The Patriots haven't scoured the free-agent market for a starting quarterback for 20 years, which is absolutely amazing if you think about it. Meanwhile, teams like the Dolphins and Bills have cycled through enough quarterbacks to staff the entire UFL.
This offseason could be a little more exciting for the Patriots at that position, though, as they should gauge other teams' interest in acquiring backups Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett. It might not lead to anything at all, but the Patriots have two assets that other teams should be willing to acquire, even if their trade value hasn't yet reached its pinnacle.
Aside from that, there's a very underwhelming class of free-agent quarterbacks. Teams looking for cornerstone signal callers will need to get creative.
Head of the Class
1. Drew Brees: Underwhelming? Not in the least bit. However, the Saints aren't letting him get away, and he has no desire to leave town. He's included on this list as a formality.
2. Matt Flynn: He'll be 27 years old in June and has four years as Aaron Rodgers' backup in Green Bay. Flynn was viewed as someone with starter potential heading into last season, and he closed out the year with a 480-yard, six-touchdown performance in a victory against the Lions. Flynn will get a pretty good contract somewhere this offseason.
Diamond in the Rough
Chad Henne took a lot of heat during his four years in Miami, and he earned some of it. However, he wasn't exactly presented with the greatest opportunity to succeed, as the organization has been in complete disarray under owner Stephen Ross.
Henne has a cannon, and it should be useful somewhere. He probably won't find a place to start in 2012, nor should he really deserve that luxury. But if Henne can go to a place like Green Bay, San Francisco or Carolina, where they've got a strong coaching staff that can develop a quarterback, he could benefit from the tutelage and find himself in position to compete for a starting job somewhere else in another year or two.
Fit for New England
If the Patriots don't trade Hoyer, they'll keep him around in 2012. They've also got a promising third-stringer with Mallett, so with those two in place, the only reason the Patriots would add a fourth quarterback would be for practice squad purposes.
But for the sake of this category, let's say the Patriots trade Hoyer and try to bring in a veteran for security. In that case, Kyle Orton, Josh McCown and Charlie Batch would be suitable options. All of them are perfectly fine backups who could handle an emergency situation.
1. The Colts could cut ties with Peyton Manning if he's unwilling to slash his roster bonus. This situation has gotten a lot uglier than it should. If the two sides split up, they owe it to each other to do it gracefully.
2. At 35, Donovan McNabb should be a good candidate to take on a backup role if he wanted to extend his career, but it's become well-known that he hasn't been the greatest team player, and reports have surfaced indicating he doesn't work hard to learn new offenses. On the other hand, he's got the resume that shows he doesn't have to be a backup anywhere at this stage of his career. He's had a perfectly legitimate career and would do well to quietly walk away.
3. Vince Young is a free agent again. You've got to wonder how much longer he'll remain in the NFL.
4. The same goes for Brady Quinn.
5. It would be nice to see David Garrard get another shot after his unceremonious exile from Jacksonville.
6. Former Patriots third-round pick Kevin O'Connell is a free agent. There was a lot of misplaced hype around him as a rookie.
7. About a year ago at this time, there was an uproar in Chicago for the Bears to give Caleb Hanie a chance to replace Jay Cutler as the starter after Hanie's improbable playoff performance in relief of the injured Cutler. Hanie played in the Bears' last four games in 2011, and he went 51 of 102 for 613 yards, three touchdowns, nine interceptions and lost all four contests. Free agency might not be kind to Hanie.
8. Remember when the Seahawks exchanged draft picks with the Chargers in a deal for Charlie Whitehurst? And then they gave him two years and $8 million even though he was a virtual unknown? Well, in two years in Seattle, Whitehurst completed 84 of 155 passes for 805 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He went 1-3 in four starts. Let's see what happens with Whitehurst in free agency.