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Free agency primer: Top nine quarterbacks

There are at least six organizations looking for franchise quarterbacks this offseason. They won't find any available in free agency.

The quarterbacks below are available for a reason. Michael Vick could upgrade a lot of teams, but he's no one's idea of a long-term answer. Matt Cassel and Josh McCown are best used as relief pitchers. Josh Freeman's potential helped get two coaches fired last year.

Teams looking for a quarterback are better off looking toward the draft. This free agent crop might help boost the draft values of guys like Derek Carr and AJ McCarron because there aren't any easy answers out there in free agency.

Starters if necessary

  1. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
    1. Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings (UPDATE: Re-signed with Minnesota)
    2. Josh Freeman, Minnesota Vikings
    3. Josh McCown, Chicago Bears

You aren't going to get a "franchise guy" in free agency, but the four names above can keep the seat warm. Vick showed last season he still has wheels. ... Cassel struggles with pressure, but he can push the ball down the field and is the safest pick of this group. ... I'd be worried about McCown backsliding if he leaves coach Marc Trestman's loving arms. ... Freeman is ranked third because he's only 26 and could still develop into a long-term answer if everything broke right.

Solid backups

  1. Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars (UPDATE: Re-signed with Jacksonville)
    1. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks
    2. Shaun Hill, Detroit Lions
    3. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis Rams
    4. Derek Anderson, Carolina Panthers

Notes: Henne showed last season he's not a starter, but he's better than Blaine Gabbert. So there's that. ... Jackson was better as a starter than people remember. He makes for a strong backup to Russell Wilson. ... Clemens was better than expected in St. Louis last season. ... Hill was always competent when he played, but he's barely hit the field since 2010.

Should stay in the NFL

  1. Colt McCoy, San Francisco 49ers
    1. Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego Chargers
    2. Matt Flynn, Green Bay Packers
    3. Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins

Other options

Jimmy Clausen, David Garrard, Jon Kitna, Luke McCown, Dan Orlovsky, Curtis Painter, Jordan Palmer, Brady Quinn, Rusty Smith, and Seneca Wallace.

Teams with a need

Most likely to get a coach fired: Josh Freeman

We initially had Freeman ranked second above. He stands tall against pressure, has started plenty of games and shown a knack for the big moment. And then we went back to watch his 2013 starts. His inaccuracy as a member of the Vikings was epic, but the mental errors in Tampa Bay stood out even more. Freeman is young enough and has a big enough arm to convince a team like the Oakland Raiders to give him a chance as a starter.

But there's a fine line where "potential" turns to "potential to get you fired" if you believe in that arm too long. Freeman is a classic boom or bust signing who fits better as a true backup.

Most interesting guy who will get added to this list: Matt Schaub

Yes, he looked shell-shocked last year. Yes, he has a below-average arm. But Schaub is only one season removed from a 4,000-yard campaign and could be competent in the right system.

Mark Sanchez and Jason Campbell could also be added to the pool after getting cut. Don't expect Sanchez to get a starting shot.

Best candidate to be this year's Josh McCown: Josh McCown

McCown was ranked 15th on this list last year and then went on to be terrific as a starter in Chicago. We are probably underrating him again. Could he experience a random mid-30s renaissance after an unremarkable career?

The latest edition of the "Around The League Podcast" discusses the top 101 free agents and forecasts the offseasons of the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.

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