Recent movement provides clarity to cloudy QB situations


The quarterback feeding frenzy that started during the April draft -- with six being taken in the first 36 picks -- is only being compounded now that we have veteran player movement generated in part by the teams that started this phenomenon during the draft.

The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings have made moves to add veterans Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb, respectively, to shepherd first-round rookie quarterbacks Jake Locker and Christian Ponder up to and maybe through the season. That was just the start. The past couple days have provided clarity to cloudy quarterback situations across the league. Let's examine:

The NFL free agency cycle is in full effect, with teams and players agreeing to terms fast as training camps open. Get the latest on all the news right here.

Vikings have little to lose with McNabb

The Vikings just went through two seasons of a quarterback at the end of his career trying to salvage one last shot at glory. Thing is, Brett Favre didn't have a first-round draft pick waiting in the wings. Favre was the solution.

McNabb's chances to have a Favre-like finish are about 50-50, especially if you factor in perception. Favre got paid $20 million -- some of it bonus money to entice him back to the field after he became a grandfather -- to flounder last season after a brilliant 2009.

Minnesota only has to part with two sixth-round draft picks and a few million dollars for McNabb.

Coach Leslie Frazier feels Minnesota has the ability to make a playoff run, and McNabb certainly has the experience to bolster such a push. The Vikings have to temper expectations, though. If McNabb doesn't play well -- or even if he does -- and the team is below .500 at the midway point, it could be Ponder time. If McNabb does play well, Vikings fans won't mind Ponder sitting for a season if it means another taste of postseason play.

This is a solid move that doesn't have much downside for the Vikings. It might for McNabb because if Ponder ends up playing, then it means McNabb got hurt or things didn't work out.

Hasselbeck good for Locker

This is a great fit and a great move. Hasselbeck will embrace the role of "nursemaid" that now-retired Kerry Collins didn't want. Although Hasselbeck is a competitor, if there is a point in the season where new coach Mike Munchak asks him to cede the starting job to rookie Jake Locker, Hasselbeck will do so with grace -- and then turn into an ideal backup.

Locker has been in the same city as Hasselbeck for the past few seasons in Washington, so he knows Hasselbeck's reputation, work ethic and that he's played in the biggest games, including a Super Bowl. Tennessee has done a good job in its history of having veterans in place to help upstarts, and this is another example.

Hasselbeck will be very good for Locker's development.

Orton to Miami?

Talk is heating up about a deal between the Dolphins and Broncos that would include Kyle Orton, which, first off, further lends credence to Tim Tebow being the starter in Denver. No surprise. We've heard for months that Orton was available in a trade. We haven't heard that Tebow was available.

Should this deal be consummated, I'm not so sure the Dolphins are getting a huge upgrade over Chad Henne. Yeah, I know Orton has won and Henne really blew it when he got his chance to start last season. I'm taking into account that both guys are talented players with non-inspiring personas. Getting players to respond is part of the job playing quarterback; Henne and Orton are low-key cats.

Orton clearly lets his play speak for him, but if he was making noise with either trait, why did Denver draft a quarterback to replace him, and why is a different administration and head coach willing to move him?

Jackson to start in Seattle?

Hasselbeck's departure opened the door for Tarvaris Jackson in Seattle. Though NFL Network insider Jason LaCanfora had reported for weeks that Seattle was considering Jackson, Kolb was seemingly the top priority. The Seahawks might have learned early on they weren't in play or they didn't want to commit to the contract extension that would accompany Kolb's arrival.

Jackson could very well end up beating out Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. Whitehurst is going to get every chance to win the job, but he doesn't have a history of standing out when he's been put in these situations. Hasselbeck distinguished himself quickly over Whitehurst last season and Jackson, having played in offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's system in Minnesota, has the familiarity with scheme and coach working in his favor.

Knowing Jackson and witnessing how well he handled being shoved aside for Favre, he's going to be hungry to re-establish himself as a starter. If Seattle was truly comfortable with Whitehurst, they wouldn't have made a play for someone who could take his job.

Thigpen will push Fitzpatrick

This is a strong pickup by the Bills. Tyler Thigpen played well for coach Chan Gailey in Kansas City, and Thigpen is pretty much the physical and skill-set prototype for what Gailey looks for in a quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter, but his leash just got shorter. Fitzpatrick made a lot of gains last season and earned his status. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if Thigpen ends up getting substantial playing time as the season progresses.

Palmer's loss is Gradkowski's gain

I love this move by Cincinnati to sign Bruce Gradkowski. In five seasons, he doesn't even have 4,000 yards passing -- and he's started his share of games. Still, his energy and approach to the game is what rookie Andy Dalton needs to see and what the Bengals need to inherit. Gradkowski's that guy who goes hard all the time because he knows any play could be his last.

As for the rest ...

Kevin Kolb figures to be traded soon, and Arizona is about the only spot left. ... Vince Young should get released by the Titans on Thursday and will be a free agent but when teams make moves for players like Thigpen and Gradkowski instead of waiting to strike a deal for Young, it's clear he's not being viewed as a starter.

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89



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