Even though the lasting image of the Patriots 2012 season will be Tom Brady watching in vain as Rob Gronkowski nearly answers his prayer, New England fans certainly have little to worry about with regards to the quarterback position.
A perennial all-pro in Brady, a sought-after backup in Brian Hoyer, and a rocket-armed rookie in Ryan Mallett will have the future behind center in good hands for the greater part of this decade.
However, the same can't be said for the other teams in the AFC East. In the first of a three-part series featuring teams from the AFC East that didn't make the playoffs, we'll take a look at how the 2012 NFL Draft could transform the quarterback situation in Buffalo.
The Bills gave former Harvard QB and current anti-razor activist Ryan Fitzpatrick a $59 million contract extension back for six years. However, Matt Elder, editor and lead scout at BuffaloBillsDraft.com, had this to say about his future in Buffalo.
"The Bills need a change at the QB position but they don’t need one just for changes sake. They need one that this team can be built around and that this city can truly believe in. If I’m GM Buddy Nix I’m looking at a number of QB’s in this draft, and in this year’s FA class that could hopefully put some pressure on Fitzpatrick to step his game up and eventually develop to a point where they can eventually replace him."
If the Bills front-office do feel that Fitzpatrick is not their quarterback of the future, there are some options via the NFL Draft and free agency.
WHIFFIN' FOR GRIFFIN
While Andrew Luck is the gold-standard this year for quarterback prospects, Robert Griffin III, 2011 Heisman-trophy winner for the Baylor Bears, is a close second in many scouting circles.
If the Bills are somehow able to swing a trade into the top five and land Griffin, Chan Gailey's offense suddenly becomes one of the speediest units in the league.
With as many holes on offense and defense as the Bills have, however, GM Buddy Nix may be loathe to part with too much draft capital in order to move into position to draft Griffin.
If trading up proves too costly, Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M) and Brandon Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State) become the most attractive options—whether or not they are worth a Top 10 pick is another story.
Tannehills' inconsistency has masked fantastic mobility and a good arm, while his recent injury may also push him down the board a bit. Weeden's age—he is older than 2011 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers—is his main concern. Teams know that the former baseball player won't be a 10+ year solution.
There are plenty of developmental signal-callers available as well. Nick Foles (QB, Arizona), Brock Osweiler (QB, Arizona State), and Kirk Cousins (QB, Michigan State) could all be available near the end of the second day of the draft.
Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn are both expected to hit the free-agent market this spring, although there is an outside chance that Manning could stay with the Colts and Flynn could be franchised by the Packers.
It would be a major coup if Buffalo were able to land either of the top two free-agent QB's, especially with only $12-$15 million in cap-space projected for 2012. They will probably have to settle for a second-tier option if they are unable to upgrade the position via the draft.
Brian Hoyer, a restricted free-agent this off-season, would be an interesting option if the Patriots would trade him within the division. If not, Vince Young, Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton are among the top options that are expected to actually sniff free agency.
Next week we'll take a look at how the Miami Dolphins will attack their quarterback situation this spring.