Teams looking for a starting quarterback in free agency have clearly fallen upon hard times. And just like most of us when times get tight, proper decorum will not allow them to admit it. Usually, teams claim to be looking to make their quarterback situation "more competitive" or "finding an experienced backup" as thin veneer of pride.
There are a couple of options in the quarterback lot this year that could legitimately help a team. One might even be a centerpiece for a team, someone worth the trouble of changing your offense. Beyond that, teams have rows and rows of options that hardly inspire.
Walk the quarterback market with us...
Manning is not a free agent...yet. He will be by the end of the week. The Colts owe him a $28 million bonus on March 8, and all signs point to them keeping that money and drafting Andrew Luck, as well they should. The big question with Manning is whether or not he can still play like he used to. Nobody knows. Whoever released a grainy cell phone video of Manning throwing at Duke deserves a spot in the viral marketing hall of fame; it was just enough of a teaser to get teams excited with nothing conclusive.
If he is healthy, he should have a few years left to help a team, preferably one with well-rounded roster, chase the Lombardi Trophy.
Potential destinations: Arizona, New York Jets, Seattle, Kansas City, Washington, Miami
Is Flynn a late model Kevin Kolb or Matt Schaub? Teams will be asking themselves that question before doling out big dollars for a relative unknown. Flynn is valued by the Packers and has had four years of understudy with Aaron Rodgers. That counts for something.
Based on Dan Pompei's Sunday column at the National Football Post, some around the league see Flynn as merely an adequate option, a system guy more than a true franchise player. Flynn's cost will not reflect such sensible overtones, and teams capable of trading for Robert Griffin III should find that a more attractive and cheaper option.
Most are connecting the dots between Flynn and Miami, now coached by former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. With the ninth pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Dolphins are outsiders for trading for the Rams' second pick. But will they make a run at Peyton Manning?
Potential destinations: Cleveland, Miami
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers
After five years of wasted potential, Smith finally found his way under Jim Harbaugh. He helped lead the 49ers all the way to the NFC Championship game and a 13-win season, which was about 10 more wins than anyone thought the 49ers would earn in 2011. Believe Jim Harbaugh when he says Smith is staying put. Jim Harbaugh would sooner ruin your Thanksgiving dinner by yelling at your brother-in-law than lie to you.
Potential destination s: San Francisco
Orton had two good seasons in Denver under Josh McDaniels. Sure, Jay Cutler would have been much better, but Josh McDaniels is smarter than you, just ask him. Since 2009, Orton has completed slightly more than 60 percent of his passes. His 50 touchdowns and 30 interceptions over that same period speak to what kind of player he is: a useful game manager. With a decent supporting cast, Orton can get you by until fortunes improve. The Chiefs sang his praises at the Combine, and it would hardly be a stretch for them to have him compete with Matt Cassel.
Potential destinations: Jacksonville, Kansas City, Washington
Campbell helped game manage the Raiders to a 4-2 record, with plenty of help from Darren McFadden. Then he broke his collar bone in against Cleveland, a power-crazed Hue Jackson traded the keys to Al Davis' mausoleum to Cincinnati and the rest is history. As a starter or a backup, Campbell can move a team downfield five yards at a time. It has been reported that the Jets have discussed the possibility of adding Campbell as they look for someone to press Mark Sanchez.
Potential destinations: New York Jets, Oakland
Henne has value to teams who confuse youth with potential. Maybe, just maybe, some team will take a chance believing that they can detail the mistakes out of him. A reunion with Tony Sparano, now the Jets' offensive coordinator, has been mentioned as one of the more likely possibilities, solely for the purpose of shaming Mark Sanchez into being a better quarterback. Henne might be acceptable enough for a season or two in an offense that leans on the run. Denver might also come calling, looking for a quarterback to compete with Tim Tebow. Brian Daboll's new job as the offensive coordinator in Kansas City could lure another middle quarterback to that middling division.
Potential destinations: Denver, Kansas City, New York Jets
Garrard tried on the Tommy Bahama shirts of retired life last season as he healed from back surgery. Now healthy, the 34-year old is ready to return to the NFL as a backup. Not a bad life. If he has anything left in the tank, Garrard would be a good fit for a contending team looking to upgrade their backup situation or as a mentor for a young quarterback.
Potential destinations: Atlanta, Oakland, Tampa Bay
I doubt we are prepared to live in an NFL without Vince Young, certainly not one with Jeff Fisher coaching again. Fitting that it was Young who came up with the cursed "dream team" moniker after the Eagles signed him as a backup last year. This year, Philly opted for Trent Edwards in the third quarterback role, and who could blame them after his miserable 4:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Is there any potential left for Young?
Potential destinations: Denver, Dallas
Young and not terrible, Johnson gives a team a young backup with perhaps a little upside and an athletic ability to change the offense a little. He was not terrible in one start last season, going 16-for-27 for 229 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was mentioned as a possible backup in San Francisco, reuniting with Harbaugh, his former coach at San Diego.
Potential destinations: Denver, San Francisco
There are a few more solid backup options on the market, guys who have established themselves as that, either with a successful stint as a role player or a miserable failure as a starter. Names on the back of the lot include: Dennis Dixon, Rex Grossman, Shaun Hill, and Josh McCown. None are expected to generate as much excitement as No. 18 in Indianapolis.