July 18, 2024


Analysis

Bears 2022 free agency primer: Who is available at quarterback?

Chicago Bears quarterback Nick Foles gives a thumbs-up as he heads off the field after the team beat the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Dec. 26, 2021, in Seattle.

If you’re searching for a franchise quarterback, free agency is almost never the place to look.

In fact, quarterback is annually the weakest position in free agency with few exceptions.

If a team has a QB, they will do everything possible to keep him. If they can’t, they will trade him before allowing him to leave without compensation.

You can rent one for a year or two at the end of their careers, but the last one signed in his prime was Drew Brees in 2006 and he had not yet achieved anything near “franchise” status.

Ten of the 14 playoff teams last season drafted their starting QBs. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers traded for Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo, respectively. Tom Brady was a rental by the Tampa Bay Bucs, and only Ryan Tannehill was a free agent.

Tannehill is an example of your best hope in free agency at the position. He’s a former top prospect who had some success in Miami but not enough to justify a second contract.

Top available quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater cemented himself in the game-manager role, but he can win big games when surrounded by the right weapons. His biggest issue, beyond lacking great athleticism and special arm talent, is his difficulties staying healthy and on the field.

Mitch Trubisky never actually failed in Chicago, so much as he never quite fit. How much of his inability to command the Bears’ job was due to Matt Nagy’s overall problems on offense or an inability to learn the system, read the field and pull the trigger is an open question. But he’s the closest comp to Tannehill in this group. He comes with better arm talent and will likely command the most interest.

Jameis Winston’s career 135-91 touchdown-to-interception ratio is pathetic and he’s only completed more than 60.8% of his passes in three of his seven seasons. Coming off a ‘21 midseason ACL won’t help him, but former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton had appeared to coach a lot of the picks out of him before the knee injury. Winston does have plus traits.

Taken second overall after Winston in 2015, Marcus Mariota has also struggled with a career 77-45 TD-to-INT ratio. He hasn’t improved his stock sitting behind Derek Carr in Las Vegas the last two seasons. It still feels like there’s more than a career backup here though.

Veterans Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett and Cam Newton will also hit the open market.

Under the radar values

There really aren’t any unless someone wants to take a shot on a Nick Mullens or Brandon Allen.

Mullens is still just 27 and has stepped in as a backup and played well. He started half the 2018 and 2020 seasons for bad 49ers teams and his completion percentage and yards per pass were starter quality. But like so many talented guys who don’t make it at QB, interceptions are a big problem.

Allen has been around and is 30 years old, but he was efficient in six starts for Cincinnati over the last two seasons.

Bears level of need

The Bears should definitely draft another youngster to develop. But if you take away his 2020 season that we’re learning more and more was impacted by communication with Nagy, Nick Foles is arguably the best backup in the league.

There is a $3 million cap savings if they cut Foles, but his $10.7 million cap hit is balanced by Justin Fields’ $4.3 million cap hit, leaving the Bears way below the league average at the position.

Who are you going to sign that’s better? Plus Fields is reported to be really comfortable with Foles.

Best fits for Bears

Mariota, Brissett and Taylor make the most sense if Foles is cut, but with so many other needs to fill, it seems unlikely the Bears will add a QB in free agency.

General manager Ryan Poles has said “this is a fresh start for everybody,” which does make this more of a wild card. And we have no idea how he really feels about anybody on the current roster.

That Poles was in Kansas City in 2016 when Andy Reid and Nagy allegedly “resurrected” Foles’ career could suggest he’s comfortable with him. The better answer to the cap – if Poles wants more space – might just be to extend Foles with the current deal expiring after this season.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and ShawLocal.com.