Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports

Unless you’re new to this whole ‘football’ thing, you’re already well aware that the quarterback position is pretty overwhelmingly the most important position on the football field. In a lot of ways, quarterbacks are like diamonds – they’re extremely valuable and finding the perfect one for you can prove difficult. But on the plus side, once you have the right one, you hold onto it forever in most cases.

The big difference between the two, however, is that money can’t always buy you a quarterback. Most times, they have to be discovered in college or plundered from another team via trade.

However, the NFL’s free agency period, which begins on March 9th, is each team’s opportunity to purchase that pristine quarterback they’ve been looking for. 

This year’s crop certainly isn’t the most virile we’ve seen, but there might be a few diamonds in the rough for the right team. 

Here’s a look at the best quarterbacks on the free agent market this offseason.

The Starters

1. Kirk Cousins – Last Team: Washington Redskins

While all reports indicate that Cousins is going to end up back in Washington courtesy of the transition tag, until he signs on the dotted line, speculation will continue to abound. Cousins put together a rock solid 2015-16 campaign, amassing 4,166 yards through the air along with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Additionally, his 101.6 quarterback rating was good for 5th in the league. Cousins isn’t a proven commodity, but he overachieved with a lackluster receiving core and is really one of the only quarterbacks available in free agency that has the potential to be a franchise quarterback for years to come. 

2. Sam Bradford – Last Team: Philadelphia Eagles

For all of the strife, Sam Bradford actually put together a pretty solid first season with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was far from the savior that many in Philly had hoped he would be, but he got better in Chip Kelly’s system as the year progressed. Most importantly, Bradford stayed on the field for most of the season and started 14 of 16 games for the Eagles. In a relatively weak free agent quarterback pool, Bradford looks pretty good for a team with a need at the quarterback position.

3. Ryan Fitzpatrick – Last Team: New York Jets

The Jets seem determined to resign Fitzpatrick after he assumed the starting quarterback role (thanks to a IK Enemekpali punch to Geno Smith’s face) and lead the team to a 10-6 record in his first year with the club. Plus, Fitzpatrick’s 31 touchdown passes broke the Jets’ team record for most TDs in a season. Still, Fitzpatrick is a 33-year-old journeyman, and whether it’s the Jets or another team that signs him, don’t expect him to pull in a long-term guaranteed deal by any means.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

4. Brock Osweiler – Last Team: Denver Broncos

Brock’s stock rose big time thanks to Peyton Manning’s mid-season injury and struggle. He played well – if not capably in relief of Manning and made a name for himself even after being relegated back to bench duty for the team’s playoff run. The Broncos have said they want Osweiler back, but with Manning’s future still somewhat in flux they may not be able to match what he could receive on the open market from quarterback-needy teams like Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis, San Francisco and even some aforementioned teams that could lose their starter to free agency. 

Potential Starters

5. Chase Daniel – Last Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Chase Daniel’s star is rising even though he’s only thrown 77 passes in the regular season in seven seasons in the league. He’s looked confident in game action when he’s been called upon, but can he be more? His former coach Doug Pederson certainly thinks so. He told reporters this week that he believes Daniel is ready to make the jump to a full-time gig. Does that mean he could work his way over to Philadelphia? If not, Daniel is sure to land somewhere in free agency where he’ll likely compete for a starting job. 

Capable Backups

6. Matt Hasselbeck – Last Team: Indianapolis Colts

While Hasselbeck won’t be bowling any potential teams that might want to sign him over, he still proved last year that he’s capable of winning games at the NFL level – albeit in small doses. Hasselbeck went 4-0 in his first four games taking over for the injured Andrew Luck, but he lost three straight games near the end of the year and looked tired in doing so. Hasselbeck won’t be able to play a full 16 games, but could be a serviceable backup for a team with a question mark around their starting quarterback. 

Michael Hickey/Getty Images

7. Michael Vick – Last Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

A lot has changed since Michael Vick entered the league in 2001 with the Atlanta Falcons, but one thing that hasn’t is Vick’s ability to beat a defense with his legs. Sure, it doesn’t happen as often as it used to, and Vick’s taken such a pounding it’s a miracle he’s still willing to exit the pocket at all, but Vick can still pull the string on a linebacker without any hesitation. Vick proved valuable for the Steelers last year and for the Jets the year before that. At 35, you wonder how much he’s got left, but rest assured that Vick will latch on with and can still help a team in 2016. 

8. Matt Schaub – Last Team: Baltimore Ravens

Schaub is far from the sexiest name on the free agent quarterback list, but he’s got plenty of in-game experience on his resume. Among the quarterbacks teams might be looking into, Schaub has the best track record and proved he can still play in mop-up duty for the injured Joe Flacco in Week 17. Sure, he did it against the Cleveland Browns, but as we all know, a win is a win, especially in this league.

Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for any of his other three teams.

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