John Munson/The Star-Ledger via USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears - QB Free Agent Targets


oe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

oe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote an article about the Bears needing a DE and hours later they signed DE Willie Young. I wrote an article about the Bears needing a cornerback and minutes later they signed CB Charles Tillman. So plan on the Bears signing a QB later today. With Josh McCown off to Tampa and only Jordan Palmer on the roster, the Bears need a battle tested back-up QB. There is a chance the Bears draft one instead, but going with only Palmer (28 NFL snaps) and an untested rookie behind the somewhat injury-prone Jay Cutler seems like a risky proposition to me.

The Bears are low on cap money and still have some holes to fill, so I don’t expect the Bears to spend much money on a free agent back-up. They have around $7.5M left (after Weems is cut) and the ability to free up at least another 5 million by moving money around, so I could see the Bears spending up to $3M per on a reliable backup. It’s obviously an important position and with McCown last year we saw how much value a good back-up can have. Most of the top back-ups have already been signed, but there are a few decent options left.  Here is a breakdown of the best of the rest:

* (age, 2013 salary)

Josh Freeman, Vikings (26, $2.8M) - It’s hard to believe that a guy who made the Pro Bowl in his first full season as a starter at age 22 is on the QB scrap heap four years later. After throwing 25 TD passes and only 6 INT in 2010, it looked like the Bucs had found one of the next great QBs. His follow-up season was a bust, he did throw for more yards and had a better completion percentage than the year before, but threw 22 INTs to only 16 TDs. Freeman bounced back in 2012 with over 4,000 yards passing and 27 TDs / 17 INTs. Not a bad year for a 24-year-old OB right? Freeman got off to a rough start last season, feuded with cave-man coach Greg Schiano, and then was benched after only 3 games! So to recap, in three seasons as a starter Freeman had one great year, one good year, and one bad year. Freeman is only 26, why has everyone given up on this guy already? Marc Trestman could be just what Freeman needs to get his career straightened out. If the “QB Whisperer” can get Freeman playing like he did three years ago, the Bears would have a solid back-up and a valuable trade chip next off-season. Freeman in infinitely more talented than Jordan Palmer and if Trestman is as good with QBs as rumored, then Freeman joining the Bears could be beneficial for both parties.

Mark Sanchez, Jets (27, $13.8M) - His Hollywood attitude, despite incompetence on the field, has always rubbed me the wrong way. Sanchez carries himself with a sense of entitlement that makes me want to root against him. The fact that he made two AFC title games and didn’t seem to realize that his defense carried him there (Grossman-esque), made me want Sanchez to fail. I still do, but he was released by the Jets yesterday and sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they realize they are being a douche. It’s hard to believe after watching him struggle in the Jets woeful offense, but Sanchez was actually a gunslinger in college. I watched him throw for 400+ yards against a good Penn St defense in the Rose Bowl (28-35, 4 TDs)! Sanchez doesn’t have a Brett Favre arm or anything, but it was solid (pre-shoulder surgery at least) and he’s got more athleticism than he’s shown the last few years. Let’s not forget that with the Jets he was surrounded by the least talented group of skill players in the NFL. This is a guy that was the 5th overall pick in 2009; Some quotes from his scouting report might surprise you (nfl.com): “capable of making every NFL throw, including the deep ball”, “good short-, medium-, and long-range accuracy”, “very surprising mobility for his size”, “Reads defenses well and rarely throws into coverage”, and the one I found most surprising “team captain, blue-collar work ethic”. You get the picture, the Mark Sanchez of 5 years ago is nothing like the Mark Sanchez we saw on the Jets. He’s got more natural talent than anyone on this list and the Bears have nothing to lose by rolling the dice on Sanchez. He’s not going to cost much and he’s going to have to earn his spot on the Bears roster. If Trestman can rehabilitate Sanchez then the Bears will have a quality back-up, a valuable trade chip, and be a preferred destination for struggling QBs every off-season.

