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Rise & Grind: The golden age of below average NFL quarterbacks

The race is on for many teams looking to retain their soon-to-be free agents.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

What a time to be a league average quarterback. Note the term "league average" in that sentence. The reality is that the state of quarterbacking in the NFL has fallen off so far that guys Matt Cassel and Brian Hoyer now constitute sort of a baseline for the position.

Why has quarterback play stumbled to such lows? The easy answer is that there just aren't 32 capable players. Part of that has to do with the lack of development time quarterbacks get, especially the ones picked in the first round or two of the draft. The NFL's new rookie salary schedule has opened a cheap labor market for teams; the stakes are lower because the investment in a first-rounder isn't what it used to be. Theoretically, players are easier to replace. That also means they have to be plug-and-play ready, which is fine at certain positions, but there's so much more that goes into quarterbacking, it's much more difficult just to get thrown into fire ... unless you've got an Andrew Luck on your hands. Players like that don't come around very often.

You could also point to the evolution of the college offense versus the glacial pace of innovation in the NFL. It's not that quarterbacks don't have the talent to play in the pros, it's just that they're not ready for it and there's not really adjustment period to get them ready beyond a couple weeks of OTAs (practice without pads), a short training camp and a handful of preseason snaps sprinkled across four exhibition games. After that, they're off to face the likes of J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn on their own.

A development league is an easy answer, or looks like an easy answer, but that doesn't account for the fact that the nature of football doesn't make for a very long career. Do you shave off a year of a guy's life, essentially, in order to make his three or four years in the pros more productive ... and what do you pay a kid for that?

There's not really an easy answer (beyond, maybe, hiring better NFL coaches and weeding out the ones who insist on recreating the 1985 Bears). So for now, learn to live with the specter of Jake Locker or Mark Sanchez as the starter, for a couple seasons anyway.

Headlines

Adrian Peterson wants everyone to be "content"

Don't we all. Peterson had his sit down with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Speilman on Wednesday. Both men are on the record as wanting Peterson back for the 2015 season, but it's more complicated than just waiting for the league to reinstate him.

They all three "had a great dialogue," according to Peterson's statement. Whether or not it was "great" enough to open the door for a return remains to be seen.

You can always go home

The franchise tag deadline has passed, and now teams are racing to come to terms with soon-to-be free agents before the legal tampering period begins on March 7. While players often choose not to sign contracts this close to hitting the open market, some may agree to new deals over the next few days.

Perhaps no free agent has garnered more attention than Ndamukong Suh. The All-Pro defensive tackle proved too expensive for the Detroit Lions to tag, but he could also cost too much to sign to a long-term deal. With market forces driving up his price, Suh's next contract may exceed that signed by J.J. Watt last year, making him the highest paid defender in the league. Still, the Lions have made some cost-cutting moves this offseason in order to free up space. As such, it's possible they get the talented interior pass rusher to commit to a new deal before the start of free agency.

The story is similar at wide receiver, where Jeremy Maclin and Randall Cobb are the top free agents at the position. The Philadelphia Eagles have cleared a large chunk of cap space with a proposed trade involving LeSean McCoy and the release of Trent Cole. That could give Philly the needed funds to retain Maclin on a new deal. As for Cobb, reports differ on exactly what type of money he will command. If his price tag ends up at or below $9 million annually, the Green Bay Packers could agree to a contract over the next few days.

The list of other free agents that could sign new deals with their current teams before free agency includes Bryan Bulaga, Devin McCourty and Torrey Smith.

Guion avoids jail time

The offseason was barely a few weeks old when Letroy Guion was booked on drug and firearms charges in his hometown of Starke, Fla. While the situation looked dire initially, the Packers' nose tackle has agreed to deferred prosecution that will allow him to avoid jail time, according to ESPN's Rob Demovsky. While Guion could still face suspension from the league, it appears his career is no longer in jeopardy.

Houston releases Myers

Three years ago, the Houston Texans made Chris Myers one of the highest paid centers in the NFL. Now, with Myers turning 34 in September, the team has decided to release the veteran lineman. The move provides $6 million worth of cap relief, giving the Texans a 50-percent increase in cap space for 2015.

Spiller turned down $4.5 million annually from Buffalo

The megadeal between the Eagles and Bills that exchanged LeSean McCoy and Kiko Alonso shook the NFL on Tuesday. Interestingly, that trade may never have happened had free agent tailback C.J. Spiller accepted a reported contract offer worth $4.5 million per year. It's unclear what Spiller's market is now, but the Eagles are a potential option now that McCoy has left town.

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