The opening volleys to the NFL offseason centered on experienced running backs: Ladainian Tomlinson, Bryan Westbrook, and Thomas Jones were all cut by their respective teams for reaching the point of age-concern.
Following the opening stages of the offseason, a new position has surpassed the running back for limited job security—quarterback.
It began when the Carolina Panthers severed ties with longtime centerpiece Jake Delhomme. The move was something of a surprise, as the long-term extension he signed after the 2008 season brought with it a fair share of guaranteed money.
A terrible 8:18 touchdown to interception ratio coupled with a great season-closing four game stretch by surprise youth Matt Moore sealed Delhomme’s fate.
Not long after, Cleveland severed ties with one-half of its 2009 quarterback-by-committee duo as Derek Anderson was cut.
Anderson posted the worst quarterback rating among passers with any significant number of starts. His 42.1 rating in eight games was roughly eight points below much maligned Oakland Raider’s quarterback Jamarcus Russell.
Will either of these unemployed veterans find a home before the 2010 season begins? Most likely. Trying to discern where they will go is much more difficult.
Despite having the weaker season of the two quarterbacks, Derek Anderson should have a much better chance at finding gainful employment before too much time has passed.
Unlike Delhomme, Anderson can explain away some of his terrible results by virtue of playing for the worst statistical offense in football. The small yardage gap between the 31st team (Oakland) and Cleveland would have been even greater were it not for a surprise surge to close out the year.
If Jerome Harrison had averaged 120 yards rushing per game instead of the insane 187 a game across the final three, then Cleveland would have finished nearly 20 yards below the next worst team.
Anderson is also much easier to employ as a 26 year old with only 34 starts under his belt. His only full season was in 2007 where he posted a solid 3,783 yards with a 29:18 touchdown to interception ratio.
If a team feels he can regain that form given a better environment, they may be willing to extend an offer to the still developing player.
The team expressed faith in Leinart, stating that he is the starting quarterback for 2010, but he has thus far been unimpressive since being drafted 10th overall in 2006.
Four years into the league, Leinart has a career passer rating of 71 despite playing alongside one of the best receiving corps in the NFL. In one start and pieces of five other games, he put up a 64.6 rating in 2009.
Derek Anderson would give them a budget addition that could battle for the starting job without creating a locker room stir. If Leinart can hold onto the starting role, then Arizona still lands an experienced backup who has Pro Bowl experience.
Derek Anderson has his fair share of deficiencies. He is not particularly accurate and is prone to making poor decisions that can lead to turnovers.
He is a strong-armed and fearless thrower who is great at throwing up downfield jump-balls. Just the kind of pass Larry Fitzgerald is so great at pulling down. Going vertical with elite receivers is the best way to mask the flaws of Anderson’s cannon-armed game.
Jake Delhomme is a different matter. Six straight seasons with a quarterback rating between 81 and 112 give him a much more storied career.
He is also 35 years old with very limited upside. He appears to still be taking emotional baggage with him over an abysmal five-interception performance in a 2008 playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals. He put up bottom of the pack numbers despite playing on a solid Carolina Panthers team.
He is quick to deflect blame towards himself. That may endear him to his teammates, but doesn’t make him a complete leader.
The team looking to sign him would do so for one of two purposes—to either give them an emergency one or two year rental or to be a mentor to a young developing player.
As an emergency rental he could land a home in Buffalo. The team is in a rebuilding phase, having just reworked its entire front office. They have three young quarterbacks on the roster, none of which look to be the long-term answer.
Picking up Delhomme would allow the team to rework its offensive line and/or front seven via the draft. The move especially makes sense if Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford are off the draft board by the time Buffalo steps up with the ninth pick.
The Bills know they are a few years away from looking to the playoffs, and can buy some time with Delhomme to put a solid foundation down for whatever quarterback they want to be their next franchise guy.
More likely would be some team bringing him in to be a mentor and backup to a promising youth, while being able to take over in case of emergency.
Tampa Bay could be the ideal landing place for this. As a rookie Josh Freeman showed some encouraging flashes.
All three of Tampa Bay’s wins came in Freeman’s nine starts, including upsets of the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. He put up three games of 250 yards or more, and had the same number of multi-touchdown games.
He also averaged two interceptions per game and was the lowest rated among the three first round rookies.
Jake Delhomme is already well-versed in the NFC South, and could provide a good mentorship to the up and coming young Freeman without shaking the young player’s confidence with a domineering personality.
It may take waiting until how the draft shakes out, but both Jake Delhomme and Derek Anderson should end up finding willing teams before the 2010 season begins, giving each one last chance to be a quarterback in the NFL.
For more on Jake Delhomme's departure from Carolina see here