Andrew Weber-US Presswire

Shaun Hill, Lions (34, $2.75) - He’s only played 44 snaps the last three seasons as Matt Stafford’s back-up, which is less than a full game, so he might be a bit rusty. The last time Hill saw significant action (2010) he was surprisingly good. Hill started 10 games and went 3-7, but that Lions team only won 6 games total so it’s not like they were any worse with Hill under center. He completed 62% of his passes with a 16 TD / 12 INT ratio. Pro Football Focus ranked Hill as the 13th best QB in the league and he was 19th in QBr, so he was basically a league average QB which is more than you would expect out of most backups. Hill’s physical traits and career path are similar to Josh McCown’s so it stands to reason that Trestman may be able to work similar magic with Shaun Hill.

Matt Flynn, Packers (28, $715k) - Has bounced around the league since his one great game with the Packers in 2011, but Flynn was pretty decent for the Packers over a two game stretch last season. It was against two bad defenses (ATL, DAL) but whatever. I’m just not comfortable with Jordan Palmer and his 28 NFL snaps being our only option should something happen to Cutler. Flynn would be a cheap safety-valve in case Trestman’s faith in Palmer is unfounded.

Luke McCown, Saints (32, $840k) – Trestman salvaged his older brother’s career, so why not keep it in the family? Luke has a similar skill-set and you’d think he would already have a decent grasp of the Bears offense if he talks to his brother at all. McCown is a much better athlete than Palmer, has better arm strength, and more NFL experience. He wouldn’t be a huge upgrade over Palmer, but at least it would give the Bears another decent option if Palmer can’t cut it.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ricky Ray, Toronto Argonauts (34, $400k) – Trestman coached in the Canadian League from 2008-2012 so he is very familiar with the QBs there. Ricky Ray was one of the best QB’s in the Canadian League last season and one of the only ones under 40 years old with NFL size (6’3,209). Ray missed a few games with an injury last season, but completed 77% of his passes and had a 21 TD / 2 INT ratio. Those are pretty fancy stats, but obviously the Canadian League isn’t the same level of competition as the NFL. Ray is an extreme long-shot, but there isn’t much QB talent left out there so the Bears may have to get creative.

Rex Grossman, Redskins (34, $940k) - I’m not joking. Rex is still in the league as the Redskins 3rd string QB though he hasn’t taken a snap on offense since 2010. Alright, I’m joking.

Twitter: @MikeFlannery_

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Tags: Chicago Bears Free Agency Josh Freeman Mark Sanchez Matt Flynn Rex Grossman Shaun Hill

  • Big Swede

    Rex Grossman? If you’re going THERE, I don’t think Cade McNown is under contract anywhere, either!

    • Mike Flannery

      Ha. Did you read the words next to Grossman’s name? I was clearly joking. Cade McNoun still hurts. I was probably the last guy in Chicago to give up on Cade. My buddies still make fun of me for the “flashes of greatness” I saw in Cade.

  • metalhead65

    grossman can’t be any worse than Jordan Palmer right? and if Trestman can get McCown a fat contract he can help any of these guys, but really how good is freeman if he could not beat out ponder? if the bears wait maybe they can sign him when he is cut by the vikings.

    • Mike Flannery

      Freeman joined the Vikings in week 6 and started a game in week 7. He had roughly 10 days to learn their offense. That would be difficult for anybody. Leslie Frazier knew his job was on the line, got desperate and rushed Freeman in there before he was ready. I’m not saying he’s great, just that he’s a better option than Palmer. Also think he’s been stuck with bad coaching so far in his brief career (Schiano, Frazier) and there is untapped talent there.

  • John Vassar

    Mike, I like Ricky Ray! I have read elsewhere that if the Cowboys let Orton go, he might find his way back to Chicago. Emery has always liked him, but am sure Trestman will have a lot to say. Hill is probably the best choice but might demand too much money, then again they can wait till the draft is over.

    • Mike Flannery

      Orton, 33, has had significantly more chances to play then anyone on this list (71 starts) and has been below average in all but a couple starts. I don’t think he has any upside left, but would feel better about Orton then I do about Palmer. Side bar: When I lived in Chicago (Lakeview) I ran into Orton at bars all the time and he is a genuinely good dude. No ego at all.