Grading early NFL moves at QB
The Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks have taken decidedly different paths to find a quarterback. From spending big (Arizona went the Saks Fifth Avenue route with the trade for Kevin Kolb(notes)) to bargain hunting (Seattle went to the Goodwill store for Tarvaris Jackson(notes)), the teams took divergent approaches.
So who got the best deal? Here’s a breakdown of the moves:
Minnesota gets McNabb
Folks around Donovan McNabb’s(notes) offseason home in Phoenix have been talking about how motivated he is to prove everyone wrong after his failed season in Washington and his previous unceremonious departure in Philadelphia.
OK, now cue the anti-McNabb blather.
Wasn’t he motivated last year?
So what! He still forces throws and holds the ball too long.
That’s all fair, particularly the last part. For whatever reason, drama follows McNabb like a tracking anklet on Lindsay Lohan. On top of that, the Vikings won’t have wide receiver Sidney Rice(notes) around to help this season after he fled for Seattle in free agency.
Still, of the four teams to step out for a quarterback so far this week, the Vikings have the best supporting group for a quarterback. Adrian Peterson is the best running back McNabb has worked with in his 13-year career. Yes, way better than Brian Westbrook(notes), a guy who simply couldn’t run between the tackles. Even with Rice gone, the Vikings have Percy Harvin(notes) and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe(notes).
The defense appears to be aging quickly, but defensive end Jared Allen(notes) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams(notes) are among the best players in the league at their respective positions. This team is only one season removed from the NFC championship game. While the NFC North is loaded with defending champ Green Bay, NFC runner-up Chicago and improving Detroit, the Vikes may have a run or two left in them now that they have McNabb around and can wait on playing 2011 first-round draft pick Christian Ponder(notes).
Arizona breaks the bank for Kolb
What does a Pro Bowl cornerback, a second-round draft pick and a reported $63 million get you in the NFL these days? A backup quarterback.
OK, that’s decidedly harsh and there are plenty of people around Kolb that believe he’s way more than that. Cleveland Browns general manager Tom Heckert (who was in Philly when the Eagles drafted the quarterback) thinks Kolb has everything, including the “it” factor that so many coaches look for – even if they can’t exactly explain what “it” is. Also, if the Jacksonville Jaguars hadn’t drafted Blaine Gabbert(notes), there’s a chance they would have been poking around for this deal.
Fact is, it’s hard to really discern from his on-field performances if Kolb is any good. He has thrown a total of 319 passes in four years (more than half of them last season). That’s about half a season of work in the NFL. His rating of 73.2 is neither great nor awful. His 11 passing TDs to 14 INTs is bad, but not exactly an indictment.
The jury isn’t out on Kolb; it barely has finished listening to opening arguments.
But understand this: The Cardinals had no choice but to overpay for Kolb and his mediocre results. If they didn’t, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald(notes) was going to walk after this season (he can’t be tagged as a franchise player under a clause in his contract). Not that Fitzgerald told the Cardinals what to do. He didn’t have to. If the Cardinals didn’t show that they were committed to improving the team, Fitzgerald would be gone.
Thus, there was no other way to go. The Cardinals had to go big. Losing cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie(notes) is harsh. Yeah, he had an off-year last season and he’s skinnier than a runway model (and even less physical), but he has special talent – maybe the quickest feet in the game. On top of that, he should have been enough by himself to get Kolb, but the Eagles knew they had the Cardinals over a barrel once Matt Hasselbeck(notes) signed with Tennessee.
As for the money, well, that’s the cost of doing business. If Kolb is a good quarterback, that could be enough to get the Cardinals back to the top of the NFC West. Kolb isn’t as good as Sam Bradford(notes) of St. Louis, but the Rams don’t have any receiving targets around Bradford yet. That gives Arizona a couple of years to maybe sneak a division title or two.
Tennessee shops for hand-me-downs
What does a career of being the best quarterback in the history of a franchise (including leading that franchise to its only Super Bowl berth) and being an all-around good guy get you? A one-way ticket out of Seattle.
The more surprising thing about Hasselbeck’s departure from the Seahawks is that it’s not like this team had a lot of better alternatives, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s concentrate on what the Titans got.
First of all, they bought some sanity after five years of dealing with Vince Young’s(notes) nonsense. There are plenty of VY defenders still out there, but there are also a lot of people who still think Obama was born on Mars. VY is a drama queen cut from the Brett Favre mold but lacking the talent.
While Hasselbeck won’t be able to create the same miracle as last year, when he led an awful Seahawks team to the playoffs and even an upset win over the New Orleans Saints in the first round, he will help the Titans in a vital way. He will be a fantastic mentor to rookie Jake Locker(notes), who Tennessee is pinning its future hopes on. Hasselbeck is a genuine good person who will teach everything he possibly can to Locker.
The only downside is that Hasselbeck is so brittle at this stage of his career that Locker may be forced into action earlier than the Titans hope. Coupled with the fact that the Titans’ only decent offensive weapon, running back Chris Johnson, is not around because of a contract holdout, there is definitely danger lurking for Hasselbeck and the Titans.
Still, this team could have done much worse.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure
That’s the approach Seattle has taken for more than a year now under the leadership of coach Pete Carroll. Last season, the Seahawks went through more player transactions than any team in the league in remaking the roster.
One of those moves was to trade for third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst(notes), thinking he’d be the future. That failed and this time Seattle went after Jackson, who flopped in Minnesota after getting some absurdly quick hooks from angst-ridden coach Brad Childress.
Anyone who has seen Jackson play knows that there’s a lot of physical skill to him. He’s got a strong arm and he’s a decent runner. He doesn’t read the field particularly well, but he didn’t exactly get much of a chance to learn from his mistakes before he was yanked.
Then again, in five years, he threw 603 passes, finishing with a 76.6 rating, 24 TD passes and 22 INTs. Those numbers are better than the ones posted by Kolb. Of course, stats only tell a small part of the story.
Then again, only having to pay $8 million for Jackson compared to what Arizona paid for Kolb, it’s probably a much better risk.
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