Although we're coming off a wild draft that saw Cam Newton, Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick selected as eventual franchise quarterbacks, there likely remains plenty of quarterback movement ahead this offseason.
Teams like Arizona, Seattle, Washington and Miami have a definite need for additional talent at quarterback, while a number of those teams who spent high picks on the aforementioned quarterbacks have an interest in adding a veteran passer to provide cover for the rookies.
Below we list the teams most likely to make additional moves at quarterback this offseason, as well as possible targets for those teams and what certain scenarios would mean for the fantasy prospects of the other players.
We might as well start off by saying Alex Smith should be expected to re-sign with San Francisco and serve as starter until the team thinks Colin Kaepernick is ready. So there's that.
Perhaps no team in the league has a more urgent need to add quarterback talent than the Cardinals. The only in-house options are two second-year players – John Skelton and Max Hall – and neither is anything more than a long-shot project.
Emerging from the 2011 draft without a quarterback selection indicates the Cardinals aren't interested in taking on any more projects. For that reason, it looks highly likely that Arizona will add a finished product rather than a quarterback who requires further grooming. A trade for the likes Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton or Vince Young (if necessary) seems very possible.
Indeed, at this point in the offseason the Cardinals are considered the favorites to trade for Kolb, who's under contract in Philadelphia. But with the Eagles reportedly asking for more than a first-round pick for Kolb, who isn't even an established NFL commodity, it wouldn't be shocking if the Cardinals looked to Orton or Young given the significantly lesser costs both players would entail.
No matter which player the Cardinals ultimately target, it can safely be stated that they're looking for someone who can compete now and in the future. That means they're likely to target a quarterback with starting experience, but also one no older than 30 or so.
Predicted Target: Trade for Kevin Kolb (PHI) or Kyle Orton (DEN)
Kolb puzzlingly seems to have more trade value than Orton despite being significantly less successful in a much smaller work sample than Orton. Considering that Orton posted quarterback ratings in excess of 86 the last two years as a starter, it's safe to say the best news for Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and the Arizona running game would be a trade for Orton. But Kolb, too, is a big upgrade over Skelton and Hall.
Carson Palmer has convincingly stated that he'll never play again for Cincinnati, and owner Mike Brown has stated with equal conviction that he'd rather watch Palmer retire rather than trade Palmer and improve the team. With that standoff in progress, the team's only non-laughable option at quarterback is Andy Dalton, whom the team selected with the 35th pick in the 2011 draft out of Texas Christian.
But even Dalton is potentially a bad candidate to start 16 games as a rookie. The TCU does not run a pro-style offense, so Dalton will have some major learning to do, especially considering the possibility of a voided preseason and shortened training camp.
Therefore, the Bengals have a definite interest in adding a veteran, even if he serves as little more than a human shield to keep Dalton out of harm's way. Considering the strictly stopgap nature of Cincinnati's potential targets, then, a trade seems less likely than a free-agent signing.
There isn't a large group of viable free agents who fit the profile the Bengals would look for. To properly develop Dalton while avoiding quarterback controversies, a short-term option is nearly mandatory. For that reason, an older free agent or a clear journeyman is the most plausible target.
Predicted Target: Bruce Gradkowski (FA) or Kerry Collins (FA)
The list of candidates is likely to be limited to quarterbacks who have accepted that they aren't ideal NFL starters at this point, which means Cincinnati is highly unlikely to bring in any quarterbacks who would be especially ideal for the fantasy prospects of Jerome Simpson, A.J. Green and company. Anything is possible, but fantasy owners who have invested in Cincy receivers shouldn't get their hopes too high for 2011.
Whether Carolina makes an effort to add a veteran or re-sign Matt Moore comes down singularly to the organization's pain tolerance. Jimmy Clausen was a hopeless trainwreck as a rookie and likely will be something similar in 2011, while Cam Newton probably will have a rough go of it himself after playing in Auburn's one-read spread offense.
It makes sense for the Panthers to arm themselves with a veteran who is equally comfortable as a starter or backup, though it remains unclear whether they're especially interested in pursuing such a player. With two high draft picks invested in Newton and Clausen, the team could be tempted to develop those investments in 2011 (futile as that might be) rather than investing further resources in what might turn out to be little more than a third quarterback.
Predicted Target: Trent Edwards (FA) or Billy Volek (FA), if anyone
Just like the poor souls in Cincinnati, Carolina's possibilities at quarterback are universally grim for the rest of the Panthers offense. The team is committed to developing Newton as a franchise quarterback, and even has an interest in developing and showcasing Clausen further in hopes of getting some compensation for him before giving Newton the keys. That means any further additions will likely only be made at extremely low costs.
It's unlikely that Chad Henne will ever be anything more than mediocre, and the Dolphins have no developmental prospects under contract likely to be anything better. Tyler Thigpen might be the closest thing to it, and he amounts to little more than training camp competition for Henne.
And yet, the Dolphins have a coaching staff with an urgent need to win now. Tony Sparano and company would have already been shipped out of town if the Dolphins had been able to reel in Jim Harbaugh from the west coast, so there's seemingly no reason to think Sparano will still be around in 2012 if the Dolphins miss the playoffs.
