Every offseason, teams desperate for quarterbacks sift through the free-agency wreckage looking for that player who, at worst, will serve as a bridge until the next face of the franchise can be unearthed. At best, this player might even be able facilitate a playoff run. More times than not, however, free-agent quarterbacks prove why they were free agents in the first place.

So with that in mind, what can outfits like the Bears and 49ers expect in 2017? Chicago signed Mike Glennon to a four-year, $45 million deal, and the hope is that he can make the team competitive while it waits for rookie first-rounder Mitchell Trubisky. Meanwhile, new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan had enough confidence in Brian Hoyer to pass on a quarterback until the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The good news: The Bears went 3-13 last season and the 49ers were 2-14 -- the bar is exceedingly low. The bad news: Recent history hasn't been kind to free-agent quarterbacks joining new teams.

Here's a look at the past five years of notable signings -- along with a few trades worth mentioning because of the immediate (and sometimes lasting) impact they had.


Sam Bradford traded to the Vikings

The Eagles re-signed Bradford to a two-year deal last offseason, then promptly traded up in the draft to select Carson Wentz second overall. In August, when the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater for the season (and likely longer), the Eagles were able to unload Bradford for first- and fourth-round picks. The price seemed exorbitant at the time but Minnesota was in win-now mode and the organization felt Bradford gave them the best chance to build on 2015's playoff appearance. The Vikes started strong, winning five straight, but lost eight of their final 11 to finish third in the NFC North behind the Packers and Lions and miss the playoffs. With Bridgewater's future uncertain, Bradford remains a critical cog in Minnesota's offense.

  • 2015 season, Eagles: 14 starts (7-7 record), 65.0 completion percentage, 19 TDs, 14 INTs, 86.4 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2016 season, Vikings: 15 starts (7-8 record), career-best 71.6 completion percentage, 20 TDs, 5 INTs, 99.3 passer rating, missed playoffs.

Brock Osweiler signs with the Texans

Who knows if things would have worked out differently had Osweiler stayed in Denver, where he would have been the beneficiary of the NFL's best defense. Instead, he wanted to escape Peyton Manning's shadow and did so by signing a four-year, $72 million deal with a desperate Texans team. It became clear early on that Osweiler wasn't a good fit, and he was benched late in the season. How bad was it? The only starting quarterback worse than Osweiler last season was Rams rookie Jared Goff, according to Football Outsiders' metrics. The Texans were so eager to dump him and his contract they traded him and a second-round pick this offseason to Cleveland, where he'll compete for the starting job.

  • 2015, Broncos: Seven starts (5-2 record), 61.8 completion percentage, 10 TDs, 6 INTs, 86.4 passer rating on Super Bowl-winning club (Peyton Manning played during postseason).
  • 2016, Texans: 14 starts (8-6 record), 59.0 completion percentage, 15 TDs, 16 INTs, 72.2 passer rating, made playoffs.
Brock Osweiler was the quintessential free-agent bust. USATSI

Robert Griffin III signs with the Browns

Griffin went from starting 15 games as a rookie to 13 in Year 2 to seven in Year 3 before he was benched in favor of Kirk Cousins and didn't sniff the field during his final season in Washington. He joined the Browns last offseason hoping to rediscover his game with Hue Jackson, a man known for getting the most out of quarterbacks. But rarely do players come to Cleveland to save their careers and Griffin, who won the job in training camp, suffered a Week 1 injury that kept him sidelined until Week 14. He never regained the form that made him Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, and the Browns cut him this spring. He's still looking for work.

  • 2014, Redskins: Seven starts (2-5 record), 68.7 completion percentage, 4 TDs, 6 INTs, 86.9 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2016, Browns: Five starts (1-5 record), 59.2 completion percentage, 2 TDs, 3 INTs, 72.5 passer rating, missed playoffs.


Brian Hoyer signs with the Texans

On paper, Hoyer was an affordable, short-term bridge to whoever the Texans pegged as the next young face of the franchise. He arrived from Cleveland, where he provided a steady-as-she-goes presence, which is exactly what the Texans were looking for after an up-and-down 2014 season with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett. And while Hoyer was an upgrade, he also proved he's a better backup than starter -- someone who can come in for two or three games but shouldn't be asked to shoulder the load for four months. For an idea of just what the Texans thought of Hoyer (and Mallet, Brandon Weeden and T.J. Yates), they dumped him and signed Osweiler to that four-year, $72 million deal. We're guessing one of the worst playoff performances in recent history didn't help Hoyer's case.

  • 2014, Browns: 13 starts (7-6 record), 55.3 completion percentage, 12 TDs, 13 INTs, 76.5 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2015, Texans: Nine starts (5-4 record), 60.7 completion percentage, 19 TDs, 7 INTs, 91.4 passer rating, made playoffs.

