Seven teams could be seeking new QBs

10:09 AM, Jan 29, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's not at all a coincidence.

At least seven NFL teams will strongly consider a change at the starting quarterback position in 2013. Each of those seven squads ranked among the league's worst nine teams in 2012.

Among the teams holding the top nine picks in April's NFL draft, only the Detroit Lions and, to an extent, Oakland would appear to be set at quarterback (mostly because the Raiders gave up so much to get Carson Palmer in 2011).

For the other seven teams, a major focus during the offseason will be to upgrade at the most significant position. Let's examine how things might play out for those teams:

ARIZONA CARDINALS: It's hard to remember, but the Cardinals opened the season 4-0 with Kevin Kolb at the helm. Then he got injured, and John Skelton and Ryan Lindley, respectively, took turns replacing him and turning in some of the NFL's worst quarterback play in recent memory.

Kolb is due a $9 million base salary and a $2 million roster bonus by March 15. It makes him a likely candidate to be released, although he could actually end up being the team's best option.

Arizona really needs to upgrade its offensive line, though, because Kolb will never be able to play a 16-game schedule otherwise.

Brian Hoyer made his first NFL start in the Cardinals' season finale against the 49ers, and he played pretty well. He's a free agent, and he could be brought back to compete for the job.

As for veteran quarterbacks who should be available, Matt Flynn and Alex Smith, are unlikely to be traded to the Cardinals because their current teams reside in the same division as Arizona. Michael Vick, given Arizona's offensive line problems, doesn't seem to be a great fit.

If the Cardinals decide to draft a quarterback in April, keep an eye on North Carolina State's Mike Glennon. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Glennon has tremendous size and arm strength. Perhaps new head coach Bruce Arians will see a little bit of Ben Roethlisberger in Glennon when he's evaluating the draft-eligible quarterbacks. Arians was the Steelers' offensive coordinator during their 2008 Super Bowl season.

BUFFALO BILLS: Incumbent Ryan Fitzpatrick is slated to earn $4.25 million in 2013, in addition to a $3 million roster bonus. Buffalo would save money under the salary cap by releasing him, and it doesn't help that the Bills' top receiver, Stevie Johnson, said last week that he'd like the team to bring in competition for Fitzpatrick.

It's popular to criticize Fitzpatrick and list his shortcomings (22 turnovers in 2012, subpar arm strength), but the Harvard product has actually been an overachiever. The problem is, he has limitations. He would be an excellent backup who could hold the fort for an injured starter and win a few games, but his contract, although not outrageous, is too expensive for a reserve player.

The obvious guess here would be that Buffalo would attempt to draft Ryan Nassib because the team's new coach, Doug Marrone, was his head coach at Syracuse, and the Bills' new offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, also served in that same capacity with the Orange.

Nassib would be a reach prior to the second round. If the Bills want to target a quarterback in the first round, they could have a shot at West Virginia's Geno Smith.

CLEVELAND BROWNS: There's been no clear indication whether new head coach Rob Chudzinski or new offensive coordinator Norv Turner - two offensive gurus who would no doubt like to put their stamp on the Browns' offense - are in favor of keeping 2012 rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden in the starting lineup.

The drawback to Weeden is that he's still in the developmental stage despite being 29 years old. The positive is that he was successful as a downfield passer in college, and that's likely going to be a prominent characteristic of a Chudzinski-Turner offense.

The Browns have plenty of salary cap space and few big weapons in the passing game. Weeden had a fine rookie season. In nearly any other year, his rookie performance would have been lauded by scouts and fans alike. The problem was that he broke into the league in a season when Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson also debuted, and Weeden was a tier or two behind those franchise quarterbacks.

If the Browns ultimately decide against moving forward with Weeden, a likely replacement could be New England Patriots backup Ryan Mallett. Newly hired vice president of player personnel Michael Lombardi reportedly rated Mallett, who was picked in the third round, as the top quarterback in the 2011 NFL draft.

If the Browns are willing to surrender a second-rounder and an additional mid- round pick, they might be able to pry Mallett from New England.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: New general manager David Caldwell made it clear that likely free agent Tim Tebow won't be in the Jaguars' plans. The question is, will former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert remain in their plans with a new front office and coaching staff in place?

