Thoughts on Quarterback Moves Around the NFL

Quarterback News Charlie Whitehurst

So the big quarterback news of the past couple days in the NFL (alright, other than Tim Tebow’s new throwing motion) was the trade of 3rd-string Chargers QB Charlie Whitehurst to the Seattle Seahawks. According to ESPN, the Seahawks:

agreed to move down 20 spots in the second round and part with a 2011 third-rounder to acquire Whitehurst from San Diego.

According to the NFL Draft Value Chart, that package was worth about the last pick the in second round. In addition to that high compensation, Peter Carroll and Company promptly awarded their new acquisition with a 2 year, $10 million contract.

Second round pick, large contract. Sounds like an investment in the future starting quarterback. So what’s the catch?

Oh yeah: Whitehurst has never attempted a single regular season pass!

It’s obviously very surprising that Whitehurst could command such value. Sure, any quarterback drafted by Seattle would also be an unproven commodity, but that seems like a lot to give up for a guy who’s been in the league for 4 years and hasn’t shown anything.

I have mixed feelings about what this move means for the Eagles’ QB trade hopes.

  • First, Seattle has pretty much taken themselves out of the quarterback market with this move. Whitehurst seems like he’ll be the quarterback of the present and future, with Matt Hasselbeck probably looking to the exit. Seattle was a hot possibility for one of the Eagles QBs, and this move makes some sense since they were rumored to be more interested in Kevin Kolb than Donovan McNabb. Whitehurst is basically a less talented, less accomplished version of Kolb.
  • And while Seattle is no longer calling the Eagles front office, they are also probably not looking to spend more money on another unproven quarterback early in next month’s draft. That means one less suitor for the Eagles and one more prospect who might fall to another team (the Bills?), eliminating them from trade contention as well.
  • However, the high price Seattle was willing to pay for an unproven commodity (and supposedly hot market for Whitehurst) shows that the Eagles aren’t necessarily overvaluing their quarterbacks. If Whitehurst is worth a #2 and $10 million, anyone interested in McNabb, a proven Pro Bowl QB, has to start talking about giving up at least a 1st rounder.

* * *

The Cleveland Browns were another team interested in the Eagles QBs. Over the last week, though, they’ve completely retooled that position. Mostly they kicked out two bad quarterbacks (Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson) and replaced them with two who don’t look a lot better (Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace).

It seems like Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert, and Eric Mangini are willing to let those two veterans battle it out for the starting role next year, although they haven’t really endorsed either one as a long-term solution. Holmgren said about Delhomme:

“My own belief is this team needs an aging veteran. They need a guy that is going to grab everybody by the throat and say, ‘Follow me through that door.’ I don’t look at him as an aging veteran, I look at him as the leader I wanted.”

That reads to me as though Cleveland still really wants to take a quarterback in the draft. And with two mediocre quarterbacks to take snaps during the rebuilding process, maybe the team could take a chance on a project like Tebow.

I’m not sure Cleveland was ever really a great spot for McNabb or Kolb. When two teams make a deal for a player, you need a certain amount of imperfect information. In other words, the two teams have to value the players differently, and therefore both think they’re getting a good deal. In theory, Heckert and Andy Reid know the Eagles QBs so well, they won’t be able to make a deal they’re both happy with.

* * *

The Browns’ moves have other, reverberating effects throughout the NFL.

  • Derek Anderson signed with the Cardinals to back-up and/or challenge Matt Lienart, eliminating Arizona from any McNabb discussion.
  • Brady Quinn to the Broncos means Josh McDaniels has found his long-term quarterback. Doubt Denver will be looking at guys like Jimmy Clausen with their 1st round pick.

Seahawks Only Asking About Kevin Kolb?

Seattle Seahawks Quarterback Rumors Kevin Kolb Matt Hassellbeck

And the Seahawks sources strike back:

A source in Seattle has informed Comcast SportsNet that the Seahawks have contacted the Eagles about Kevin Kolb, contradicting a report that the team has asked about Donovan McNabb as well.