Josh McCown signs with the Browns

The plan was for McCown to help mentor Johnny Manziel, and perhaps even assume the starting duties while Manziel grew into the job. McCown arrived from Tampa Bay, where he was part of a very bad Bucs team, though he had success two years before with the Bears. The difference: Chicago had a semblance of an offense; the Bucs -- and the Browns -- did not.

  • 2014, Buccaneers: 11 starts (1-10 record), 56.3 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 14 INTs, 70.5 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2015, Browns: Eight starts (1-7 record), 63.7 completion percentage, 12 TDs, 4 INTs, 93.3 passer rating, missed playoffs.

Tyrod Taylor signs with the Bills

This was considered an under-the-radar signing primarily because Taylor had a whopping 35 regular-season attempts during his four years in Baltimore behind Joe Flacco.

(In that sense, he's atypical compared to the other names on this list because there really is no "before" to evaluate. Still, we're including Taylor because he was signed as a free agent, earned the starting job with his new team and played relatively well.)

But then-Bills coach Rex Ryan, who had ties to Baltimore, knew and liked Taylor, and Ryan brought him to Buffalo on a team-friendly deal. Taylor had a very good debut season, parlaying it into a new contract. Taylor's numbers slipped in 2016 but he remains the Bills' best option. Barring a breakout season, however, Buffalo might again be in the market for a franchise quarterback next offseason.

  • 2011-14, Ravens: no starts, 19 of 35, 54.3 completion percentage, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 47.2 passer rating.
  • 2015, Bills: 14 starts (7-6 record), 63.7 completion percentage, 20 TDs, 6 INTs, 99.4 passer rating, missed playoffs.
The Bills unearthed a gem when they signed Tyrod Taylor. USATSI

Ryan Fitzpatrick traded to the Jets

Hardly considered a noteworthy move at the time, new coach Todd Bowles brought in Fitzpatrick for the same reasons previous coaches did: to add veteran depth. And as had happened in previous stops, Fitzpatrick somehow found his way onto the field (in this case, his good fortune came at the expense of Geno Smith's broken jaw). The Texans considered him expendable after signing Hoyer -- and all it cost the Jets was a sixth-round pick.

  • 2014, Texans: 12 starts (6-6 record), 63.1 completion percentage, 17 TDs, 8 INTs, 95.3 passer rating.
  • 2015, Jets: 16 starts (10-6 record), 59.6 completion percentage, 31 TDs, 15 INTs, 88.0 passer rating, missed playoffs.


McCown signs with the Buccaneers

Hey, there's that name again. McCown was a much more attractive free-agent option in 2014 than he was a year later, thanks to how well he played in place of an injured Jay Cutler. McCown was so good in Chicago there were serious discussions about whether he should replace Cutler as the starter. It didn't happen; McCown signed with Tampa Bay to fill the void left by first-round bust Josh Freeman. Mike Glennon was serviceable as Freeman's replacement in 2013, but then-coach Lovie Smith wasn't sold on Glennon as the long-term solution. "When I've been able to operate in a system that's organized and been around for awhile like I did in 2013 with the Bears, I've been able to play at a high level," McCown said after one forgettable season with the Bucs, which included a 1-10 record as a starter.

  • 2013, Bears: Five starts (3-2 record), 66.5 completion percentage, 13 TDs, 1 INT, 109.0 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2014, Buccaneers: 11 starts (1-10 record), 56.3 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 14 INTs, 70.5 passer rating, missed playoffs.

Fitzpatrick signs with the Texans

He stepped into the Titans' starting lineup after former first-rounder Jake Locker went down with an injury and he was ... replacement level. There are worse fates for the most important player on a mediocre team (they finished 7-9). Meanwhile, Bill O'Brien was in his first year in Houston and the team was looking to move on from Matt Schaub. Fitzpatrick was that bridge; he was slightly better than replacement-level in his only season with the Texans, but his lack of consistency prompted the team to continue its quarterback search in the offseason.

  • 2013, Titans: Nine starts (3-6 record), 62.0 completion percentage, 14 TDs, 12 INT, 82.0 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2014, Texans: 12 starts (6-6 record), 63.1 completion percentage, 17 TDs, 8 INTs, 95.3 passer rating, missed playoffs.


Kevin Kolb signs with the Bills

Originally a second-round pick by the Eagles, Kolb was traded to Arizona in 2011. After two forgettable seasons with the Cardinals (he started 14 games), Kolb signed a two-year, $6.1 million deal with the Bills. But he suffered a concussion during a 2013 preseason game, was placed on injured reserve before the season and the Bills released him in the spring. Buffalo also drafted EJ Manuel in 2013, and he started 10 games as a rookie. 