Unlike others on this list, the Dolphins have a need for a future quarterback as much as for a short-term passer. For that reason, quarterbacks with starting ambitions need not avoid Miami. That means Miami should be a desirable destination for all of the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, Matt Moore, Marc Bulger, Vince Young and Kyle Orton.
But we'll roll with Young and Orton as the top two candidates. While technically under contract, Young is expected to be released by Tennessee now that everyone knows keeping him isn't an option. And even with character questions, Young shouldn't be too frightening for a desperate Miami coaching staff that already rolled the dice on Brandon Marshall, who had an alarming history well before the Dolphins handed over a second-round pick for him.
On that note, however, Orton would also make sense at the right price. He was a legitimately solid starter for Denver the last two seasons and already proved he can work (very) well with Marshall. If Orton would cost too much, perhaps Donovan McNabb would come at a more manageable expense from Washington.
Predicted Target: Vince Young (TEN) or trade for Kyle Orton (DEN)
Either of these players are potentially significant upgrades over Henne, but Orton especially would be great news for Brandon Marshall's owners. Marshall posted a career-high 104 receptions in 15 games with Orton in 2008.
The Vikings have clearly tied their future to Christian Ponder after selecting him 12th overall, so a short-term option is the only one for Minnesota. That likely eliminates players like Kevin Kolb, Kyle Orton and Vince Young. It might also might rule out Matt Moore.
So, a free agent like Matt Hasselbeck or Marc Bulger could make sense. Even Donovan McNabb would be a good target at the right trade price, as he turns 35 in November.
Predicted Target: Donovan McNabb (WAS) or Matt Hasselbeck (FA)
McNabb and Hasselbeck represent similarly unexciting scenarios for Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin – both would be better than Ponder in the short term, but not so good that anyone will be grateful for their presences. But despite both having west-coast offense backgrounds, McNabb and Hasselbeck have slightly different skill sets. McNabb is the better runner and is a better deep passer, but Hasselbeck is likely more accurate.
Bringing back Matt Hasselbeck would be nice for continuity's sake, but he has clearly declined the last three years and represents zero upside for the future. On the other hand, going forward with just Charlie Whitehurst doesn't seem like a serious option, either.
Seattle is a bit different from most teams on this list in that it's mission is to seemingly perfect the non-quarterback positions on offense before investing significantly in a signal-caller. It's not clear whether the Seahawks don't value the quarterback position as much as other teams, or if it's just a philosophical commitment to creating an ideal setting before investing in a franchise quarterback.
In any case, despite their relative disinterest in the position, it seems unlikely that Seattle would punt entirely at quarterback this year. Getting someone besides Whitehurst under contract is mandatory – it's just not clear what specific profile they're looking for.
If the team thinks that a competent veteran is all that's necessary, then a quarterback like Kyle Orton makes sense at the right price. If the team is looking for a low-cost option with some risk but future upside, then Vince Young is sensible. And if the team is content to move forward with basically the same offense as last year, then Hasselbeck would be the call.
Predicted Target: Vince Young (TEN) or Matt Hasselbeck (FA) or trade for Kyle Orton (DEN)
Given Young and Orton's superior productivity in recent years, it'd likely be better for Seattle's skill position players if either was added rather than Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck would obviously be better than Whitehurst, but Young or Orton would present potential upgrades to the fantasy value of Seattle's wideouts.
After taking Jake Locker eighth overall, ahead of the more-hyped Blaine Gabbert, there's no ambiguity regarding Tennessee's future quarterback plans. Locker will be handed the starting spot at some point, perhaps even some time during the 2011 season.
So with no future opportunities on the team, it's unlikely that quarterbacks with starter ambitions will be interested in playing for the Titans. And it's equally true that Tennessee has little reason to invest much in the position now that Locker's around.
For those reasons, it's a near certainty that Tennessee will secure a low-cost, short-term option at quarterback. Depending on how the free-agent market treats him, Matt Hasselbeck could ultimately fit that profile, and Marc Bulger has a good chance of fitting that profile, too. But Kerry Collins definitely fits the profile, and bringing him back wouldn't necessitate any breaking-in period.
Predicted Target: Kerry Collins (FA)
Collins' familiarity with the team (he's played in Tennessee since 2006) is a big advantage over his competition, and he was surprisingly effective as a starter last year. He finished 2010 with 14 touchdowns to eight interceptions and, while he didn't show great efficiency or big-play ability, he at least showed he wasn't a huge turnover liability.
Mike Shanahan talked up John Beck as the team's future starting quarterback, but such a scenario is more than slightly puzzling.
Beck was traded from Baltimore to Washington on Aug. 2., and he was so impressive that … he didn't take a single snap all year. Yes, the trade's timing resulted in Beck missing five days of training camp, but is it really possible that those five days were the only difference between Beck and Rex Grossman? With just five more days of practice would Beck have transformed from a third quarterback to a legitimate starter?
Doubtful. Very doubtful. Look for Grossman to be re-signed by the Redskins. If Beck beats him out for the starting spot, the Shanahan will look more than a little silly for leaving the apparently better quarterback inactive for all 2010.
Predicted Target: Rex Grossman (FA)
Grossman isn't good news for Washington's chances of winning games, but he put up surprisingly decent fantasy numbers last year. Seven turnovers in three starts is certainly bad, but those three starts also saw wideouts Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong combine for 31 catches for 430 yards and three touchdowns. Not bad at all.