Grossman recorded a 29 on the Wonderlic before the 2003 draft, but his play can be more indicative of a single-digit score. His performances are incredibly unpredictable. One week, Grossman will look like a serviceable NFL starter. He will cost his team a game in the next.Availability:
The Shanahans were itching to play Grossman over Donovan McNabb
last year, and play-caller Kyle has an obvious affinity for the onetime Super Bowl starter. The Bengals have also been linked to Grossman, but Washington offers his best path to play time, in addition to coaching staff support. He could conceivably end up battling John Beck
for the starting job.Prediction:
Redskins on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.8. Troy Smith, 49ersScouting Report:
Smith developed a malcontent reputation in Baltimore after falling behind Joe Flacco
and Marc Bulger
. The Ravens waived him at final cuts, and Smith signed with San Francisco two days later. The 2006 Heisman winner experienced his first meaningful playing time under Mike Singletary, going 3-3 in six starts with six touchdowns (five pass, one rush) and a rock-solid 8.1 yards-per-attempt average. Smith has impressive arm power for a smallish passer (6'0/215) and is not afraid to throw downfield. He struggled with ball security (six fumbles, four INTs) and accuracy (50.3 completions), however, and lost the job to Alex Smith
at season's end.Availability:
We suspect there is a feeling around the league that Smith thinks he's better than he is because of how he complained his way out of a respected organization like the Ravens. But he put enough on film in 2010 to warrant a contract. The 49ers did not tender Smith, and he could catch on with a team that runs a vertical offense as a possible No. 2 quarterback. He has history with Raiders coach Hue Jackson, who was Smith's position coach in 2008 and 2009.Prediction:
Raiders on a one-year, $850,000 contract.9. Kerry Collins, TitansScouting Report:
Collins, 38, has 28 starts over the past three seasons, completing 57.3 percent of his passes with a 6.30 YPA average. His TD-to-INT ratio is 32:25. The numbers look serviceable, but keep in mind that Collins was protected by one of the NFL's top running games. Ultimately, Collins is a game-manager quarterback with scant athleticism, mediocre accuracy, and very few years left ahead of him. While Collins still has arm strength to make all of the throws, he is a deliberate-moving pocket passer who requires top-notch pass blocking to move an offense.Availability:
He should be viewed as a last-ditch option behind Jake Locker
in Tennessee, and even teams desperate for an extremely short-term stopgap ought to aim higher. Collins is best suited for a clear backup role in an offense that requires no movement skills at quarterback.Prediction:
Chargers on a one-year, $1 million contract.10. Trent Edwards, JaguarsScouting Report:
Perhaps the most injury-prone QB in football, Edwards has suffered an ailment of some sort every season since his senior year in high school. He has a mild case of Compartment Syndrome that causes tissue swelling and prevents proper blood-muscle flow for healing. Edwards has an adequate arm and athleticism, but poor pocket presence (possibly due to his injury history) and is only comfortable checking down to backs and underneath targets. In 33 career starts, the 27-year-old is 14-19 with a 60.5 completion rate but a 26:30 TD-to-INT ratio.Availability:
The Jaguars didn't tender Edwards before the March 3 deadline, effectively washing their hands of last year's in-season waiver pickup from Buffalo. It's worth noting that the Jets also put in a waiver claim last September, but Jacksonville "won out" because of its worse record. Also notable: 2010 Jaguars QB
s coach Mike Shula now holds the same role in Carolina.Prediction:
Panthers on a two-year, $3.5 million contract.Other surefire free agent quarterbacks: Nate Davis
, Chad Pennington
, Brian Brohm
, Jim Sorgi
, Chris Simms
, Charlie Frye
, Patrick Ramsey
, Josh McCown
Three- to Five-Year Restricted Free Agents
1. Dennis Dixon, Steelers
Scouting Report: Dixon's 2010 season ended with a torn left meniscus, the same knee in which he tore his ACL as a college senior. While the latest injury necessitated only arthroscopic surgery, multiple operations on the same knee is a long-term concern. When healthy, Dixon has shown the ability to win camp battles over established veterans (Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch), and move an offense with his legs (5.6 career yards per carry). Though still a work in progress as a passer, Dixon is 2-1 in three career starts, including a Week 1 win over Atlanta last year and a 20-17 loss in Baltimore the season prior. He's got moxie, and seems to be a contagious leader.
Availability: A three-year vet, Dixon is a restricted free agent regardless of a new CBA. He received a tender before March 3, although the level is unclear. Even if it was of the "original pick" variety -- Dixon was a fifth-round choice in 2008 -- NFL teams may hesitate to surrender substantial compensation for a quarterback with two year-ending injuries to the same knee in four seasons.
Prediction: Steelers on his one-year restricted tender.
2. Tyler Thigpen, Dolphins
Scouting Report: Thigpen's downfall has not been related to talent or confidence. He plays with a gunslinger mentality, is a positive-yards run threat, and can make NFL throws. Thigpen has been unable to grasp a pro-style offense after playing in Coastal Carolina's Pistol Spread, and struggled mightily off the bench last year in Miami, completing 53.2 percent of his passes with two touchdowns, two picks, a fumble, and eight sacks taken in five appearances. The Dolphins were shut out in Thigpen's only start. He remains an interesting, if developmental project at age 27.
Availability: The Fins extended Thigpen a second-round tender, the validity of which hinges on the labor situation. Thigpen has enjoyed his lone NFL success in a Chan Gailey offense, which incorporates Pistol concepts and lots of shotgun. Ryan Fitzpatrick needs a backup in Buffalo, so it makes sense that Thigpen would be a strong option there should his free agency be unrestricted, or the Fins be interested in trading him. They'd be smart to, seeing as Thigpen isn't their future.
Prediction: Bills via trade or signing.