NFL News & Analysis

2023 NFL Free Agent Rankings: Quarterbacks

Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks on during a timeout against the Carolina Panthers in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

With the first day of the 2023 NFL calendar now just three months away, it's time for most teams around the league to turn their attention to NFL free agency in a bid to improve their rosters for a new campaign.

Here are the top free agents at quarterback, taken from PFF's list of the top 50 players set to enter free agency.

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1. LAMAR JACKSONBALTIMORE RAVENS

Who else but the 2019 MVP and most electrifying player in the NFL? No one produces more must-see TV than Jackson, and the facade that a quarterback can only win with a certain play style is slowly fading.

Jackson is not just the league’s most electrifying open-field runner at the quarterback position. His 4.9% big-time throw rate since 2019 is a top-16 mark among qualifying quarterbacks, and he boasts a 93.3 passing grade on throws 10-plus yards downfield in that same span.

The Ravens once again elected to largely neglect the wide receiver position this offseason, which doesn’t get discussed enough when people criticize Jackson’s game, as they seemingly love to do. Jackson will never be a pure dropback passer, but the belief this is necessary to win in 2022 needs to disappear; that’s just not the era of football we’re in anymore.


2. GENO SMITHSEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Imagine before the season began, mired in a quarterback battle with Drew Lock in Seattle, that we’d have Geno Smith as a top free-agent target for the 2023 offseason. It’s not often you hear about the age-32, Year 10 breakout, but that’s exactly what we’re witnessing this season from Smith.

Nothing about what he’s doing is fluky or excessively bolstered by things like play action, an outlier performance in unstable metrics like passing grade against pressure, or any other method you use to try to poke holes in his production this season. Smith’s 79.8 overall grade and 87.6 grade from a clean pocket this season ranked ninth and 12th, respectively. His 14 passing touchdowns on throws of 20-plus yards were two more than the next-best quarterback, and his 5.6% big-time throw rate ranked fifth.

There’s no current indication we should expect some massive regression, either. Smith’s 85.8 passing grade against middle-of-field-open coverage further illustrates that he didn't benefit in an outsized fashion from loaded box counts that freed up his receivers in an effort to sell out against the run. We can go on and on, but the fact of the matter is that Smith played like a legitimate top quarterback in the NFL in 2022.


3. TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

While it remains unclear whether Brady wants to run it back for his age-46 season in 2023, one thing is crystal clear: He’s still among the elite throwers of the football in the NFL today. Many scoffed at the notion Tampa Bay would become immediate contenders when signing him in 2020 free agency at the tender age of 43, and all he did was win a Super Bowl in his first season with the team and follow that up with a 13-win 2021 campaign in which he nearly mounted a miraculous comeback in the divisional round against the Los Angeles Rams.

Brady has an argument to be the top player on this list, but given he may very well retire, we'll let the young bucks go ahead of him this time around. Brady’s 79.3 passing grade ranks seventh on the season, and the 16 drops by his wide receivers tied for the fifth most on the year. Granted, he threw a league-leading 733 passes this regular season, averaging nearly 45 attempts per game outside of Week 18 when he was pulled early.

Brady’s 2.5% turnover-worthy play rate ranked eighth lowest among qualifying quarterbacks, further illustrated by his streak of 399 consecutive passes without an interception that ended in Germany when Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton picked him off over the middle. This was the second-longest streak in NFL history, just three attempts behind the record of 402 set by Aaron Rodgers in 2018.

Even at 45, Brady is still among the league’s best. Just don’t line him up out wide and throw him the ball. Otherwise, things should continue to go quite well.


4. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

With the Giants returning to the playoffs, there is enough goodwill for the franchise to endure another season from Jones, but he and the team are likely regression candidates.

Head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka have done a commendable job creating an offense that hid most of Jones’ faults. The Duke product is at best a slightly above-average quarterback and could look effective in a good scheme (he has that this year) and with a good supporting group of pass-catchers (he does not have that this year), but he will probably never be a player who can elevate his teammates.

The Giants' coaching staff protected Jones with a league-leading number of bootlegs, the fourth-most quarterback runs and a seventh-ranked running game in expected points added per play this season. This was the perfect storm for Daniel Jones to look like a good quarterback without necessarily being one.

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