Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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The 2012 Quarterback Market

Wednesday, February 15, 2012




Restricted Free Agent Quarterbacks

1. Brian Hoyer, Patriots

Scouting Report: Hoyer can’t match Ryan Mallett's physical gifts and career upside, but he’s drawn high marks for leadership and football IQ while possessing adequate size and arm strength. Hoyer is said to be “loved” within the organization as a developmental prospect on par with Matt Cassel five years back. In 43 career regular-season attempts, Hoyer has posted a 62.8 completion rate, 6.7 yards per attempt, and 80.2 passer rating while his preseason passer rating flirts with an impressive 95.0

Availability: One of league’s top young backups, Hoyer is expected to receive at least a second-round tender in March. NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi has been stumping for Hoyer as a trade candidate since last offseason. That opportunity to compete for a starting job may have to wait until next offseason, when Hoyer’s free agency becomes unrestricted.

Prediction: Patriots on his one-year restricted tender.

2. Chase Daniel, Saints

Scouting Report: Highly accurate but lacking NFL size and arm strength, Daniel landed with the perfect team after being cut from the Redskins in 2009. He’s proven to be a good fit for Sean Payton’s scheme, completing 73-of-125 (58.4 percent) passes for 959 (7.67 YPA) and a passer rating north of 90.0 in preseason action the past three seasons.

Availability: Daniel’s pre-season prowess and the NFL’s transition toward spread offense could lead to more interest than expected on the open market. NFL Network’s Jason LaCanfora has floated Daniels’ name as a possible Redskins target, but they’re likely to be aiming much higher. The best bet is that Daniel returns for another season as Drew Brees’ backup.

Prediction: Saints on his one-year restricted tender.

Trade Candidates

1. Ryan Mallett, Patriots

Scouting Report: Widely viewed as the best pure passer in last year’s draft, Mallett also drew praise from NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell for possessing the “best NFL skill set” among the QB prospects. Mallett went on to showcase a quick release, cannon arm, and impressive composure in preseason action, particularly in a 12-of-19, 164-yard performance against the Jags. On the flip side, Mallett drew pre-draft comparison to Ryan Leaf for off-field concerns, reported drug use, and a lack of leadership skills.  Perhaps just as important, not many NFL quarterbacks have succeeded with Mallett’s lack of foot speed.

Availability: Expect coach Bill Belichick to be all ears on trade offers as long as the Pats bring back RFA Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 quarterback. Mallett certainly has NFL starter measurables, and he’s managed to stay out of the headlines since game action started last summer. We suspect it will take at least a second-round pick to entice the Patriots after they invested a third-rounder last April.

Prediction: Stays with Patriots.

2. Colt McCoy, Browns

Scouting Report: Entering the season as the undisputed starter, McCoy did nothing to ease concerns about a lack of size, playing under center, and the ability to make the array of throws necessary to succeed as an NFL starter. McCoy can’t power through the elements to make stick throws or vertical strikes, and the late-season concussion renewed durability worries. McCoy may play well for stretches of the season, but he’s ideally suited to a backup role.

Availability: The Browns are in a bit of a pickle at the game’s most important position. The team’s brass reportedly drafted McCoy as a long-term backup, only to turn around and extend Seneca Wallace at three years and $9 million once McCoy exceeded expectations as a rookie. Team president Mike Holmgren is now back to square one with two high-end backups, no commitment to McCoy, and a glaring need under center. Wallace and McCoy will become redundant once the Browns address the position this offseason.

Prediction: Stays with Browns.

3. Jimmy Clausen, Panthers

Scouting Report: Overmatched as a rookie two years ago, Clausen drew pointed criticism from top wideout Steve Smith while bringing up the rear among NFL starters in passer rating. Consistently staring down receivers and showing little touch, Clausen was also held back by “limited arm talent,” shoddy mechanics, and shaky pocket presence. The inability to complete downfield throws suggests Clausen has blown his one chance at a starting gig.

Availability: Carolina needs to clear close to $10 million in salary cap space before the start of the league year. Bailing on Clausen’s $1 million option bonus isn’t out of the question after he spent last season as the third quarterback behind Derek Anderson. The Panthers would ideally pawn off Clausen in a trade, but there’s reason to believe the only GM willing to make that move is sitting in their own front office. If Marty Hurney does look into a trade partner, it could be in Kansas City. The Chiefs were reportedly high on Clausen two years ago, and OC Brian Daboll’s system has been compared to that of former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis.

Prediction: Chiefs via trade.  

Release Candidates

1. Peyton Manning, Colts

Scouting Report: The Colts’ neurosurgeon has assured Manning that he’d advise him to continue playing football even if it was his own son in question. While the neck checks out, Manning must still regenerate nerves and overcome atrophy in his upper throwing arm. ESPN’s Sports Science suggests that range of motion will be a bigger factor than arm strength once Manning is fully healed later this offseason. Although Manning was showing signs of diminished skills late in the 2010 season, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer is easily the top quarterback available if he regains even 85-90 percent of his pre-injury form.

Availability: Manning is a mortal lock to gain his release once the Colts decline his $28 million option in the next few weeks. A trade is prohibitive for salary cap as well as health reasons. Although the Dolphins and Redskins are expected to be the most aggressive suitors, it’s important to point out that Manning will be calling his own shots even if he doesn’t gain clearance from team doctors until after the NFL draft in April. Look for the 36-year-old (in March) to prioritize franchise stability, respected coaching, quality personnel, offensive freedom, and perhaps climate control over dollar signs. He will be more receptive to an incentive-laden contract from a contender than a mega contract from a pretender.

Prediction: Cardinals on an incentive-laden, three-year, $58 million contract.

2. Kevin Kolb, Cardinals

Scouting Report: The blockbuster trade turned out to be a poor fit for player and team. Kolb landed in Arizona with concerns over durability, arm strength, and pocket composure. While he tended to lose mechanics and arm strength in a “muddy pocket,” it was hard to judge Kolb’s early-season play because the offensive tackles were swinging gates. A late-season concussion has Kolb facing a “China Doll” reputation entering 2012. If he’s going to succeed as a starter, it’s likely going to be by relying on accuracy and anticipation in a West Coast scheme.

Availability: It turns out that Kolb’s six-year, $65 million contract was closer to a one-year, $12 million deal with a team escape clause. While Kolb and the beat writers expect the Cardinals to pick up his $7 million option in March, it’s far from a certainty after he was outplayed by John Skelton in his desert debut. Kolb failed to answer doubts about his durability, pocket presence, and arm strength, leaving the franchise with an easy out if they decide to go all-in on Manning. Browns GM Tom Heckert has carried a torch for Kolb since drafting him out of Houston, reportedly inquiring about his availability at the deadline two years ago. Expect Heckert to waste no time in scooping up Kolb if he is indeed jettisoned by Arizona.

Prediction: Browns on a three-year, $21 million contract.

More Quarterback Release Candidates: Matt Leinart


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling


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