In the NFL, These Are Troubling Times for Teams in Need of a Quarterback

Paul PreibisiusAnalyst IFebruary 17, 2010

Quarterbacks stand as the face of most teams in the NFL. Having a franchise guy is generally the signpost for whether a rebuilding team is on its way up (e.g. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions), or still treading water (e.g. Marc Bulger and the St. Louis Rams). 

This offseason however looks to be a bad time for the large number of team searching for a new face to put under center.  Many of the teams hunting will be forced to settle, because of the limited stock that is available. Others could end up overreaching for a player above value (be it draft position or contract) in order to try and fill the need.

For those teams interested in picking up a name in free agency, the combination of restricted status and limited availability will seriously hamstring their efforts.

The cream of the free agent crop this offseason are serviceable guys that are both unspectacular and restricted. QB Jason Campbell of the Washington Redskins could very easily end up staying in D.C. now that the front office has undergone a complete retrofit.

Regardless of where he lands, the 28-year old Campbell will be eager to prove that it was the ill-fitting system that figured into his thus far very average career and that he has not reached the limit of his abilities.

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Ranking somewhere similar to Campbell in terms of overall desirability, Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is probably the safer bet, but basically showed the peak of his upside in 2009.  Denver will likely be compelled to retain Orton for lack of a better alternative, but reports (even dispelled ones) that the team was considering a move for McNabb show what faith they have in his long-term viability.

There is one very interesting name within the bounds of free agency.  Young Carolina Panthers QB, Matt Moore, showed very well in his limited duty after Jake Delhomme went down with injury. With so much money tied up in Jake Delhomme, the Panthers may be compelled to let Moore go if the price is right.  Several teams could hope to land the next Matt Schaub, by plucking the promising backup away from his current team.

Don’t like those names?  Well then you are probably out of luck. QB Chad Pennington is an unrestricted free agent that could find his services put to use as a stopgap, in spite of his ever declining arm strength and advancing years.  Unfortunately, 2008 was likely his last major hurrah, but he could look to be this year’s Jeff Garcia.

Beyond those names, only one other free agent quarterback could even be looked at to start: Vikings backup Tarvaris Jackson.  He has a strong arm an decent scrambling ability, but there is a reason the team brought in Sage Rosenfels before doing anything and everything to land Brett Favre

So where does this leave the dozen or so teams shopping for a quarterback? With two great backups that have so far been adequate at best as starters, one unproven prospect, a broken down vet and Tarvaris Jackson, free agency does not appear to be the answer.

So where does the answer lie? The draft is the traditional place, where every prospect is a surefire star and franchise contracts can be thrown around with nary a professional start in sight.

2008 saw rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan impress on their way to the playoffs while 2009 appears to have landed three teams their franchise-faces in Mark Sanchez (New York Jets), Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) and Josh Freeman (Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

However, in my opinion, this year doesn’t have a surefire number one guy for a team to rally behind. The two forefront names come into the draft with many questions that a scouting combine alone can’t answer.

Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen is considered the most pro-ready quarterback.  He played for a system that is very NFL-friendly under the tutelage of the offensive mind of Charlie Weis.  He has a minor injury knock after being slowed by turf toe, but that is his smallest concern.

More prevalent would be concerns over attitude and potential. Coming from great college coaching may mean Clausen has come closer to peaking than other more unpolished talents. The early returns could be good, but the long-term may not set the world alight. 

Clausen is also seen as being a little too aware of his own quality. Talented quarterbacks with egos that outpace experience can be a bad combination, just ask Ryan Leaf.

Sam Bradford steps in as the only other first-round talent.  He has a much better attitude than Clausen and the difference in offensive coaching could translate to a much greater upside. The concerns here lie with the system he was in at Oklahoma, arm strength and injury.

Both quarterbacks will likely end up going in the top ten (quite possibly top five), although in a deeper draft both would probably end up going in the late teens.  What is even more disconcerting is the drop-off after them. Teams like Buffalo and Seattle will likely find themselves with no good options, while later first round teams like Arizona don’t have any names worth taking a flyer on.

The final choice then would be "sleeper" quarterbacks, those drafted after the first round who could develop and produce. Given the current outlook, the teams that come away as losers may just end up in the best position two or three years from now.

A team like Seattle, unlikely to land any of the above mentioned names could come away the victor by utilizing early picks elsewhere and snagging Dan LeFevour around the third or fourth round.  A year or two under the aging Hasselbeck could give the Central Michigan signal caller the time to learn the pro-style offense.

The winners and losers of any quarterback hunt cannot be determined until the season begins. With the current crop, even then it will likely be a question mark for several years. All that can be gleaned from the array of options this year is that several teams will come away disappointed from the dull cache of names available.


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