We are still two weeks away from the start of the NFL Playoffs, however it is clear that several quarterbacks will be looking for new homes this offseason, as their careers with their current teams have run their course. There are several teams that will be looking to upgrade the quarterback position this offseason as well, and through free agency, trades or the draft I expect to see many new faces in new places in 2013. The main problem is that the 2013 NFL Draft class lacks elite talent at the quarterback position, and while some talented players will be available (such as Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon) there is no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the prospect pool this year. Which teams will be looking for a new signal caller? Which quarterback will be available? Let’s take a look.
Teams Rumored To Be Considering An Upgrade At Quarterback:
Arizona Cardinals – If you are star receiver Larry Fitzgerald you have to be going completely insane, because you are watching the prime of your career come and go without a halfway decent starting quarterback to get you the football. The Cardinals (5-9) starting three starting quarterbacks this season (Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley) have combined to throw just 10 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. The Cardinals were 0-15 in third down situations in a 7-6 loss to the Jets on December 2nd. It is clear that they have to find an answer at quarterback this offseason, because they have a lot of talent on this football team, but the quarterback play is so atrocious that they never had a chance to be successful. I think that the Cardinals will look to bring in a veteran quarterback to take the reins of the offense next season, it will be interesting to see if a player like Alex Smith or Matt Flynn ends up in Arizona, because both players are currently in the NFC West with other clubs.
Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs (2-12) are in a tough situation, because they will have one of the top picks in the 2013 NFL Draft and need to decide if any of the quarterbacks that will be available will be worth the selection, or if they should pursue a veteran via free agency or a trade. It is clear that Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn, the two quarterbacks who have started games for the Chiefs this season, will not be back with the club in a starting role. I it looks like head coach Romeo Crenell and general manager Scott Pioli won’t be back with the club, and if any team is willing to gamble on a starting quarterback at the top of the 2013 Draft, a Chiefs club looking for a fresh start is the first team that comes to mind. If I am Kansas City, I look to improve the offensive line with their early first round pick, or trade down and collect more picks, and draft a quarterback somewhere in the mid-first to early-second round by a trade.
New York Jets – I think that there will be a lot of turnover in the Jets (6-8) organization this offseason, and the city is buzzing that Sanchez will be gone, however he is guaranteed over $8 million next season so this will not be as easy as it seems. If the Jets release Sanchez they will be forced to pay a lot of money due to a massive cap penalty Sanchez could be traded, although I think that teams such as the Chiefs and Cardinals would be interested, but the Jets will not get much in return for the former fifth overall pick in the draft, unless they eat some of that guaranteed money. I think head coach Rex Ryan will return for another season, however, there will be a lot of organizational change. There are rumors that, if Rex Ryan is retained as head coach, he wants to acquire the services of Michael Vick.
Oakland Raiders – Is Carson Palmer going to get another season? When you look at his numbers for a (4-10) Raiders team, they are not terrible (342-562 passing 3,987 yards, 22 TDs 14 INTs). The Raiders need a lot of help in other areas, including a new defense, so I would not be shocked to see Palmer get another season under center as they upgrade the roster around him. The organization paid a hefty price to obtain Palmer’s services, so he will likely get another opportunity in Oakland.
Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars (2-10) spent the 10th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on quarterback Blaine Gabbert, he was picked one pick ahead of Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who will likely win the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Gabbert has really struggled in the NFL, and the team has struggled with him calling the signals, his career completion percentage is just 53.7% and he has thrown 21 touchdowns to 17 interceptions. Gabbert injured his non-throwing shoulder in week seven of this season, and while he tried to play through the pain, he was placed on the injured reserve on November 21st. The team has looked slightly more confident with veteran Chad Henne under center, but Gabbert had shown some improvement from his rookie year, and the team will not want to spend another high draft pick on a quarterback this spring. If I had to guess, I’d say Gabbert gets another shot, and I also think Mike Mularkey gets another year as head coach. Will the Jags sign hometown hero Tim Tebow in an effort to sell tickets?
Philadelphia Eagles – The Eagles (4-10) will be one of the most interesting NFL teams this offseason, as quarterback Michael Vick will not have his option picked up, and will not be back with the team. This also may be the last season for longtime head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia, and a lot of organizational turnover is to be expected from a team which was once dubbed a “Super Team” but failed to deliver on the field. Will current starting quarterback rookie Nick Foles be given another season to run the Philly offense or will the team go in another direction this offseason? Would they consider a player like Matt Barkley or Geno Smith to rebuild the franchise around in the NFL Draft?
