It can never be overstated the importance and necessity of having a reliable quarterback that can lead your team to the promised land sooner rather than later. However, as it pertains to these coveted athletes in free agency this year, there are very few signal-callers that are worthy of starting on any NFL teams this year or anytime in the foreseeable future. With that being said, possessing a reliable and efficient backup passer on the roster can often be the difference between maintaining a successful season or abandoning all hope of making it to the playoffs. Considering what the Philadelphia Eagles were able to accomplish with a fringe starter this past season, the following quarterbacks have the potential to step in for their beloved starters to at least inspire some hope that their respective teams can still be competitive in a given season.
10. Ryan Fitzpatrick
A highly intelligent passer that lacks any type of reputable athletic abilities, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a relatively successful journeyman quarterback during his time in the NFL. With a career completion percentage just below 60%, Fitzpatrick is a serviceable passer that can step into most offenses and quickly learn the respective nuances to give his team a chance to win consistently. While he’s not an electric playmaker, he is a cerebral signal-caller that can come in and do what is asked of him more often than not.
9. Drew Stanton
While Drew Stanton will never be considered a capable starter on any NFL team, the fact that he has only played for two teams during his seven-year career suggests that the unremarkable passer is worth keeping around. Although he does not put up pretty numbers consistently, he has the arm to make plays downfield and possesses decent athleticism, allowing him to be utilized in more ways than one.
8. E.J. Manuel
A first-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2013, E.J. Manuel has since been reduced to being a capable backup passer for the Oakland Raiders. However, Manuel is highly athletic and is good enough in the intermediate passing game to step in for an injured starter without being a complete disaster. Like most backups, Manuel is below average from an accuracy perspective, but his impressive athletic abilities give him a slight edge over most backup passers in the NFL.
7. Derek Anderson
Once a starter for the Carolina Panthers, Derek Anderson is an unimpressive passer from a statistical perspective. However, as a veteran of the NFL, Anderson possesses the poise and experience to be a reliable back up that will do what is necessary to keep his team competitive. He may not be particularly consistent with his passing accuracy, but he has a strong arm and can make the requisite plays needed to lead his team to victory fairly consistently.
6. Sam Bradford
If Sam Bradford could simply stay healthy, he would easily be considered one of the top quarterbacks in free agency this year. However, the highly efficient passer has not played a full season since 2012 and only started in two games for the Vikings last season. Still, with a career completion of 62.5%, Bradford is better than some of other starting passers in the NFL.
5. Blaine Gabbert
While Blaine Gabbert never took off as a starting quarterback in the NFL, his safe dink and dunk passing style has allowed him to be a coveted backup throughout his career. Throwing 44 touchdowns to 43 interceptions during his career, Gabbert is about as typical of a backup quarterback as there is in football, which is actually a compliment when you consider the lack of reliable passers currently in the league.
4. Josh McCown
At 38 years of age, it would be fair to assume that McCown is most likely on the verge of retirement. However, when you consider that the journeyman quarterback set career highs in passing yards (2,926), touchdowns (18) and completion percentage (67.3%), it appears that the veteran passer may still have a bit more left in the tank. While McCown lacks the natural ability and instincts to be anything more than an average starter, he is the perfect bridge quarterback for any team that is looking to develop their roster before drafting a franchise passer.
3. Teddy Bridgewater
Before suffering a devastating knee injury that almost completely derailed his career as an NFL player, Teddy Bridgewater was an impressive game manager that could do just enough with his arm and his legs to keep his team competitive. Although his lack of playing time during the last two seasons may deter some teams from giving him a second chance, Bridgewater certainly has the ability to return to form as a starter assuming a franchise is willing to be patient with him.
2. Case Keenum
Coming seemingly out of nowhere to lead the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, Case Keenum played his best football at the right time to elevate his status from solid backup to a reliable starter. Although it would be unwise for an NFL team to spend heavily on a quarterback that has put up just one prolific season during his five-year career, Keenum’s now established ceiling certainly makes him worthy of getting a chance to start somewhere next season.
1. Drew Brees
No surprise here. Although Drew Brees will undoubtedly re-sign with the New Orleans Saints when all is said and done, at 39 years of age, the veteran passer may not get the lucrative contract that he is expecting. If that is the case, then Brees could and should test the open market to see if there is a team that is a gifted passer away from making a run at a Super Bowl Championship (Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars).