Quarterback carousel didn't take long to start spinning
Has the NFL quarterback carousel ever spun faster than it did in the first 24 hours or so of the league's free-agent (negotiation) period? Raise your hand if you foresaw the scenario in which Donovan McNabb would find a market for his services and a new team to call home before Kevin Kolb did?
And McNabb, the ex-Eagle, being on the move before Kolb, the current Eagle, was just one of the many developments on Tuesday and Wednesday at the league's most prominent position. McNabb was sent to the Vikings on Wednesday in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2012 and a conditional sixth-rounder in 2013. But that was far from the only deal to go down as the music has all but stopped and the chairs are all but filled. To wit:
• As expected, Seattle announced Tuesday that its Matt Hasselbeck era is over, and within hours the ex-Seahawk had a deal to become Tennessee's new starter and help groom first-round quarterback Jake Locker.
• Alex Smith re-signed for one year in San Francisco on Tuesday, and will either salvage his career or help rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh prepare for the day when second-round pick Colin Kaepernick is ready to play.
• Former Vikings starter Tarvaris Jackson agreed to terms Tuesday with Seattle, helping ease Hasselbeck out the door. Jackson is reunited with his former Minnesota offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, and was added to compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. It appeared former USC Heisman winner Matt Leinart would also join the Seahawks and reunite with former college coach Pete Carroll, until Leinart decided to back up Matt Schaub in Houston again.
• Arizona looks like a potential winner in all this, because the Cardinals stayed patient and didn't make a huge first-day jump at Kolb, the Eagles' backup who has long been rumored on his way to the desert. With Seattle and San Francisco making their QB moves first, Philadelphia lost trading leverage and now must either deal with Arizona or keep Kolb for another year.
• Denver quickly let it be known that former starter Kyle Orton was available via trade -- clearing the way for Tim Tebow to start without competition -- but the Broncos may have only wound up helping out the Cardinals, in giving them another starting option to pursue besides Kolb. If Arizona and the Eagles do their deal for Kolb, the only landing spot for Orton might be Miami, and the Dolphins wouldn't have to give up anything near as pricey as the third-round pick Denver is said to be seeking. More like a fifth- or sixth-round pick would get it done, given that the Broncos have already signaled it's Tebow time in the Rockies.
• Ex-Chiefs reserve Tyler Thigpen is heading for Buffalo where he'll back up starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and that takes the Bills out of the running for Vince Young. The Titans former starter is expected to be released by Thursday, and it's probably either Dolphins or the Eagles as VY looks to restart his flagging NFL career. With the option of either Orton or Young, Miami could be in a more advantageous position than first imagined.
While Minnesota's interest in McNabb has been known for quite some time, the speed at which the Vikings moved was surprising. League sources say new Minnesota head coach Leslie Frazier pushed heavily for the team to sign McNabb, whom he has a friendship with, believing the 12-year veteran gives the Vikings the best possible chance to win this year while getting first-round quarterback Christian Ponder ready for the future.
Ponder wasted no time welcoming his new mentor to Minnesota, tweeting on Wednesday morning: "Excited to have McNabb join. Will learn a lot from a Pro Bowler. But that doesn't mean I'm not still fighting to start week 1!''
Nobody potentially lost more in Tuesday's and Wednesday's quarterback shuffle than the Eagles, who were thought to be seeking both a first-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from the Cardinals in exchange for Kolb. Why would Arizona even think of giving up that much for the soon-to-be 27-year-old Kolb now, when the Cardinals appear to be the only team bidding for him? And with Orton and ex-Ravens backup/former Rams starter Marc Bulger still available as starting options, it's Arizona that holds all the, uh, cards, in this particular poker game.
All told, the Vikings, Titans and 49ers, three of the six teams that spent first- or second-round picks on quarterbacks in April's draft, moved hastily to secure the services of veteran quarterbacks as safety nets behind their rookies. That only makes sense, even in a normal year, but the 130-plus day labor lockout made this anything but a normal year.
Rookie quarterbacks playing and playing well has been all the rage in recent years, but in the case of Ponder, Locker and Kaepernick, not having any of the offseason preparation and time spent with their coaches and teammates will likely set back their starting timetables considerably. Thus, McNabb, Hasselbeck and Smith were vitally important to the competitive chances of the Vikings, Titans and 49ers, respectively in 2011.
In the case of the other high-profile rookie quarterbacks, Carolina's Cam Newton will be competing with second-year veteran Jimmy Clausen, Jacksonville's Blaine Gabbert has veteran starter David Garrard ahead of him on the depth chart for now, and Cincinnati looks ready to ride with second-round pick Andy Dalton this year in the absence of the retired (for now) Carson Palmer.