The Eight Teams That Must Address Their QB Situation This Offseason
There is no position in all of sports that is more critical to a team winning or losing than quarterback. Having the wrong signal-caller can set a franchise back for years.
As the NFL continues its evolution into a pass-happy league, the importance of the position has never been more amplified. Teams simply must get it right.
These are the eight teams that must address their quarterback situation this offseason so they can contend in 2013 and beyond.
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I've been banging the drum on the Buffalo Bills needing to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick for a while. I believe he's the single biggest reason that the Bills weren't competitive in 2012.
Fitzpatrick is an average quarterback masquerading as a franchise player. His 15-27 record as a starter with Buffalo and his tendency to throw backbreaking interceptions proves that fact.
After new Bills coach Doug Marrone was hired, the team announced that there would be an open competition for the starting job between Fitzpatrick and Tarvaris Jackson. That would be like director Christopher Nolan having Steven Segal and Dolph Lundgren vie for the lead role in his newest drama.
I think Marrone is going to do a fantastic job in Buffalo, and there is no way in hell (or Orchard Park) that the Bills go into the season with Fitzpatrick and Jackson at one and two on their depth chart.
The Bills hold the eight pick in April's draft, and there will be quarterbacks there for the taking, either in round one or two. While scuttlebutt points to the Bills targeting Syracuse's Ryan Nassib, Marrone's college quarterback, in the second round, I wouldn't be stunned if Buffalo took their quarterback of the future at eighth overall.
It makes too much sense for Buffalo. The franchise desperately needs to hit the reset button at the position. Fitzpatrick and Jackson are no good. Get a rookie in there for Marrone to groom, and maybe Bills fans can have a reason to hope again.
I'd be stunned if the Bills didn't draft a quarterback high come April.
New York Jets
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The New York Jets 2012 campaign was sabotaged by both awful play at the quarterback position and the team's failures to provide incumbent Mark Sanchez with any real competition.
Think about it. Before the team made the ill-fated decision to acquire Tim Tebow, Drew Stanton was entrenched as Sanchez's backup. Stanton might not be Aaron Rodgers, but he's good enough to win games, and he could have potentially saved games that Sanchez literally gave away.
With Rex Ryan back as coach in a make-or-break year, the onus is on him and new general manager John Idzik to win games now, as owner Woody Johnson won't have patience for another sub-.500 season from his braggadocious coach.
I think Sanchez is done as a Jet. His confidence was clearly shot last season, and the team's long-time coddling of him did him no favors. Sanchez has never had any real competition, and I've long felt that was a mistake by former GM Mike Tannenbaum. Sanchez will be back in 2013 because of his large cap number, but you had better believe the team will be bringing in competition.
The question is: From where? The team holds the ninth overall pick in the draft, but there are holes all over the roster, and this year's quarterback class is one of the weakest in years. Can the Jets afford to reach at quarterback with their first-round pick? I don't believe so.
Now, it is possible that the Jets will receive a bevy of picks in a potential Darrelle Revis trade, but still, I don't think the team would be well-served to draft a quarterback early. The needs across the board are too great.
If Ryan can get the defense dialed up, all the offense really needs is a quarterback who won't play hot potato with the football. Expect the Jets to take a long look at Brian Hoyer.
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This slide isn't meant to serve as a moratorium on the career of Brandon Weeden, picked in the first round last year by the Cleveland Browns. But the team would be foolish not to add at the position.
In 2012, the year of the rookie quarterback, Weeden struggled, throwing 14 touchdown passes against 17 interceptions, and generally looked unsettled in the pocket. His decision-making in late games left a lot to be desired, and running back Trent Richardson recently criticized Weeden for having trouble reading defenses.
While it's too early to write off Weeden, it's important to note that he'll be turning 30 during the 2013 season, and questions persist about his fit in new coach Rob Chudzinki's offense.
Cleveland holds the sixth overall pick in the draft, and there's no chance they'll draft a quarterback there. The team needs to add pass-rushers to new coordinator Ray Horton's defense, and that should be the direction that new general manager Mike Lombardi goes in.
Expect the Browns to use free agency to find a quarterback to push, and perhaps replace, Weeden. Matt Cassel is a name that's been bandied about, and once he's released by the Chiefs, he would make a lot of sense.
I do believe Weeden will get an opportunity to win the starting job, and the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner won't hurt. But the Browns simply must bring in competition at the position.
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It's been a rough two seasons for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who holds a 5-19 record as the team's starting quarterback and has looked mostly hapless in the role.
After Gabbert got hurt last season, backup Chad Henne came in and played decently, but let's be honest: any team hitching their wagons to Henne is asking for a top five overall pick in the draft. This isn't the B1G.
With a new head coach (Gus Bradley) and general manager (David Caldwell) in town, it's hard to imagine that the team won't seek to add a young quarterback to the stable to compete with Gabbert and Henne.
It's too early to give up on Gabbert, but if you were Bradley and Caldwell, would you feel comfortable handing the reigns of your team to him for 16 games next season? You'd be institutionalized if you said "yes."
The Jaguars have the second overall pick in April's draft, and with that selection, they will surely select defense in an effort to inject energy and life into an otherwise moribund unit. But don't be surprised if the Jags take a quarterback at the top of the second round. I know it's not an "en vogue" idea for Jacksonville to spend a high pick on a signal-caller, but really, it's the most important position, and they aren't even close to settled at it.
