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Too many teams still have questions at quarterback

Since the 2006 season ended, we've been through free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp. There have been trade opportunities and preseason games. And still, too many teams have questions surrounding the most important position on the field.

Quarterback is the one place in which every team needs to excel or they will be going nowhere fast. And this year the turmoil is unusually high.

Less than half the league has what I like to call "sleep at night" depth. A few teams have the position locked down with three solid names to fill the critical roles every team needs to be successful: a starter who can win; an experienced backup who can come off the bench and win more than he loses; and a young talent worth developing.

The Eagles are a good example of how to sleep at night. Philadelphia locked up its backup (A.J. Feeley), traded for Kelly Holcomb and drafted its future in Kevin Kolb. Donovan McNabb is ready to play, so they traded Holcomb to the Vikings this week and cashed out on their exceptional depth. Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Diego, Seattle and Tennessee all seem set with the full complement. But it always amazes me how many teams didn't fortify the depth, put competition on the field or lock up their starter long term.

No fewer than 70 players threw at least one pass last season and no GM should try to convince himself that his No. 2 quarterback only has to be average. NFL teams average two QBs per season and a mistake at quarterback depth will cause a coach to get fired as the team stumbles.

The Vikings really helped themselves trading for Holcomb. When you consider he has more career starts than all the other Vikings quarterbacks combined, the team is better for having him. Holcomb can take the pressure off Tarvaris Jackson when need be, he can keep the team in a competitive situation should Jackson get hurt, he moves Brooks Bollinger back to the third spot where he belongs.

A quarterback controversy might arise, but Minnesota really got the best of both worlds. Jackson got the practice time he needed while Holcomb spent the summer in Philadelphia, and now the team has some position security. Ask yourself this question: How many teams could have used Holcomb and passed on the opportunity to get him? The compensation (a second-day pick) wasn't very much.

How many clubs could have used him for that price? At least 16.

J.T. O'Sullivan came back from NFL Europa and got cut this summer by the Bears. No one rushed out to sign him, but the Lions eventually did. He was one of the leading passers this preseason and now that Dan Orlovsky is injured, they are happy to have him. Ask yourself how many teams would be better at the position if they had O'Sullivan as their third quarterback? Green Bay, Carolina, Arizona, and Dallas are just a few teams that might like to have O'Sullivan as their No. 3.

Then there is the intriguing case of Daunte Culpepper. As soon as it was clear he could not get a big contract and was willing to sign a modest free-agent deal, more teams should have surfaced. Now Culpepper has a chance to be a No. 1 quarterback again and at worst a No. 2 guy who can really throw the ball.

How many teams could have been significantly better if Culpepper was their No. 2 quarterback -- just like the Eagles were better last year with Jeff Garcia on the roster? At least half of the teams in the NFL could have benefited from Culpepper's presence.

There are too many teams whose quarterback depth is up in the air -- or are on the verge of becoming an issue. I think the Browns are correct waiting to put rookie Brady Quinn on the field. I wonder how long it will be before the Jets are serious about Kellen Clemens -- and is Chad Pennington the kind of guy the Chiefs might be interested in if Damon Huard falters in Kansas City? Do they believe Croyle can step up?

The Raiders are mulling over Culpepper and Josh McCown while they wait for JaMarcus Russell. And they may get some serious calls about Andrew Walter. A bad game or two by Jake Delhomme in Carolina and there will be David Carr banners flying in the stadium. In Jacksonville, Byron Leftwich knows David Garrard is right behind him and in the last year of his contract. Preseason did not completely clear up these quarterback positions.

Finally, as one GM said to me, there could be a few situations where addition by subtraction is the story of the day. "Are the Bears, Browns Jags, Raiders, and Dolphins, among other teams, better if the backup plays?" As I said earlier, there are way too many quarterback questions around the NFL, with not enough time to answer them all before the season begins.

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