In a typical year, the offseason is viewed as the time for teams to find answers to their quarterback questions. This year, however, the lockout has prevented several teams from properly assessing and addressing their respective situations. With the end of the lockout on the horizon, let's take a look at how some of these situations might play out across the league:
What is the issue?: The Cardinals played three different quarterbacks -- Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton -- a season ago, but the trio only combined for 10 touchdowns. With such ineptitude, the Cardinals must find a legitimate quarterback to guide the team for the foreseeable future.
What is the solution?: Ken Whisenhunt and Co. must make a play for a veteran free agent like Marc Bulger or Matt Hasselbeck, or attempt to pry Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton loose from their respective teams via trade. Kolb, in particular, is an intriguing option based on his age and potential. If he plays anywhere near the level he has displayed in his brief career, he could give the Cardinals a viable long-term solution to keep them in contention.
What is the issue?: The Panthers enter the training camp with the prospect of starting Jimmy Clausen or Cam Newton at quarterback. While most would expect Newton to be the guy based on his status as the No. 1 overall pick, he hasnât had a full offseason to learn the nuances of the offense, and that might keep him from having a legitimate chance at success as a first-year starter. Clausen, on the other hand, didnât have a lot of success as a rookie, and there are whispers that his teammates lack confidence in his ability to get it done.
What is the solution?: Ron Rivera has a tough decision ahead. He hasnât seen his rookie operate within the Panthersâ system, and he doesnât know how quickly he will assimilate into the pro game. While he has seen Clausen perform on tape, he obviously wasnât in love with his game, or the team wouldâve passed on Newton at the top of the draft to fortify another position. Given those circumstances, it wouldnât be a surprise to see the Panthers entertain the possibility of adding a veteran like Marc Bulger, Jake Delhomme (when he is released) or Donovan McNabb to mentor the young duo.
What is the issue?: The Bengals enter the season facing the prospect of starting a veteran with little game experience (Jordan Palmer) or a rookie (Andy Dalton) not yet ready to tackle the rigors of the pro game. While Carson Palmer remains on the roster, he has strongly stated that he will retire rather than return for another season in Cincinnati.
What is the solution?: The Bengals have to conduct a quarterback competition in training camp to decide the starter, but they would be wise to have a veteran onboard to serve as a possible pinch hitter. Bruce Gradkowski could be a possibility due to his experience in Jay Grudenâs system as a part-time player in Tampa Bay. Of course, McNabb, Orton and the usual suspects remain options, but the Bengals are more likely to roll the dice with the unproven youngsters.
What is the issue?: Chad Henne has been viewed as the quarterback of the future, but his inconsistent play over the past two seasons has prompted the team to explore other options at the position. With Chad Pennington out for the season with a knee injury, the Dolphins need a veteran with starterâs experience on board to alleviate concerns about the position.
What is the solution?: Henne will certainly get one final crack at the job, but Tony Sparano will have a quick hook if he falters. That makes it likely that a veteran like Vince Young, McNabb or Matt Hasselbeck would entertain a shot at signing with the Dolphins for another chance to start. A long-shot candidate to watch is former Panthers quarterback Matt Moore. He has starterâs experience and is young enough to be a potential long-term option at an affordable price tag.
What is the issue?: The Vikings drafted Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick to be their franchise quarterback, but the abbreviated offseason makes it unlikely he will be ready to step into the starting lineup when the regular season opens. Joe Webb showed some promise during a few appearances last season, but he is also unproven as a starter and the team would still suffer through the growing pains. Given those circumstances, the Vikings need to aggressively search for veteran options capable of keeping the seat warm while waiting for their rookie star to grow into the role.
What is the solution?: The thought of adding a strong mentor is a good one, but the Vikings have to select a veteran with the right temperament. Orton and McNabb would appear to be great fits, but the cost of trading for either veteran might prohibit Minnesota from getting the deal done. Hasselbeck hasnât been mentioned often in connection with the Vikings, but he has the winning pedigree and skill set to serve as an effective short-term answer in Minnesota while Ponder and Webb develop on the sidelines.
San Francisco 49ers
What is the issue?: The 49ers drafted a potential starter in Colin Kaepernick, but the team would like to have a veteran in place to create competition. Alex Smith is the logical choice based on his history with the franchise, but the team hasnât resigned him at this point.
What is the solution?: This one is a no-brainer considering the effusive praise Jim Harbaugh has lavished on Smith this offseason. The 49ers will sign him immediately upon the lifting of the lockout and allow him to compete with Kaepernick during training camp. While it always remains a possibility the team would sign another veteran to push for the job, it's more likely another signing would be used to solidify their third quarterback spot on the roster.
What is the issue?: The Seahawks havenât re-signed Hasselbeck, and the jury is still out on whether Charlie Whitehurst has the goods to be the long-term answer. While Pete Carroll hasnât ruled out bringing Hasselbeck back, the Seahawksâ inability to sign the veteran coupled with the apparent flirtation of Kolb makes it appear the franchise is ready to go in a different direction.
What is the solution?: Carroll has to decide if Whitehurst is the quarterback of the future. The Seahawks paid a hefty sum (third-round pick and a lucrative contract extension) to bring him on board, so he has to get an opportunity to win the job in camp regardless of whether Hasselbeck returns. The possibility of acquiring Kolb is a long shot based on the Eaglesâ price tag, so expect the team to make a play for one of the other veterans -- Orton or McNabb -- poised to hit the market. Keep an eye on Jackson as a potential backup based on his previous relationship with new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
What is the issue?: Kerry Collinsâ surprising retirement leaves the Titans facing the possibility of having to rush Jake Locker onto the field. The rookie is far from ready to play based on his accuracy and mechanics issues heading into the draft, and the team must find a way to let him develop without the pressure of being on the field as a first-year starter.
What is the solution?: The Titans have to sign a veteran quarterback to alleviate the pressure on Locker to play before he is ready. The team would be wise to throw a lot of dollars at Matt Hasselbeck because he is the ideal mentor for the rookie. He is a productive starter with a strong work ethic who would set a positive example for Locker with his approach to the game. Furthermore, he has enough left in the tank to help the Titans compete in the AFC South.
What is the issue?: The Redskins benched McNabb at the end of last season, and his fill-in (Rex Grossman) is currently a free agent. Although Mike Shanahan is reportedly smitten by John Beckâs potential, the team needs to identify a starter and decide how it wants to handle the backup situation.
What is the solution?: The Redskins must re-sign Grossman to give Shanahan a security blanket in case Beck falters. He did a commendable job after taking over for McNabb, and his knowledge of the system could be an invaluable asset given the abbreviated offseason. While bringing a talented option like Young remains a possibility due to his upside and potential, the Redskins need to avoid the free agent frenzy and focus on the development of their own players.
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