Cleveland Browns – The Browns (5-9) are under new ownership and have been rumored to undergo a full organizational change this offseason, and although Brandon Weeden has shown flashes, the 29 year old rookie may get kicked to the curb if the new management team thinks that they have a better option.
St. Louis Rams – I thought that when Jeff Fisher took over the St. Louis Rams (6-7-1), he committed to Sam Bradford, when he traded away the draft rights to Robert Griffin III? I am hearing whispers that, if the Jets make Mark Sanchez available the Rams are interested, but this is likely in a backup role. The Rams got a king’s ransom from the Redskins in the RGIII trade, and should finally get some weapons for Bradford in the 2013 NFL Draft, so I think he gets another shot. This team will be much better in 2013.
Buffalo Bills – We now have a big enough sample size. The Buffalo Bills (5-9) are never going to be a good team as long as Ryan Fitzpatrick is their starting quarterback. He is a smart guy who is great in the locker room and would make for a very competent backup. I have heard whispers that the Bills could be in play for a Matt Flynn trade.
Minnesota Vikings – Where would the Vikings (8-6) be if it was not for the potentially record breaking season that tailback Adrian Peterson is having? (1812 yards through 14 games, 11 touchdowns). Everyone knows that the Vikings are going to run the ball, and they still cannot stop “All Day” Peterson, imaging how good this team would be if they had competent quarterback play to pair with him, they would be a Super Bowl contender in the NFC. Christian Ponder does not have a big arm and is only capable of running a very limited offensive scheme, I think that he is better suited as a very good backup quarterback in the NFL than your starting quarterback every week, but it would help if the Vikings got him some outside weapons in the passing game. Vikings fans will disagree, but I have heard rumors that the organization will look at an upgrade to the quarterback position this offseason.
Quarterbacks Who Should Be Available:
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers – Head Coach Jim Harbaugh has made his decision and it looks like athletic Colin Kapernick will be the quarterback of the future (and the present) in San Fran, meaning former first overall pick Alex Smith is likely on the way out. Is Alex Smith ever going to be an elite quarterback in the NFL? Probably not. However he has won a lot of games and a lot of starting experience, I expect him to be starting for one of the teams mentioned above next fall.
Matt Flynn, Seattle Seahawks – Flynn was signed to a three year contract ($10 million guaranteed) by the Seattle Seahawks last offseason, however he was beaten out for the starting job by rookie Russell Wilson, who has performed well and is clearly their quarterback of the future. There has been a lot of speculation that Flynn is a likely trade candidate this offseason, and he would have a lot of interest on the market, if a team was willing to surrender a mid-round draft pick. He performed well as Aaron Rogers backup in Green Bay, and I have heard that the Arizona Cardinals may be interested in his services. The Seahawks have recently showcased Flynn in recent blowout victories, adding to the trade speculation, and as I mentioned above I am hearing that the Bills may bite.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets – If you give Mark Sanchez some weapons on offense, a running game and time to throw the ball, I think that he can still win games in the NFL. That is why I think one of the teams I mentioned above will bail the Jets out and trade for Sanchez this offseason. I could see the Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs having interest, places where Sanchez will have the opportunity to compete for a starting job. The guy went to two AFC Title Games and won four road playoff games. He broke under the pressure of the New York media, Rex Ryan, the acquisition of Tim Tebow, the total lack of offensive weapons, and I think many young quarterbacks would have done the same thing. As I mentioned above, apparently the Rams have interest, which surprised me.
Tim Tebow, New York Jets – It is clear that many people in the NFL do not think Tebow can play quarterback at the professional level, which was emphasized by the debacle that happened with the New York Jets this season, in which we saw Tebow get leapfrogged on the depth chart by Greg McElroy. I still think somebody will give him a shot, which I’m not sure is a wise move, due to all of the controversy and 24-hour ESPN coverage that it drums up. Will Tebow’s hometown Jaguars give him a shot?
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles – The is no doubt that Michael Vick’s career in Philadelphia is over, the team will not pick up his option, and he will be a free agent this offseason. Vick claims he can still play (I have doubts) so where will he end up? Apparently New York Jets coach Rex Ryan loves Michael Vick and, if Ryan is retained, would like to see Vick playing for the New York Jets next season. If I am Jets owner Woody Johnson, I kick Rex Ryan to the curb just for mentioning that he want Michael Vick, who’s acquisition would turn the Jets into even more of a circus. The Jets are the laughingstock of the league right now, do you really want to add another controversial player to a roster full of them? On top of that, Vick cannot stay healthy and will miss a few games, so you better have a good backup plan in place if you are going to sign him.
(Several others are available, who will likely be backups, rather than starting quarterbacks. These will be the biggest names on the market).