Jacksonville owns the No. 2 pick in the draft and Caldwell hasn't ruled out picking a quarterback. If that's the case, the target would likely be West Virginia's Smith.

Connecting a couple of dots, though, this could be a landing spot for Flynn from Seattle. Jacksonville's new head coach is Gus Bradley, who was the defensive coordinator in Seattle this season. He saw Flynn first-hand. The Seahawks, with Russell Wilson entrenched as the starter, would likely want to deal Flynn to save some salary cap space.

Chad Henne is still around, and he could serve as a stop-gap starter until the Jaguars find a franchise quarterback. The Flynn option seems more likely than drafting a quarterback because one could make a case that the No. 2 pick would be better spent on a pass rusher. There will be some good ones available and it would fill a major weakness.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: New coach Andy Reid has the first pick, and it has to be tempting to go after a quarterback. When he took over the Eagles, he drafted his franchise quarterback (Donovan McNabb) at No. 2 overall, ignoring the fans' desire for running back Ricky Williams.

Could he take the same route in his first draft with the Chiefs? It's possible, but it seems unlikely that he'd like any of this year's draft-eligible quarterbacks enough to take them at No. 1 overall.

Since Reid will be calling the plays and he prefers a West Coast offense, this would appear to be a good fit for current 49ers backup Alex Smith. It also could be a good spot for Flynn.

There are also a couple of quarterbacks who could be available that have ties to Reid: Kolb and Vick. Both have started games for Reid in the past.

If Reid gets one of those veterans, he also could add another quarterback through the draft. He has frequently picked quarterbacks in the middle rounds and done a fine job developing them and eventually flipping them for higher draft choices.

It's merely a hunch, but don't be surprised if Reid targets Oklahoma's Landry Jones, who would be a good fit for the offense, in the middle rounds.

NEW YORK JETS: It's hard to believe Mark Sanchez won four road playoff games in his first two seasons in the league. The Sanchez of 2012 was arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. The former No. 5 overall pick has regressed, even though he should be entering his prime years.

The Jets have plenty of problems. Half of their starting lineup is eligible for free agency, and the team has a dearth of offensive weapons. Sanchez is perceived to be the biggest individual problem, but there are at least 8.25 million reasons (as in dollars) to indicate he will be back in 2013.

Considering a salary cap hit would be disastrous if the Jets cut Sanchez, it's safe to say he'll return to the team. The hiring of Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator would put Sanchez in a West Coast offense, which some scouts believe would be the best fit for him. If the Jets add offensive line help and some playmakers, such as a more dynamic running back than impending free agent Shonn Green, Sanchez would be better set up to succeed.

Sanchez, however, is expected to have competition for the starting job, and not from current backups Tebow or Greg McElroy. It's unlikely the team could afford to go after higher-priced veterans like Flynn, Smith or Vick, but Tarvaris Jackson (reportedly a favorite of new general manager John Idzik) could be an option. A rookie also could be drafted in the second or third round.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: This is an interesting one because new coach Chip Kelly will need a particular kind of quarterback to run his up-tempo, read-option, spread offense.

Vick might thrive in such an attack, but he'd cost $15.5 million if he doesn't agree to restructure his contract. Nick Foles, who showed promise in a late- season audition, is hardly a natural fit for Kelly's offense.

One player who seems destined to end up on the Eagles' roster, probably as a backup, is former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, who is on the Baltimore Ravens' roster. The 2013 starter, if it isn't Foles, is a mystery. There is no obvious Cam Newton, RG3, Colin Kaepernick or Wilson clone available in this draft.

Kelly might have a shot at drafting Smith from West Virginia, but he isn't really an ideal fit for the offense, either. The best fit among draft-eligible quarterbacks might be Florida State's E.J. Manuel.

The Eagles have two second-round picks and they might have to use one of them to secure Manuel, whose stock could continue to rise because of the growing popularity of the read-option offense. The smart money could be on Manuel to be on the Eagles' 2013 roster.

Jeff Saukaitis is a former Sports Network writer/editor who has been a professional sportswriter since 1985.

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