Asked about the possibility of acquiring McNabb, the Seattle source said it would leave the Seahawks in the same position they’re in with veteran Matt Hasselbeck – but wouldn’t elaborate further.

Interesting turn of events, so soon after the report that Pete Carroll really wanted either McNabb or Kolb. It’s not entirely surprising though. I’m sure there are a number of teams that would rather have Kolb than McNabb. He’s seen around the league, and presumably at the NovaCare Complex, as the next Matt Schaub or Aaron Rodgers — guys who have emerged as great quarterbacks after sitting behind veterans for a few years. His youth and upside are tremendously attractive.

Yet, more importantly, Kolb is seen as a better — or at least safer — alternative to drafting a quarterback high in the draft. Sam Bradford seems like a solid prospect and likely to go in the top 5, if not #1 overall to the St. Louis Rams. Jimmy Clausen’s stock is free falling. And none of the other quarterbacks look like immediate contributors in the mold of a Matt Sanchez, Joe Flacco, or Matt Ryan.

Every team looking for a young franchise quarterback they can build around has to be salivating at Kolb. But of course, you have to imagine Andy Reid feels the same way. McNabb may still be the present for the Eagles, but Kolb is undoubtably the future. He’s very valuable, and barring some sort of massive, unforeseen Herschel Walker/Ricky Williams trade, Kolb isn’t going anywhere.

Of course, maybe Pete Carroll has already been rebuffed in his attempts to get Kolb, and has been pushed by the Eagles front office toward McNabb. Emphasizing that aquiring McNabb has the same effect as keeping Matt Hasselbeck is a good bargaining argument. It’s ridiculous and false, with Hasselbeck a shell of his former self over the last two years, but still a good way to try to gain back a little bit of leverage after someone told Sal Pal how much the Seahawks were interested.

Report: Pete Carroll Gunning Hard for Eagles QBs

In an appearance on Mikey Miss on  97.5  yesterday, Sal Pal  dropped  a bomb  with perhaps the new frontrunner for Donovan McNabb’s services:

Paolantonio says that Seattle coach Pete Carroll wants to win right away, and in Carroll’s mind that includes getting McNabb or Kolb.  And Paolantonio says that he now firmly believes that McNabb will be traded by the Eagles at some point in the offseason.

This is clearly a huge development for the McNabb trade front. The Seahawks have apparently been calling “non-stop” about the two Eagles quarterbacks — the first really substantial interest we’ve heard about any team in the NFL.

I dismissed Seattle from the McNabb equation initially for three reasons. One, they clearly have time and the need to rebuild. Two, they have the ability to go grab a young QB high in the draft (sitting at 6 and 15 in the first round is a nice way to start turning around a franchise). And three, I figured Carroll, with all of his new college experience, would covet “recruiting” and mentoring his own signal-caller.

But while this all could still turn out to be moot, the ego factor on Carroll probably shouldn’t be downplayed. He’s a man who got total control of the Seahawks this offseason and has the ability to make whatever football decisions he wants. If he wants to make a play for a veteran signal-caller, there’s no one who’s going to stop him.

* * *

The other interesting nugget from Sal Pal’s radio appearance was his announcement that the market for Michael Vick has gone cold. This isn’t a total surprise considering the Eagles had to pick up Vick’s bonus. And it may just be a lull before we get closer to the draft. If the Eagles aren’t stuck on a super high asking price, I have to imagine there are teams who would be interested.

Where Vick Will Go: The Breakdown

Michael Vick as Eagle

So, as we’ve already done with McNabb, it’s time to breakdown where Michael Vick might end up.

Maybe I didn’t make it very clear last time, but my thoughts on distinguishing landing spots for McNabb and Vick is simple. I see three largely distinct groups of teams looking for quarterbacks this offseason. There’s the group who should be interested in McNabb: contenders who just need a good QB to put them over the top (e.g. MIN, ARI, SF). There’s the group who should be looking to the draft: teams rebuilding long term (e.g. STL, CLE, SEA). And then, somewhere in between, there’s the Vick group: those that don’t have the time or don’t want to fully rebuild, and are in some way desperate for attention (e.g. BUF, JAC, OAK).