  • 2012, Cardinals: Five starts (3-2 record), 81.1 completion percentage, 9 TDs, 8 INTs, 86.4 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2013, Bills: Injured reserve. Released after season. 

Fitzpatrick signs with the Titans

If nothing else, Fitzpatrick is very popular. After four years in Buffalo, where he started 53 games while the team never won more than six games, the Bills cut bait. He signed a two-year deal with the Titans, who were looking for depth behind Locker after losing veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck to the Colts. By Week 4 of the 2013 season, Locker went down with an injury and Fitzpatrick again found himself under center.

  • 2012, Bills: 16 starts (6-10 record), 60.6 completion percentage, 24 TDs, 16 INTs, 83.3 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2013, Titans: Nine starts (3-6 record), 62.0 completion percentage, 14 TDs, 12 INT, 82.0 passer rating, missed playoffs.

Matt Cassel signs with the Vikings

Cassel was best known as "That former seventh-round pick who never started a game at Southern California but somehow led the Patriots to an 11-5 record in 2008." New England flipped Cassel's success into a second-round pick, shipping him to the Chiefs, where he played a lot of mediocre football over four seasons. The Chiefs cut him after the 2012 season and the Vikings promptly signed him to provide depth behind 2012 first-rounder Christian Ponder. Ponder suffered a Week 4 rib injury, paving the way for Cassel who -- not surprisingly -- was mediocre.

  • 2012, Chiefs: Eight starts (1-7 record), 58.1 completion percentage, 6 TDs, 12 INTs, 66.7 passer rating, missed playoffs.
  • 2013, Vikings: Six starts (3-3 record), 60.2 completion percentage, 11 TDs, 9 INTs, 81.6 passer rating, missed playoffs.

Alex Smith traded to the Chiefs

Smith struggled much of his career in San Francisco, though he showed glimpses of potential under Jim Harbaugh. With Colin Kaepernick considered the 49ers' quarterback of the future, the organization felt comfortable shipping Smith to Kansas City for two second-round picks. At the time, it seemed like a lot but new coach Andy Reid knew exactly what he was doing. The Chiefs have had four straight winning seasons and Smith is 41-20 in that time. The 49ers, meanwhile, hit a rough patch and Kaepernick is currently a free agent looking for work.

  • 2012, 49ers: nine starts (6-2-1 record), 70.2 completion percentage, 13 TDs, 5 INTs, 104.1 passer rating, lost Super Bowl XLVII (with Kaepernick under center).
  • 2013, Chiefs: 15 starts (11-4 record), 60.6 completion percentage, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 89.1 passer rating, lost in wild-card game.


Manning signs with the Broncos

So yeah, this turned out to be well worth the $77 million the Broncos paid Manning during his four years in Denver. The year before he arrived, the Broncos made the playoffs, but general manager John Elway knew Tim Tebow wasn't a sustainable option. So he traded him to the Jets and signed Manning, who went 45-12 during his Broncos tenure, threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns in 2013, and brought home a Lombardi Trophy during his final season. 

  • 2010, Colts: 16 starts (10-6 record), 66.3 completion percentage, 33 TDs, 17 INTs, 91.9 passer rating, lost in wild-card game (Manning missed the 2011 season after multiple neck surgeries).
  • 2012, Broncos: 16 starts (13-3 record), 68.6 completion percentage, 37 TDs, 11 INTs, 105.8 passer rating, lost in divisional round.
Peyton Manning is a rare case, both talent-wise and as a successful FA signing. USATSI

Matt Flynn signs with the Seahawks

There was a time when Flynn was considered a hot free-agent, mostly because he put up insane numbers as a spot starter. The highlight came in his final game with the Packers when he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against the Lions. He landed a three-year, $26 million deal to replace Tarvaris Jackson, who started for much of the 2011 season, but a month later Seattle used a third-round pick on some guy named Russell Wilson. Wilson would win the job in training camp and he hasn't missed a start in the five years since. Flynn, meanwhile, was traded to Oakland in April 2013.

  • 2011, Packers: one start (1-0 record), 67.3 completion percentage, 6 TDs, 2 INTs, 103.6 passer rating, lost in divisional round (Aaron Rodgers started every other game that season).
  • 2012, Seahawks: zero starts, three appearances, 5 of 9, 68 yards, no TDs, no INTs.

So which QBs have been free-agent successes? Manning certainly qualifies, but he's one of the best QBs of all-time. Taylor and Hoyer had some level of success in Buffalo and Houston, but neither were signed to big contracts, and Taylor wasn't even plucked off the market to be the starter. The Smith deal has paid dividends for the Chiefs if we include trades, but we're stretching to find positives for the QB acquisitions of the past five years.

For Hoyer's 49ers and Glennon's Bears, that doesn't bode well.