This is something to keep in mind as you watch the 2010 season.
Several teams will be looking for new quarterbacks. And several intriguing options will be available to be had.
Getting ahead of myself is what I do best. I excel at it.
But let’s face it: There are teams who need a quarterback now. What would preclude us from putting them near the top of this list? People in Buffalo, for instance, might be staying up later than usual on Saturdays this fall, watching a lot of Washington Huskies games this season with the idea that Jake Locker might be their future QB.
Throw in other intriguing senior QBs such as Christian Ponder and Nathan Enderle, along with underclassmen Andrew Luck and Ryan Mallett, and next year’s draft could be a whopper at the position. To read more, check out our first 2011 Draft Newsletter previewing the college seniors and a few choice underclassmen. (This should sit on your coffee table for the next two months while you watch college games — you will thank me for this later.)
The free-agent market is potentially enticing, too, though not quite as star-studded if Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are re-signed, as expected. But you could be looking at names such as Matt Moore, Michael Vick, Alex Smith, Matt Hasselbeck, Troy Smith and possibly even Donovan McNabb, though both he and the Redskins appear to want to get an extension done.
That said, here are the teams that enter this season most likely to seek quarterback help for 2011:
1. Bills — The QB of the future likely isn’t on the roster. Trent Edwards and Brian Brohm are young, but that’s about all they have going for them. Edwards has the look of a solid but unspectacular career backup. It’s not fair to blame him entirely for the Bills’ would-be struggles, but you have to think the team brought in Chan Gailey to work with a young QB who has yet to arrive.
2. Jaguars — Like above, putting blame on David Garrard if the Jaguars struggle probably isn’t entirely just. But he has not delivered the way the team has hoped since he received an extension after his breakout season. Plus, a young, hotshot quarterback might energize the fan base, which is always a concern in northern Florida.
3. Vikings — You Know Who says he isn’t coming back. We’ve all heard the reports of Tarvaris Jackson’s improvement, but if he was that good, the coaching staff would not have sent a search party to go poach YKW down in Mississippi and beg him to return. Jackson very well could start in ’11, and selfishly I hope he gets the chance again. But there’s no doubt that the team will look to groom a young QB as an insurance policy for Jackson.
4. Chiefs — Is this Matt Cassel’s last stand? Maybe not. But the preseason returns have been a bit worrisome to date, and the pressure is mounting for Cassel to put up something on the field commensurate with his healthy salary. Charlie Weis and Todd Haley are QB guys, and they’ll certainly have their eyes open after this season if Cassel turns in a clunker of a season.
5. Browns — With talk that Colt McCoy already has the coaches thinking he might never be the guy, there’s little question that Mike Holmgren and whoever his coach is next season will want someone young to bring in and groom as the future starter. Not since Bernie Kosar have the Browns had a homegrown quarterback whom the locals have rallied around.
6. Cardinals — The locals already are calling for Kurt Warner to get off Twitter and unretire. It’s not happening, folks. And even if Matt Leinart (assuming he beats out Derek Anderson) plays better, I think there’s a high likelihood that there will be another QB on the roster in ’11 — either a veteran to push Leinart or a developmental guy to … well, push Leinart.
7. Raiders — I am a Jason Campbell fan, and I think the Raiders are keen on him, too. But he’s the quarterback whom everyone seems to want to replace because he never will be a star. If Campbell proves a lot of doubters wrong, this could be delayed by a year. But I think because they got him so cheaply, the Raiders won’t hesitate to go after a young QB with a flashy arm. One problem: Oakland’s first-rounder belongs to the Patriots, sent in the Richard Seymour deal last year.
8. Steelers — This all depends on Ben Roethlisberger. If he straightens up and flies right, there’s no issue: He’s the team’s QB. But one more step afoul, and it could mean his can hits the street. He was very close to being a former Steeler, if you buy into some of the reports from this offseason. Dennis Dixon might be the flavor of the month, but the Steelers might believe they could do better.
9. Bengals — There will be no more excuses for Carson Palmer if he struggles to throw the ball this season with a very talented group of pass catchers. Palmer remains the guy, but he’s not locked up long term in the way some people think he is. Again, it never hurts to have a young contingency plan, and it would not stun me to see the Bengals think QB in the draft in the first few rounds. I wonder if Enderle might not be their kind of guy.
10. 49ers — Similar to Palmer, Smith must produce now. The pieces are in place. But heck, I could see the Niners winning 10 games and winning their division, similar to the Jackson-led Vikings a few years ago, and the team still looking to make a QB change. Smith remains young, but he has had plenty of chances to improve.
11. Titans — Kerry Collins is a great backup, but he might leave via free agency. And Vince Young, as well as he played down the stretch, remains a somewhat uncertain commodity. Can you hand him the keys to the franchise for the next five seasons? I like his unique skills, but I think this question gets raised at season’s end.
12. Redskins — With nothing done yet on McNabb’s deal, it raises the chances of a new quarterback being drafted. Besides, Mike Shanahan is a QB guy, and he’ll want a young option that offers more than Rex Grossman, who is a mere placeholder. The problem is draft picks; as in, once more, the Redskins lack them next year.
13. Bears — Total projection here. We don’t know what kind of season Jay Cutler will have. We don’t have an idea whether Lovie Smith will return as coach. We aren’t even sure if GM Jerry Angelo will be back. But we do know that all these questions, heading into a make-or-break year, make a QB addition all the more likely next season. Unless you think Caleb Hanie or Dan LeFevour really has the goods.
14. Buccaneers — By all signs, Josh Freeman is the present and future QB. But what if he bombs this season? Do you panic and draft another quarterback? No, probably not, but you might add a veteran — Smith comes to mind, as does Hasselbeck — to let Freeman know that the coaches want to see more, much more. And while we’re on the subject of coaches, do we know for sure that Raheem Morris will be back? No, we do not.
15. Seahawks — Hasselbeck likely will end his Seattle days, and Charlie Whitehurst projects as the starter at some point, perhaps this season. But you have to consider that the team will look to add another one. But would they go the veteran or rookie route? It should be interesting to keep tabs on this situation.
16. (tie) Patriots/Colts/Cowboys — The Cowboys waited too long to find Troy Aikman’s replacement. The Packers, however, played it perfectly by letting Aaron Rodgers steep for three years before giving him the starting job. That’s how it should be done. These three teams have their starters in place for the next three, four, maybe five seasons. But finding a younger QB to groom behind Brady/Manning/Romo sounds like a very good idea.
Read Eric Edholm's frequent "Around the NFL" blog posts.