2014 NFL free agents: Michael Vick tops quarterbacks available

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Vick headlines a weak year for free agent quarterbacks. Going up against a stacked NFL Draft class, will any of this year's free agent passers land long-term contracts?

The 2014 free agency period could have been a fun one for quarterbacks, but Jay Cutler signed an extension with Chicago Bears at the beginning of the year, depriving us all of what would have been a fascinating bidding war for the only sure-fire starting quarterback on the market.

What's left are several much-less appetizing options for teams in need of immediate help. Names like Michael Vick, Chad Henne, Josh Freeman and Josh McCown have plenty of experience, but whether any is a guaranteed upgrade, even over the dregs of the league's starting quarterbacks, is up for debate. Teams may be even less apt to move on a free agent quarterback this year, given the strength of the position in this year's NFL Draft.

2014 free agent rankingsQB WR RB TE OL DE DT LB CB S

Unless the likes of Sam Bradford or Matt Schaub suddenly find themselves on the market as cap casualties, Vick Henne, Freeman and McCown represent the cream of the free agent crop. Here's a look at the entire quarterback class.

1. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles)

Vick is the clear No. 1 until further notice. He entered the 2013 season with high expectations given how effective Chip Kelly's Oregon offense was at turning mobile quarterbacks loose for big numbers on the ground and through the air. Vick couldn't stay on the field due to injuries, however, and eventually was forced to sit even when healthy because Nick Foles was simply too good.

Vick played well in six appearances. His 54.6 percent completion rate was rough, but he averaged a healthy 8.6 yards per attempt and added 306 yards rushing on 36 carries. He accounted for seven total touchdowns to five turnovers, which is a ratio that needy teams may be comfortable with.

There is a legitimate question whether Kelly's system made Vick look better than he really was, especially considering how his numbers paled in comparison to what Foles posted. In 2012 under Andy Reid, Vick had 13 touchdowns to 15 turnovers. In 2011, his touchdown-to-turnover ratio was 19:18, only slightly more respectable.

A change of environment did wonders for Vick's career when he joined the Eagles in 2009. He will be 34 when the 2014 season starts, however. It's fair to wonder whether Vick can be a viable starting quarterback again.

2. Josh Freeman (Minnesota Vikings)

The Freeman saga was one of the most bizarre stories of the 2013 season. Freeman was seemingly a breakout threat at the start of every one of his five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but struggled early this year and was cast aside by the organization in part because he may have had a megalomaniac for a head coach.

That said, Freeman didn't exactly light things up after being signed by the Minnesota Vikings. He appeared in one game, a rushed start against the New York Giants just two weeks after moving to Minneapolis. Freeman went 20-for-53 passing for 190 yards (3.6 YPA) and an interception, then was never heard from again as Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel served out the season as ineffective starters.

It was bizarre of the Vikings' now-ousted coaching staff to think Freeman would be ready so soon after coming on board. It was even more bizarre that they left him by the wayside late in the year when the team had tanked and there was nothing to lose by playing the mercurial talent.

Freeman is just 26 years old and one season removed from throwing 27 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. With the right coaching, he could still bounce back to become a viable starting quarterback.

3. Josh McCown (Chicago Bears)

The 2013 season was undoubtedly the best of McCown's 12-year career. In eight appearances, he completed a career-best 66.5 percent of his passes, averaged 8.2 yards per attempt and threw 13 touchdowns to just one interception. He kept the Bears' playoff hopes afloat when they had a viable excuse to fall into the gutter.

The season was also a clear anomaly. Prior to 2013, McCown had 37 career touchdown passes to 44 interceptions and had long been resigned to a career backup role. Good for him if can earn a big contract off one renaissance season, but the larger body of work suggests that McCown is a relatively mediocre quarterback.

4. Chad Henne (Jacksonville Jaguars)

Henne played for a husk of a football team, so give him some slack if his numbers don't look impressive. He was a clear upgrade over Blaine Gabbert, which isn't saying much, although Jacksonville Jaguars fans certainly appreciated Henne's efforts to make the season more palatable. Henne threw for more than 300 yards in consecutive outings against the Denver Broncos and San Diego Chargers in October. He threw 13 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, which was ALMOST a positive ratio. He went pick-less in six whole games. Positives!

That said, don't expect anyone to look at Henne as a potential starting quarterback this offseason. As a relatively mistake-averse passer he should suit someone's backup criteria just fine.

5. Matt Flynn (Green Bay Packers)

Flynn played well for the Green Bay Packers in limited late-season action. He turned similar circumstances into a long-term contract once before; we'll see what's in store for him this offseason.

Other notable names

Matt Cassel (Minnesota Vikings)

Cassel's numbers have been decidedly meh or worse since his solid his solid 2008-10 stretch with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

Shaun Hill (Detroit Lions)

Played well when thrown into the fire in 2010 for the Detroit Lions. Has attempted just 16 passes since.

Colt McCoy (San Francisco 49ers)

Started for the Browns once and was non-awful, which is pretty darn impressive all things considered.

Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks)

Jackson played 15 games for the Seahawks in 2011, and completed 60.2 percent of his passes. The club went 7-9, but he acquitted himself well.

David Garrard (New York Jets)

Garrard hasn't thrown a pass since 2010, but that season he threw 23 touchdowns to 15 interceptions for the Jaguars. Maybe he'll have something left in the tank entering the season at 36 years old?

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