2021 Free Agency: Quarterbacks


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2021 Free Agency: Quarterbacks

The official start to the 2021 NFL season is quickly approaching with the league year and free agency opening at 4 p.m. on March 17. Teams will be able to begin signing free agents and trades like the Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz deals will become official starting on that date. There are a couple of other key dates to remember before the league year officially kicks off. Teams can use their franchise and transition tags on individual players from Feb. 23 through March 9. The NFL also has a legal negotiating window from March 15-17 when teams can start contacting and negotiating with the agents of unrestricted free agents.

With that said, it’s time to start breaking down the 2021 free agency class, which includes Dak Prescott, Jameis Winston, and Ryan Fitzpatrick at the QB position. Be sure to follow Fantasy Points throughout free agency for in-depth breakdowns of every major (and minor) move. We’ll be tracking every off-season transaction from a fantasy perspective through our “Off-season Tracker” articles and Graham Barfield’s “Fantasy Fallout” pieces. We’ll also be constantly updating our Best Ball rankings if you’re looking to get an early start to draft season.

NOTE: Players are loosely ranked based on talent, age, plus previous and expected future fantasy relevance.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Free Agency information courtesy of OverTheCap.com

Previously Fantasy Relevant

Alex Smith (Was, 37) — The 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year will be released by the Team (perhaps by the time you read this), and while retirement is still a possibility, it appears he was pleased enough with how his season went that he wants to try to continue playing. Smith’s play wasn’t particularly special in 2020 — his 34.8 QBR was below all qualifiers — but it was clear that being out there was special to him and he can offer a franchise a whole lot beyond on-field contributions.

Potential landing spot: One stands out above all — reuniting with his college coach, Urban Meyer, in Jacksonville. Smith might not even need to be the primary backup, as Gardner Minshew is still there. But what he offers the franchise in the QB room is probably exactly what Meyer, as an NFL outsider, should be looking for as they try to develop Trevor Lawrence.

Robert Griffin III (Bal, 31) — RGIII has had some awful luck— after the awful injuries he had early in his career with Washington, which arguably derailed his entire career, he hasn’t been able to shake the injury bug since. He got one start for Baltimore in 2020 when Lamar Jackson was on the COVID list, but left early with a hamstring injury that cost him the rest of his season. The Ravens released Griffin in January, and he says he wants to find a place where he has a chance to start. I don’t think that place exists.

Potential landing spot: Griffin could be of interest to any team that wants a mobile backup QB. The Chargers, who will probably lose Tyrod Taylor in free agency, make some degree of sense.

Other UFAs

CJ Beathard (SF, 28)

Colt McCoy (NYG, 35)

Blaine Gabbert (TB, 32)

Brian Hoyer (NE, 36)

Matt Barkley (Buf, 31)

Geno Smith (Sea, 31)

Nate Sudfeld (Phi, 28)

Joshua Dobbs (Pit, 28)

AJ McCarron (Hou, 31)

Blake Bortles (Den, 30)

Sean Mannion (Min, 29)

Brett Hundley (Ari, 28)

Ryan Griffin (TB, 32)

Restricted Free Agents

Free Agency information courtesy of OverTheCap.com

Previously Fantasy Relevant

Nick Mullens (SF, 26) — Mullens has had a strange career. Of course, every discussion of that career so far has to begin with the fact that he was an undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi, and given that, he’s been very successful so far. And for the most part, coach Kyle Shanahan has liked how Mullens has operated his offense more than even CJ Beathard, a third-round pick in 2017 who has most frequently been relegated to third string in San Francisco. Mullens started eight games in 2020 for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo before getting injured himself with a season-ending elbow injury. However, his 43.6 QBR was 31st of 33 qualifiers (ahead of only Nick Foles and Sam Darnold), and his 3.7% INT rate was tied with Carson Wentz for the league’s worst. Both Beathard and Garoppolo significantly outperformed Mullens this year. The turnovers had to really frustrate Shanahan, and that’s been a problem for Mullens in his entire career so far — he started eight games in 2018 and had a 3.6% INT rate then, though he ranked 21st of 33 in QBR that year, so in general he performed much better. He’s a weak-armed executor, and he’d be held in higher regard if he didn’t have the propensity for turnovers.

Potential landing spot: If the Niners don’t tender Mullens, the Jets — where Mike LaFleur is now the offensive coordinator after serving under Shanahan — make sense for Mullens as a strong backup option.

Other RFAs

Jake Rudock (Mia, 28) — Rudock is an exclusive rights free agent.

Joe Dolan, a professional in the fantasy football industry for over a decade, is the managing editor of Fantasy Points. He specializes in balancing analytics and unique observation with his personality and conversational tone in his writing, podcasting, and radio work.