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Ranking top available quarterbacks via draft, free agency, trade

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So you say you need a quarterback? Welcome to the club.

By my count, there were 11 teams that entered the offseason with a need at the quarterback position, each landing in one of four categories: 1) Desperation mode, 2) in need of an upgrade, 3) protection in case of defection, or 4) looking toward the future. A month after the end of Super Bowl 50 and three days into free agency, that number has decreased by only one.

Houston shored up its biggest need by signing Brock Osweiler on Wednesday, leaving 10 teams with a lot of work to do before the season kicks off in six months.

There are two distinct camps for QB-needy teams: Those that are championship-caliber and need a capable veteran (Broncos) and everyone else. The latter group consists of rebuilding teams like the Browns and 49ers, re-tooling teams like the Bears and Eagles, and clubs like the Saints taking a peek beyond 2016.

Don't be fooled by the Broncos' acquisition of Mark Sanchez on Friday. If there was any question about whether he's a starter or backup, check out the compensation in that deal. This trade changes practically nothing for Denver.

With no Andrew Luck in this year's draft and no proven starter on the open market or seemingly available in trade, this isn't a great year to be in need of a quarterback, but there are options. Here is a ranking of how I see the top quarterbacks available via the draft, free agency and trade, based solely on talent level:

1. Carson Wentz and 1a. Jared Goff (draft)

Before free agency, I would have had Osweiler in the top spot. But it now belongs to the the top two quarterbacks in the draft, and there's very little separation, in my mind, between the two. Similar to how I saw Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota last year, Goff is the prospect who can help a team immediately, but I believe Wentz has the higher long-range upside. If you're the Broncos, you have no interest in these two quarterbacks, not that they have a shot at drafting either of them from slot No. 31. But if you're the Browns (No. 2) or 49ers (No. 7) or Eagles (No. 8), taking one of these quarterbacks makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure if he's going to still be there at No. 11, but I think a Bears-Wentz marriage is almost perfect. He could sit behind Jay Cutler, and be ready in a year or two to take over in Chicago.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick (free agency)

Fitzpatrick, an unrestricted free agent, has never gotten the respect he deserves. Almost every place he's gone, he's added a spark and elevated the offense. Problem is, he's never gotten a shot with a title-contending club. If I were the Broncos, this is where my attention would be right now, and not on offering compensation for a player like Colin Kaepernick. Fitzpatrick has a good arm and athleticism. I understand the concerns with him, but I also know he's had success in this league, and what he did with the Jets last year, securing must-win games down the stretch with his play, is nothing short of remarkable. I think if Denver signed him, he could do the same thing Peyton Manning did last season. He might be the only quarterback available whom I'd trust with a Super Bowl-ready team like the Broncos.

4. Robert Griffin III (free agency)

The caveat with RGIII is that you have to be sure the medicals check out, and if they do, he's a guy young enough for a rebuilding team and experienced enough for a playoff-hopeful team. He has a ton of talent that just needs to be harnassed. I've known him personally since his days at Baylor, and I've read all the criticism from his days in Washington. That's not the guy I know. One thing I do know is that two very accomplished coaches and men I admire greatly -- Art Briles and Mike Shanahan -- were able to get the most out of Griffin and enjoy success with him under center. If you want to call this potential signing a gamble, I think it could pay off big for some team.

5. Colin Kaepernick (trade)

Speaking of gambles, I think trading for Kaepernick is a big one. At least with RGIII, you wouldn't have to give up compensation or be saddled with a sizable contract. While I think Fitzpatrick would be a better fit in Denver, I see why John Elway is kicking the tires here. Under Gary Kubiak, Kaepernick wouldn't be asked to pass as much, and with his accuracy issues, that's a good thing. My biggest concern with him is his work ethic. Would he be willing to put in the work required by a disciplined organization like the Broncos? I would worry about him a little going to a team like the Browns, but I could see them trading for him and then taking a quarterback like Wentz with the No. 2 pick.

6. Paxton Lynch (draft)

Lynch is the consensus third-best quarterback in the draft, but he's not in the same category as Wentz and Goff. He has good size, a strong arm and a lot of tools, but he's inconsistent, lacks experience and will need some time to adjust to the pro game. He could be around at the end of the first round for the Broncos, who could groom him behind whatever veteran they bring in to be their starter.

7. Connor Cook (draft)

I think the thing that separates Cook from Lynch is arm strength and the type of offense best suited for each. While Lynch can play in any type of offense, Cook will be limited to a West Coast-style scheme. He reminds me a lot of Teddy Bridgewater this way. He'll benefit from going to a team that plays most of its games inside a dome, away from weather.

8. Johnny Manziel (free agency)

Let me get this out of the way: I overrated Manziel coming out of Texas A&M, not as a player but as a person. I didn't factor in his work habits and I should have. If you could ever find a way for him to rid his off-field demons, Manziel could help a team. He throws well enough to find success in this league, and he moves around well enough to make up for his size. I think a guy like Adam Gase, the new head coach in Miami, could handle him.

Follow Gil Brandt on Twitter @Gil_Brandt.

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