With the recent signings of Ryan Fitzpatrick by the Tennessee Titans and Matt Hasselbeck by the Indianapolis Colts, an already lacking quarterback market is quickly drying up. Fitzpatrick and Hasselbeck may have been the last starting-caliber quarterbacks on the market, and yet there are still teams without solidified starters heading into next season.
The Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills all have big question marks at the quarterback position going forward. That list was a bit bigger at the start of the offseason so, before we move on, let's take a quick look at what some teams did to try to bolster the position.
The Titans entered the offseason with Jake Locker as the starting quarterback and, while it's probably not time for the franchise to give up on him yet, bringing in competition is probably a good idea. Enter the aforementioned Fitzpatrick, who has been a starter off and on. Locker has not earned enough confidence in his abilities, and Fitzpatrick is consistent enough to give him a run for his money.
Mark Sanchez is probably not the long-term answer for the Jets anymore. He isn't improving at all and gets worse each season. The Jets need to make a change at the position and they've made what might be an underrated move by signing David Garrard. Now, he hasn't played since 2010, but if healthy Garrard could put up some very solid numbers. It's not a long-term fix, but it might work for one season.
With a new regime comes a quarterback change, but they needed one regardless. The Chiefs have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft but, given that this is a relatively weak draft class, they looked for other ways to address the position. They managed to do so by dealing with the San Francisco 49ers for quarterback Alex Smith. They paid a significant price -- their second-round pick in this upcoming draft (which is basically a late first-rounder) and an early pick next year, but Smith should bring some much-needed consistency to Kansas City.
Those teams, at the very least, acquired temporary or potential solutions to their quarterback issues in 2013. It's probably safe to say that all three of them could stand, at some point, to select a signal caller come draft day in April, but they do at least have a little bit of leeway.
Not every team can say that, though, as the aforementioned Cardinals, Jaguars, Bills and Browns will have some more issues going forward. What these teams can do is sign one of the available free agents or draft a quarterback. Alternatively, they can roll with what they have but, by all accounts, that wouldn't be a smart option.
Below, we'll take a look at those teams and why they need to address the need at quarterback.
Since Kurt Warner, people like John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Brian Hoyer and Ryan Lindley have taken meaningful regular-season snaps under center. The fact that the Cardinals came out and gave Kolb this huge contract crippled the team when Kolb struggled and then was injured. Skelton was promising -- very promising -- for one or two weeks, before he came back down to Earth.
Lindley should probably not get another chance. Now that the Cardinals have released Kolb for some salary cap relief, they have as many question marks as ever. With a guy like Larry Fitzgerald able to catch passes, you'd think the motivation to get the quarterback position figured out would be at an all-time high. As it stands, they just have a superstar wide receiver making something out of virtually nothing.
Colt McCoy had a couple of good games here and there, but ultimately does little to inspire confidence. As a panicked, last-ditch effort, the Browns spent both first-round picks in 2012 on offense. They brought in running back Trent Richardson and then quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Now there's rumors that the new regime is not happy that they are stuck with a guy like Weeden, especially at the costs associated (the aforementioned first-round pick) and confidence in him is at an all-time low. Weeden might have a chance to be good and the Browns might be willing to give him a shot, but he's only a one-year pro and is nearing 30 years old. Cleveland needs a quarterback.
The team invested some big money in Ryan Fitzpatrick, and he failed to perform to expectations. The Bills want a lot of their quarterback, often electing to run a balanced offense even when running back C.J. Spiller is hot, and Fitzpatrick wasn't able to provide what they needed. The contract dollars didn't add up, so they released him.
Their next option is Tarvaris Jackson. Admittedly, Jackson isn't the worst option for a stopgap, but he's not the future of the position by any stretch and the Bills will need a long-term answer sooner than later. It's hard to imagine Jackson having anything more than marginal success in 2012.
Blaine Gabbert is way too fragile of a quarterback, and that doesn't necessarily mean physically. He's consistently afraid to take a sack and his accuracy wavers like no other. He was a first-round pick, but he's turned out to be a dud so far. It would be shocking if the Jags attempted to roll with Gabbert without bringing in a rookie or another veteran to compete.
So what can these teams do? Well, they all are in a good position to draft a rookie but, again, this draft class isn't that strong for quarterbacks. It's actually considered one of the weaker drafts in recent years in that vein.
That said, the Jaguars appear interested in Geno Smith with the No. 2 overall pick, while the Cardinals and Bills could be after guys like Tyler Wilson or Mike Glennon in the early first round as well. Cleveland might not be so hot on drafting another first-round quarterback, so the direction they elect to go is anybody's guess.
The fact that guys like Wilson and Glennon would be expected to come in and compete with guys like Gabbert, Jackson and Skelton is a sure sign of just how bad these veterans have become. Getting a rookie might be the best option even in a weak class, but don't rule out some of the teams mentioned above -- like the Titans and Jets -- drafting a quarterback as well.
As for the guys potentially available in free agency, there are still a couple decent names. Kolb was actually doing fairly well before his injury last season. He had 1,169 yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions in six games, and could definitely compete with the Gabberts and Jacksons of the world.
Then you have the next tier of players, the guys who are more likely backups, in Jason Campbell, Josh Johnson, Brady Quinn and Rex Grossman. At the very least, these players could make a quarterback battle interesting, though their long-term viability is just as worthy of questioning as anyone else mentioned in this post. At this point, they are the best names available and could be off the market soon, however.