This offseason, every NFL team in need of a quarterback will ardently pursue Philadelphia's Michael Vick. Set to become a free agent this spring, Vick is coming off the best season of his career, by far. Of course, there exists a strong possibility that Vick will simply remain with the Eagles, the franchise that gave him his second chance in the league.
If he does, and even if he does not, Tarvaris Jackson is another available option for teams looking to make a change under center. Jackson will also be a free agent this offseason, and his current team, the Minnesota Vikings, seem more keen on the potential of young passer Joe Webb than on Jackson.
Free agency in the NFL is a strange animal, and it gets even more unpredictable this year with the threat of a lockout still looming in 2011.
Despite all that, here are 10 teams who may have strong interest in Jackson this spring and summer.
In football free agency, as in political elections, it is unwise to bet against the incumbent.
True, the Vikings look eager to give Joe Webb his opportunity at quarterback, but Jackson will get a long look as a placeholder until Webb is prepared to assume control, or as a veteran backup whose style is not commensurate with Webb's.
Tony Sparano weathered the hurricane of calls for his head, ensuring that the wildcat formation will make at least a few more appearances in South Florida in 2011. Sparano still embraces the formation, which he prizes for its versatility and deception, but he has scaled back its use.
Jackson fits the mold as a wildcat quarterback, a nimble-footed runner and a strong, if often erratic thrower. Unless the Dolphins are enamored with Chad Henne, Jackson is a fair option for them.
Carolina felt the sting of cruel edification on Thursday when Andrew Luck announced he would return for his senior season at Stanford.
Jimmy Clausen silently and discreetly pumped his fist at that announcement, because it gives him at least some chance of returning in 2011 as the Panthers' starting signal-caller.
Still, Carolina needs either a utile backup or a replacement for Clausen, and Jackson could be that guy.
Staring down Vince Young and owner Bud Adams is perhaps the most impressive yet of Jeff Fisher's daring escape acts from the guillotine. Young will be traded or cut, leaving a vacuum at quarterback for Tennessee.
Since the crop of second-tier quarterbacks that will be available to Tennessee in the draft is relatively unappealing, Jackson might be an easier solution.
Many fans and analysts believe the numbers of a rookie quarterback ought to be dismissed. There is a learning curve, no one contests that, and so the consensus seems to be that statistical analysis is unfair.
That might be true to a certain extent, but Colt McCoy struggled badly in his stint as the starter. He does not look like a winning option as a passer, and the Browns should look for (if nothing more) an insurance policy for him.
Jackson could run an offense like that competently.
Vick could well be back in Philly, and even if he deserts, Kevin Kolb is waiting in the wings. Kolb is no stud though, so Andy Reid (that great developer of quarterbacks) may bring in Jackson as a project and possible Vick redux.
Jackson's athleticism brings the same dimension of chaos as Vick's, though to a lesser extent, and creates the kind of space in which LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson thrive.
San Francisco is likely relatively well-positioned to snag a quarterback of their own choosing in the draft. If Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton get gobbled up before their pick though, or if the Niners dislike whichever remains on the board, Jackson could be the right replacement for Alex Smith—who simply has to go.
Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis are good, big targets down the field as deep receivers, and Jackson's huge arm can throw a good deep ball.
Making the playoffs took the Seahawks out of position to take a passer in the draft, so Jackson becomes an option as the team (presumably) sets out to replace the aged Matt Hasselbeck.
Head coach Pete Carroll usually prefers pocket passers, but Jackson has a high enough ceiling to entice even Carroll.
That the Raiders fired Tom Cable in spite of their best season in years illustrates the endemic impatience of the organization. Pursuant to that pattern, they seem unlikely to bring back Jason Campbell without at least exploring other quarterback options, even though Campbell had an unheralded but strong stretch to finish the season.
Jackson fits the mold of recent Raiders quarterbacks like Campbell, JaMarcus Russell and Daunte Culpepper.
The Packers learned the hard way that Aaron Rodgers is not Brett Favre. Rodgers missed about a game and a half with a pair of concussions, and the team's lack of depth (Matt Flynn?) at the position got exposed in a big way.
Jackson would probably prefer to pursue one of the handful of tenuous starting opportunities out there, but if he is willing to accept a backup role, this might be the best one to take on.