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Where Robert Griffin III should go next

The Washington Redskins released Robert Griffin III two days before the start of the 2016 NFL year, clearing $16.155 million off of the their salary cap. (Video: Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

Editor’s note: With Robert Griffin III released by the Washington Redskins Monday morning, we take a quick look back to a recent article to look at what Griffin’s future might hold.

Robert Griffin III graded as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL during his 2012 rookie season. There has been plenty of negativity surrounding RGIII since, including what appears to be a deterioration of his athletic ability following the torn ACL suffered during the playoffs of that rookie year, and several reported cases of off-field and locker-room friction.

However, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Griffin could get his career back on track in a new home. We went back and looked at the numbers produced by RGIII during that outstanding rookie campaign, both as a way to measure his potential upside and also to identify some ideal free agency fits for him.

In other words, for which teams does he have the best chance to actually succeed, potentially in a starting role?

Here are the top 5 team fits for Griffin:

1. Houston Texans

One of the trademarks of Washington’s offense in 2012 was its play-action passing game. Griffin ran play-action fakes on 40 percent of his dropbacks that year – the highest rate we’ve recorded in the last four seasons. Not only that, but he was remarkably efficient on those throws. His yards per attempt average on play-action passes ranked highest in the NFL, while his yards per attempt on throws without play-action ranked fifth-lowest.

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The non-exclusive franchise tag means Washington can bring its quarterback back, or receive two first-round draft picks if Cousins signs with another team. (Video: Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)

This is significant as it relates to Houston, as the Texans under head coach Bill O’Brien run a high volume of play-action fakes — starter Brian Hoyer had the fourth-highest rate of play-action passing plays in the league this season. Additionally, the outside zone runs that running back Alfred Morris excelled at in 2012, and led to a lot of successful RGIII bootlegs, are featured prominently in Houston’s attack.

Finally, the Texans have one of the league’s top wide receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and a defense that graded out as the NFL’s fifth-best unit this season. That support system, plus Griffin’s upside, is a very promising combination, particularly after Hoyer’s complete debacle in the Wild-Card loss to Kansas City (in which he earned the lowest grade we’ve ever given to a quarterback in a playoff game).

2. San Francisco 49ers

In 2012, RGIII ranked second in accuracy rate at 79.6 percent, behind only Aaron Rodgers. His 75 percent accuracy rate under pressure ranked first in the NFL. Those totals took a major dip the following year, as he ranked 18th in the NFL in both categories.

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The point here is that while Griffin took a step back in this area, he has proven capable of connecting with receivers at a very high rate if provided the right opportunities. This is particularly significant when discussing new Niners head coach Chip Kelly and the numbers produced by his quarterbacks in his three seasons with the NFL. Nick Foles and Sam Bradford each ranked in the top-six of NFL accuracy percentage under Kelly during the 2013 and 2015 seasons, respectively. Bradford’s accuracy rate under pressure was the best in the league last year. This isn’t particularly surprising given Kelly’s reputation for being able to create easy throws through his offensive system, and Griffin’s speed would certainly provide an intriguing running element we haven’t yet seen in Kelly’s offense in the NFL.

Whether or not incumbent starter Colin Kaepernick’s trade demands come to fruition, Griffin could be worth a flier at a low price.

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LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 21: Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) slaps hands with Washington Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) during stretching before the game between the Washington Redskins and the St. Louis Rams at FedEx Field on Sunday, September 20, 2015. (Toni L. Sandys/ The Washington Post)

3. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles could very well wind up bringing Bradford back as their starting quarterback, but that isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point. Griffin has some similarities to Alex Smith, who was new Philly head coach Doug Pederson’s QB in Kansas City the last three seasons when he was offensive coordinator. Like Smith, Griffin is a mobile quarterback who thrives on play-action and doesn’t take a ton of deep shots downfield. Just 9.1 percent of Griffin’s attempts in 2012 traveled 20 or more yards downfield, compared to just 8.5 percent of Smith’s in 2015.

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Griffin also possesses a lot more upside than Smith, and if he’s kept upright by a Philadelphia offensive line that took a step back in pass protection in 2015 but still possesses plenty of talent, he could be effective. The Chiefs make a lot of sense for RG III as a potential backup situation, and he could be the same in Philadelphia but with starter upside.

4. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have an unsettled quarterback situation, with the expected retirement of Peyton Manning and the upcoming free agency of Brock Osweiler. And whether or not they choose to bring Osweiler back, they are going to need to establish some competition at the position. Osweiler ranked 34th of 35 QBs in deep accuracy percentage and recorded a below-average passer rating when under pressure – two warning signs he might not be the team’s long-term answer at QB.

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It would make sense to bring Griffin in to push Osweiler, and possibly win the job outright. With Denver head coach Gary Kubiak, RGIII would be playing for Shanahan’s former offensive coordinator, potentially limiting his learning curve and allowing for several of the same conditions that made him so successful his rookie year in Washington. One other note about that season: Griffin feasted on wide receiver screens, as they accounted for 11 percent of his passes (nearly double the NFL average). Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, given his run-after-catch ability, would be an ideal target for Griffin on those patterns, having produced a near-perfect receiving rating on those throws in 2013.

But perhaps the best thing going for RGIII in Denver would be its top-graded defense, as the Broncos should again be excellent on that side of the ball in 2016. Plenty of things went wrong for Griffin and Washington in 2013, but its No. 31 defense in PFF grades certainly didn’t help as the quarterback recovered from injury.

5. Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are a fit on the basis of their dire quarterback situation alone. With the No. 15 overall pick, finding a franchise QB in the draft could prove difficult, and Griffin wouldn’t have to be great to be an upgrade over Nick Foles (second-worst QB grade in the league in 2015).

There are also two factors working in Griffin’s favor as it pertains to the Rams’ roster. For starters, they possess a defense loaded with young talent, including the No. 1 defender in all of football last season in defensive tackle Aaron Donald (who earned a maximum 99.9 grade in our system).

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Second, running back Todd Gurley showed a lot of promise as a rookie, ranking third in the league in yards after contact per attempt. That’s significant, as one of the biggest differences between Griffin’s rookie and second seasons was the dip in play of running back Alfred Morris, who dropped from second to 12th in PFF rushing grades. Pairing a dynamic running back in Gurley with a play-action heavy passing attack led by Griffin could prove to be an effective strategy – and certainly one with higher upside than what Los Angeles currently possesses.

Bottom line

Make no mistake: Griffin is still a high-risk signing, because he’s far from a sure thing. But he’s also potentially a very high-reward signing, with higher upside than any other option available on the open market. No other quarterback who could be reasonably be acquired this offseason has ever produced a season grade even half as good as what Griffin did in 2012.

Keep in mind the following:

• Griffin had an awesome rookie season, with a very high accuracy percentage and an outstanding passer rating against the blitz.

• He was limited by injuries for much of his 2013 and 2014 seasons.

• He was benched in Washington in 2015 as much for contractual issues (an injury would have guaranteed another season in D.C.) as his quality of play (and for a QB who turned out to be pretty good in Kirk Cousins).

If you are comfortable with his medical and off-field concerns, why wouldn’t you give him a chance, if you don’t have a surefire starting quarterback and can acquire him for a reasonable rate?