Football is often lauded as the ultimate team sport, yet the fate of a franchise lies in the hands of one man -- the quarterback.
Whether it's the first overall pick in the draft like the Manning brothers, a sixth-round sleeper like Tom Brady, a free-agent signing such as Drew Brees or a green room snub in Aaron Rodgers, procuring a quarterback capable of leading a team to a championship is of the utmost importance, but it's far from an exact science. Teams built through the acquisition of veterans, either through trade or free agency, are rarely successful in the NFL, but when it comes to finding a quarterback, no stone should be left unturned.
The Brees signing in 2006 may have been the best in the short history of NFL free agency, as the Saints were able to land a top-five quarterback and parlay the move into a championship in 2009. But that deal came with considerable risk: Brees was really sought after by only two teams coming off a shoulder surgery that threatened his career.
It's rare that a quarterback of Brees' caliber hits the open market minus the kind of circumstances he was facing. Most top talents are homegrown and subsequently locked into long-term deals.
The 2014 free-agent class doesn't feature anyone of Brees' level, but there are some interesting names scheduled to hit the open market. Here's a look at the four names that will lead the class in terms of overall intrigue between now and the offseason.
The seemingly yearly search to marry Cutler with the perfect offensive coordinator has landed on first-year Bears head coach Marc Trestman. Known for his impressive history developing quarterbacks, Trestman has had a positive impact thus far, but a three-interception outing last week was a staunch reminder that Cutler has mostly toiled in mediocrity since entering the league in 2006. The Bears are at a point where a decision must be made on Cutler's future, and the final 12 games of the season will go a long way to determining whether he remains in Chicago.