This is definitely reductionist. For example, St. Louis might decide, as has been recently rumored, that Vick is a good bet for their franchise. Or Buffalo might want to go get McNabb instead. These are basic categories for who most likely will be interested — and you can definitely disagree with me.

But while we’re here, let’s define the Vick category a little better:

  1. Not Blowing Up and Rebuilding: I would be shocked if someone like Pete Carroll traded for Vick. He has the luxury of a few years to rebuild his team the way he wants — and can therefore take the time to develop his own QB. Whatever team takes Vick has to be looking to win now.
  2. Not a Contender Either: Arizona will not be risking their Super Bowl chances on the play of a quarterback who hasn’t played in two years. Unlike McNabb, Vick isn’t the last piece in the puzzle (and he may never have been).
  3. Franchise Uncertainty: Trading for Vick is inherently risky. The cost might not be very high for him, but he hasn’t started an NFL game in two years. Are you willing to risk your job on his performance? To some degree, the front office and/or coach is going to have to feel pressured to make a bold move and have something happen right away. Any team with the time or confidence to rebuild slowly won’t be looking at Vick.
  4. Desperation: This is what I think highlights the Vick-chasers most. Vick has maybe always been more hype than hero, and after two years away from the game that is definitely the case. Plus, he’s still a PR risk (although not as much as he was before the Eagles took the hit). He still can be an exciting addition to a team looking to return from obscurity — or just attract more fans.
  5. Need a QB, and Maybe Don’t Want to “Try Again”: Kind of obvious, but this team can’t be set at quarterback. However, I think that they might be more likely contenders if they’ve already been burned once with a QB. San Francisco and Oakland fit that bill — both having tried and failed with #1 overall picks.

So that’s the basic outline we’re talking about. Desperate, attention-seeking, uncertain, middling teams. Who, per the rumors about Vick, fits this bill:

  • Oakland Raiders: Oakland was rumored to be interested last year, but Vick (or Tony Dungy) supposedly turned them down. Vick is everything Al Davis loves — speedy, flashy, big arm. And having already been burned by JaMarcus Russell, trading for a starter makes more sense. Of course, little Oakland does “makes sense.” Then again, that may be a mark in their favor.
  • Buffalo Bills: Could be interested in McNabb, but the team reeks of desperation to me. They’re trying to stay relevant while rumors swirl about a move away from upper NY (See: move for TO). New coach who probably won’t be around long enough to mentor a new QB could be interested in Vick.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: As I already talked about, the Jags could be an ideal spot for Vick. David Garrard hasn’t wowed anyone, and everyone knows that their biggest problem is attendance. They have to get a game-changer this offseason to reverse that trend — whether that’s Tim Tebow or Michael Vick.
  • San Francisco 49ers: I still think they’re more likely McNabb suitors, but if Mike Singletary likes Vick and wants to work with him, don’t count this out.
  • St. Louis Rams: Apparently there’s been interest, but I think Spags would be better suited continuing his long-term rebuilding plan.
  • Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks: Other teams with new regimes and long-term strategies. See above.
  • Carolina Panthers: Also mentioned them with McNabb, but this could be John Fox’s last year. If he doesn’t want to tie his future to Matt Moore, Vick could be an option.
  • Miami Dolphins: I know some people suggest this. Not likely. Chad Henne is their guy. (This also goes for DET, TB, KC)
  • Washington Redskins: If they weren’t in the NFC East, I’d say Daniel Snyder’s team would be in hot pursuit.

The takeaway: it’s tough to tell who’s really interested in Vick and who’d be willing to send a conditional pick for him. If the Eagles are forced to drop him before his bonus comes up then a lot of teams could be inquiring. Ultimately, though, I think the Jags take Tebow and either Buffalo or Oakland send something to the Eagles for Vick.