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Some teams just a QB away from returning to contention

Andrew Weber / US Presswire
A second-tier QB -- such as Ryan Mallett -- could come into play for some potential contenders in need.


The need of so many teams to find a quarterback is, in part, due to the natural order of the NFL. One of the incumbents is retiring. Others are of little use to their current teams. Then there is the case of Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, who says he will retire if he's not traded.

The thing is, some of these teams are only in quasi-rebuilding mode -- unlike quarterback-needy teams such as the Panthers, Cardinals and Bills. The Vikings, for the most part, are a quarterback away. The Seahawks, who look like they will part ways with Matt Hasselbeck and need to find his replacement, have a chance to repeat as division champs in the watered-down NFC West.

Let's take a quick look at how some teams can fix their quarterback situations and possibly get right back into playoff contention.

Cincinnati Bengals

Owner Mike Brown, the decision-maker for the Bengals, says he won't acquiesce to Palmer's trade-or-I'll-retire ultimatum. Neither man is bluffing here.

However, Brown needs to look at the rest of his division and see how Pittsburgh and Baltimore did things when they selected Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, respectively. They surrounded the quarterbacks with defense and a running game. The Bengals could likely get a high pick -- although maybe not a first-rounder -- for Palmer if trades are allowed before the draft takes place. That could be enough ammo to help out in a lot of ways.

With the fourth overall pick, they could select quarterbacks Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, or draft a defender like Marcell Dareus, Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson or Da'Quan Bowers.

If they don't draft Newton or Gabbert, they could use a high pick -- maybe the one acquired in a trade for Palmer -- on a rookie quarterback like Ryan Mallett, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker or Colin Kaepernick. If they do draft Newton or Gabbert, that additional pick could be used in combination with their other picks to strengthen the defense, offensive line, running game or receivers.

Or, the Bengals could include a pick acquired by trading Palmer in a package to possibly get Philadelphia quarterback Kevin Kolb. Whatever the case, getting some value to help bolster the roster by dealing Palmer would seem prudent. It's highly unlikely, though.

Washington Redskins

We'd all be stunned if the Redskins didn't part ways with Donovan McNabb. He's not Mike Shanahan's short- or long-term answer. Is Rex Grossman?

As much as Grossman has been maligned, it would not be shocking if he opened the season as the starter to see where he could take the Redskins. He did, after all, help Chicago to a Super Bowl, although defense and special teams were the main reasons for the Bears' success.

That should be the immediate focus for the Redskins, too. Washington needs to get the proper personnel in place for its 3-4 defense, and the 10th overall pick is valuable to that end. They could also look to wide receiver, although there will be plenty of depth there later in the draft.

The Redskins' future quarterback could very well be available in the second round or, if need be, at the back end of the first round if they desire to trade up to get Ponder, Mallett, Locker, Dalton or Kaepernick.

Washington could also roll with Grossman, much the way Tampa Bay went with Byron Leftwich when Josh Freeman was a rookie. If things go well, the younger quarterback develops on the practice field and gets experience from spot duty during the season. If not, pick a point when you feel he's ready and then inject him into the lineup -- a lineup that is solid on defense, special teams and has some receiving threats.

If it's determined Grossman is not a viable option, a Band-Aid like Hasselbeck would make sense.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans are the most recent example of how a franchise gets set back by missing on a first-round quarterback. Once the lockout is over they will sever the cord on Vince Young, which will further the deconstruction of the franchise that also parted with longtime coach Jeff Fisher.

With such a nice nucleus of younger talent on both sides of the ball, the Titans, who hold the No. 8 pick, aren't in rebuilding mode. You would think they would be in play to get involved in the Kolb trade brigade, and could view McNabb and Kyle Orton as possibilities, too. That said, the Titans also need to add a young quarterback, which will most likely happen in the second or third round.

Locker is a name some people have mentioned as a possibility with the Titans, but the No. 8 slot is considered way too high. He could very well be there when they come back around the dial in the second round. So will most of the aforementioned prospects.

Experts' mock draft
Could the Vikings reach for a quarterback with the No. 12 overall pick? One Vikings beat writer believes the team might be that determined to fill a major area of need. More ...

» Watch: Is Locker a first-rounder?
» Watch: Will Vikings draft a QB?

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings could have one last shot with the brunt of this roster, which is why it appears they will get a veteran quarterback (McNabb, Orton, Marc Bulger). They'll also draft a quarterback. If things don't work in 2011, they can blow up the roster and will already have a quarterback who is familiar with the system while other prices are brought in to support him.

If for some reason Newton makes it beyond the No. 5 overall pick, don't be shocked if the Vikings try to trade up to get him. Otherwise, Minnesota, with the 12th overall selection, likely will address the offensive or defensive lines with its first-round selection and work its way toward a quarterback later in the draft.

There are some on Leslie Frazier's coaching staff who think second-year pro Joe Webb has a future as an NFL quarterback, which is why the Vikings are likely to acquire a veteran and develop a young quarterback. Minnesota could move for Ponder, Locker, Mallett or Dalton in the second or third rounds. Kaepernick is too similar to Webb, athletically, for the Vikings to seriously consider him.

Seattle Seahawks

There's always a chance the Seahawks re-sign Hasselbeck, who will be a free agent. However, Charlie Whitehurst will seemingly be given every opportunity to take over as the starter. Seattle invested a lot to get him last season and now is the time to see if he can become The Guy.

Pete Carroll doesn't award anyone anything, though. One of the reasons the Seahawks made it to the playoffs last season was that Carroll made everyone compete for everything upon his arrival in 2010 and the infectious approach carried a certain energy through the roster. That won't change this season, especially since the Seahawks are still quite a ways away from being where Carroll wants them.

Seattle, which holds the 25th overall pick, could use the selection on Locker, who played at nearby University of Washington. This also is where Arkansas' Mallett could be in play. Though Mallett's off-field issues frighten some people, his potential could override character concerns. Mallett is going to get drafted at some point and taking a chance on a player at No. 25 isn't quite the risk -- financial or personnel-wise -- as it is in the top 10.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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