The Output of Free Agent Quarterbacks
What happens when quarterbacks become free agents and move on to a new team? This article will look back over the previous few years to find this answer and sum up the findings.
Kirk Cousins landed a huge contract ($84 million fully guaranteed over three years) following on from leaving Washington after the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Washington missed the playoffs following a 7-9 season (good enough for 3rd in the division) with each offensive player not putting up huge numbers. Jamison Crowder finished with the most amount of targets on the team with 104, with Josh Doctson in second place (78) and Vernon Davis third with 69.
After signing his contract with the Vikings, Cousins would find himself the leader of a potent offense, including wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray pass-catching tight-end Kyle Rudolph. Cousins could only steer them to an 8-7-1 record despite all this firepower and missed the playoffs once again. Cousins would once again finish as the QB6, meaning he held his value as a top option for the second season in a row helping fantasy owners.
Kirk Cousins would replace case Keenum after the 2017 season. Keenum would have a successful year (13-3) by making it to the conference championship game, where they would eventually lose out to eventual Super Bowl champions, the Philidelphia Eagles. Dalvin Cook only played four games that season, meaning that Keenum would lean on Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon and the wide-receiver group.
Keenum would sign a two-year $36 million contract with $25m of which is guaranteed. Keenum struggled in 2018 despite having a solid receiver group and finished with a disappointing touchdown/interception record 18/15 and led the team to a week 6-10 outcome, which was only good enough for third in their division.
Total top 48 free agent quarterbacks- 11
Moved up at least one quarterback grouping- 0 (0.00%)
Moved down at least one quarterback grouping- 4 (36.4%)
Stayed in the same quarterback grouping- 2 (18.2%)
Did not play the following year- 5 (45.5%)
Nick Foles, who was fresh off his Super Bowl MVP performance, signed a revised contract to stay with the Eagles. He would be named the starter in week one because Carson Wentz was not cleared following his injury. Foles would remain the starter in week two before Wentz returned; he would play a total of 5 regular-season games.
Foles declined the option to stay at the Eagles and signed a four-year $88 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars (over $50 million was guaranteed). Unfortunately, Foles was injured during week one and was replaced by rookie Gardner Minshew. Foles did return in week 11 but was later benched for Minshew following some underwhelming performances. Foles would only start four games during the 2019 season and traded to the Chicago Bears.
In 2018 Fitzpatrick would start the first four games due to the original starting quarterback Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three weeks. Both quarterbacks would get a lot of game time throughout the season as the coaching staff would regularly swap them in and out due to poor performances. Despite the constantly changing quarterback situation, wide receivers Mike Evans Chris Godwin still managed good seasons.
After leaving Tampa Bay, Fitzpatrick would make the relatively short trip to Miami, signing a two-year $11 million contract and was named started ahead of Josh Rosen. The rushing game of the Dolphins would be almost non-existent, with Fitzpatrick ending the year as the lead rusher with only 243 yards. The main target for Fitzpatrick would be DeVante Parker would collect 128 targets and 1202 yards.
Total top 48 free agent quarterbacks- 8
Moved up at least one quarterback grouping- 1 (12.5%)
Moved down at least one quarterback grouping- 4 (50%)
Stayed in the same quarterback grouping- 0 (0.00%)
Did not play the following year- 3 (37.5%)
Before the 2019 season, Brady signed a two-year extension; however, there were terms within it that would allow him to before a free agent at the end of 2019. Brady’s 24 passing touchdown passes were disappointing, and he would pass for almost double that the following year. He would lead the Patriots to the playoffs but would find the Titans too strong, losing to the team from Tennessee, and his last, pass in the Patriots uniform would be intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
2020 saw Brady sign a two-year $50 million contract, and what would he do? Only go on and win the Super Bowl. He would help create a ‘super team.’ Gronk, Antonio Brown, and Fournette would all join Brady in Tampa and boost an already good offense which boasted Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Ronald Jones, to name just a few. Brady’s TD rate would see him solidify his QB 1 status and move up four places to eight overall.
Winston had an incredible fantasy season in 2019, finishing overall QB 3 after throwing for 5000+ yards and 33 touchdowns. However, it would be the interceptions that would be the issue for new head coach Bruce Arians.
He would sign a one-year contract worth $1.1 million in New Orleans to join Drew Brees and Taysom Hill (we have not included his 2020 stats table due to his limited usage behind Brees). Drew Brees would retire after the season’s conclusion, and both Winston and Hill would sign contracts to keep them both at the Saints, with Winston’s worth $12 million for the 2021 season.
Total top 48 free agent quarterbacks- 14
Moved up at least one quarterback grouping- 1 (7.1%)
Moved down at least one quarterback grouping- 7 (50%)
Stayed in the same quarterback grouping- 4 (28.6%)
Did not play the following year- 2 (14.3%)
The below table will summarise the fantasy finishes before and after players became free agents and changed teams. For example, the QB grouping they are placed in is for the season immediately before becoming a free agent, and the font color states where they finished the following year after changing teams. Only players who finished in the top 48 each year are included.
*Cam Newton QB52 in 2019 went to QB15 in 2020 after signing with the New England Patriots.
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