Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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The 2011 Quarterback Market

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The 2011 quarterback market will get interesting when the lockout ends and transactions are allowed. Vince Young and Donovan McNabb will breathe life into unrestricted free agency, while Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton, and possibly Carson Palmer will become attractive trade targets.

Until then, we can only speculate about the future. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals is in no hurry to rule on the validity of its temporary stay of the lockout injunction. In the meantime, Chris Wesseling and I will be rolling out position-by-position market analysis.

These will be the most thorough position breakdowns on the internet. We'll touch on every sort of availability, from free agents of all kinds to trade targets and candidates for release.

Let's start with quarterbacks certain to be available after the transactions freeze.

Surefire Quarterback Free Agents

1. Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks

Scouting Report: Hasselbeck, going on age 36, has spent his entire career in West Coast offenses. Leading Seattle's surprising playoff run helped his stock, but this is a player in decline. Hasselbeck hasn't thrown more touchdowns than interceptions or played 16 games since 2007. He's 12-24 in his last 36 starts, averaging 6.34 yards per attempt with a 58.3 completion rate. Reduced arm strength has made him increasingly turnover prone. Hasselbeck is still a natural leader around whom teammates rally. He'd be a fine stopgap for teams that don't plan to contend.

Availability: Seattle made a half-hearted attempt to re-sign Hasselbeck before the lockout. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell recently reached out to the former three-time Pro Bowler, but ultimately the Seahawks have shown no urgency to re-sign Hasselbeck. He could be a fall-back plan in Arizona if the Cardinals don't land Kolb or Orton. Another option is Tennessee, where Hasselbeck has ties to GM Mike Reinfeldt and could serve as a bridge to No. 8 overall pick Jake Locker.

Prediction: Titans on a two-year, $9 million contract.

2. Marc Bulger, Ravens

Scouting Report: Bulger didn't play a regular season snap as Joe Flacco's backup in 2010, but was competent in the preseason, completing 21-of-32 throws (65.6%) with a 7.5 YPA. Some reports out of Baltimore claimed he was sharper than Flacco in practices. Bulger has played in vertical offenses for Mike Martz, Scott Linehan, and Cam Cameron. In Bulger's last two seasons as a starter, he combined for 22 touchdowns, 28 interceptions, a 6.25 YPA, and 75 sacks taken with a 4-23 record. Bulger looked shell shocked before holding the clipboard last year. Perhaps a season off from taking hits has rejuvenated Bulger's body. But that's not something we'd bet on.

Availability: Even after the draft, the NFL is so quarterback needy that Bulger could find a legitimate chance to start. (If he wants it, and we have our doubts.) He's been heavily linked to Arizona, and recent reports suggest the Redskins could join the bidding. If Bulger is signed to be a starter, he seems unlikely to excel without a top-ten pass blocking line. No halfway competitive teams will view him as more than a backup.

Prediction: Cardinals on a three-year, $9 million backup's contract.

3. Alex Smith, 49ers

Scouting Report: Smith was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, but his downfall is directly attributable to middle-round talent. He has average arm strength, has been injury prone, is easily rattled, and his accuracy hasn't improved since his Utah days. Smith is not an aggressive football player. Though intelligent, Smith is not a quick thinker on the field and prefers check downs to vertical strikes. He is moderately athletic and has played in every type of offense imaginable.

Availability: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has given Smith a playbook, showing the utmost confidence that he'll return to open the season as the starter in San Francisco. He won't be on a long rope, however, after Harbaugh traded up to draft Colin Kaepernick with the 36th overall pick.

Prediction: 49ers on a two-year, $7 million contract.

4. Tarvaris Jackson, Vikings

Scouting Report: Jackson has plenty of arm strength and is a positive-yardage running threat, averaging 4.5 yards per carry in his career. His talent is undeniable. Jackson is highly inconsistent, however, and tends to buckle under pressure, both of the defensive and big-game variety. In six combined prime-time and playoff starts, Jackson is 99-of-190 (52.1%) for 979 yards (5.15 YPA), two touchdowns, and nine interceptions with a 1-5 record. He is an extremely erratic thrower. Unless you're Brad Childress, Jackson is no one's idea of a starting quarterback.

Availability: The Vikings showed Jackson the door by failing to tender him as a restricted free agent. Childress is out of the league, but top lieutenant Darrell Bevell has resurfaced as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator. Jackson is also familiar with Andy Reid's Philadelphia offense. The Eagles are expected to trade Kevin Kolb, leaving only Mike Kafka behind Michael Vick.

Prediction: Eagles on a one-year, $2 million contract.

5. Bruce Gradkowski, Raiders

Scouting Report: He's essentially Jeff Garcia. An undersized scrambler, Gradkowski ran a 4.5-flat at his 2006 Pro Day and has averaged 4.2 yards per rushing attempt in his career. While Gradkowski's arm strength and per-attempt passing stats are thoroughly unimpressive, he has shown the ability to move an offense for short stretches, mostly with improvisation. The 28-year-old has played primarily in West Coast-style offenses. While he's a bottom-barrel No. 2 quarterback, Gradkowski can provide a spark and would probably be one of the better No. 3s in the league.

Availability: The Raiders moved on from Gradkowski after axing his biggest fan, former head coach Tom Cable. Not receiving a tender, Gradkowski could resurface as a backup with Cable in Seattle. Because of his limited arm talent, Gradkowski is a quarterback who must be manipulated by the offense he plays in. A horizontal passing attack would suit his skills best.

Prediction: Seahawks on a one-year, $850,000 contract.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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