With attendance floundering, Jaguars owner Shad Khan will want to put butts in the seats. You can do that if you're selling hope, and nothing screams hope like a rookie quarterback. Florida State's E.J. Manuel could be a target.
And, oh yeah, forget about this guy, will ya? It ain't happening.
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The Oakland Raiders quarterback situation is an unmitigated disaster. Carson Palmer is shot, and he certainly isn't worth even close to the $13 million he's scheduled to make in 2013. Terrelle Pryor is a decent prospect, but if you're trotting him out there for sixteen games, you're asking to be fired.
I hated former coach Hue Jackson's decision to trade for Palmer at the time, and nothing Palmer has done on-field since has convinced me that it was a good move. Palmer hasn't been good since 2009, and there's no way he's going to find the fountain of youth and magically get better. His best days are behind him.
I know "Raider Nation" is excited about the potential of Pryor, but I mean, really? Are you kidding? There is no way that Pryor will ever be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. The Raiders would be lucky to go 2-14 if Pryor were the starter, and 2-14 would earn coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie a pink slip.
It's time for the Raiders to draft a franchise quarterback. The team needs it. The fanbase needs it. Oakland is an organization in desperate need of hope, and a young quarterback brings hope.
Oakland holds the third overall pick in the draft. With it, I believe they should draft West Virginia's Geno Smith, the best quarterback on the board. Is Smith a surefire prospect like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III? No. But that shouldn't stop the Raiders from pulling the trigger on the decision.
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That's right, Cowboys fans. I believe your team must make a move at the quarterback position, and I'm not talking about a long-term extension for Tony Romo.
I'd long been a Romo supporter. Last season, I wrote that I believed he was capable of leading the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship, even after all his previous late-game failures. It was his performance in the team's Week 17, season-ending loss to the Redskins that finally caused me to lose faith.
Bottom line: The Cowboys will never win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo. Period, end of story. The guy doesn't have it. His track record of choking in the big moment is too great. And, again, this comes from someone (me) who has been an ardent, passionate supporter of Romo in the past. No more. He can't do it.
Now, I'm not saying the Cowboys should replace Romo this offseason; they're almost surely locked into him for another season, and are reportedly working to extend his contract.
But the team needs to add a young signal-caller to the mix, and not someone in the vein of former draft pick Stephen McGee—but an actual, viable player who could eventually push Romo out of the job.
Current backup Kyle Orton is a nice player, but is he the future in Dallas? Of course not.
That's why the team must draft a quarterback in the high rounds of April's draft. I don't think using a first-round selection on one would be wise, but the second round? Jerry Jones needs to start thinking about life after Romo. Come April, I think Arkansas' Tyler Wilson will get a long look from Jones.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Since the conclusion of the 2012 season, there have been varying reports coming out of Tampa Bay regarding the future of the quarterback position, currently held by Josh Freeman.
First, Bucs coach Greg Schiano hinted that the team would bring in competition for Freeman.
Then, reports stated that Freeman's agent had positive talks with the Bucs about a possible extension for Freeman.
I think the truth lies more in the first report than the second. While Freeman threw 27 touchdown passes last year, he also threw 17 interceptions, and didn't play his best football when it mattered most, late in games.
I believed Schiano when he hinted at bringing in competition and, quite frankly, I think it'd be a mistake for he and general manager Mark Dominik to not do so.
Freeman seems like a guy who is on the cusp of greatness. His physical tools are evident to anyone with a working pair of eyeballs, and he put in the work last offseason to get into better shape.
But, his decision-making with the football leaves a lot to be desired, and Schiano is certainly cognizant of that fact.
I sincerely doubt that the Buccaneers will use a high draft pick on a quarterback, but I don't think that bringing in David Carr, recently linked with the team, is the answer either.
What's more likely is the Bucs bringing in someone who can push Freeman, and even replace him if his turnover rate becomes too much for Schiano to deal with.
Guys like Matt Cassel, Brian Hoyer and Drew Stanton all fit that bill.
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Last season, the Arizona Cardinals' three-headed monster at quarterback (and oh, what a hideous monster it was) of Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, was the single worst quarterback grouping in the history of football. Their horrendous play ended up costing head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves their jobs.
Now, there's a new power base in the desert, as general manager Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians are running the show, and you'd be well-served to bet your bottom dollar that the team will aggressively add to the position.
Kolb, despite being lavished with an outrageous contract prior to the 2011 season, is on thin ice. He's set to make $11 million this season, and there's a better chance of the Cardinals paying me $11 million than awarding Kolb that money. The team will surely look to cut Kolb's pay, and whether or not he's reticent to accept that will be paramount to his eventual standing with the club.
Reports stated that the Cardinals wanted to make a run at Alex Smith, and I've heard that from league sources as well, so you know that Arians and Keim are looking for an answer at the position.
The problem is, Arizona needs multiple quarterbacks, not just one.
The most likely scenario? The Cardinals sign Drew Stanton, who was with Arians last season in Indianapolis. Stanton serves as the stopgap until the rookie quarterback (E.J. Manuel?) is ready to play.
Look on the bright side, Cardinals fans. It can't be any worse than it was last season.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz," hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.