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NFL Teams Play Quarterback Roulette

A transaction analysis on all teams exchanging quarterbacks post-Tony Romo extension.

Kevin Kolb signs with Bills

With Jason Campbell off the market, Kolb was the consensus best free agent quarterback, and the one that should command the most money.  The Bills likely overpaid here, but it won’t be meaningful to their cap situation, which is always going to be good.  Kevin Kolb is an interesting case.  He was enjoying a career best start to his 2012 season, which was cut short by injury.  At this point though, he reminds me too much of another semi recent Buffalo quarterback, JP Losman, to take his chances with a third team too seriously.

The other note about Kolb replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick is that it seems really similar to another move that will be analyzed in this article.  It’s not that Kolb unequivocally cannot play — although we are inching towards that point — but to spend what the Bills are spending on him (beyond the dead cap that is already going towards Ryan Fitzpatrick), I’m just not entirely sure what the point is.

One theory is that this move was necessary to take the Bills out of a need-to-draft situation in the first round at the quarterback position.  But I don’t see this level of move as one that changes anything in terms of the draft.  If taking a quarterback in the second round instead of the first was the optimal strategy, then it certainly was so before the Kolb signing as well.  The Bills are still the only team in the league I think is likely to start a rookie QB on opening day, although I have no idea who that may be.

Colt McCoy traded to 49ers

This move is best viewed as another, mostly insignificant chapter in the 49ers-Seahawks great arms race of 2013.  The Seahawks agree to trade Matt Flynn to the Raiders, putting them in the market for a backup qb?  The 49ers immediately go and acquire the best one available.  It’s the modern version of “anything you can do I can do better.”

McCoy has no chance to supplant the more talented Colin Kaepernick as starting quarterback, but they are the same age, and McCoy fits a downfield, run based offense reliant on downhill tactics such as the pistol formation a lot better than he fits the horizontal nature of the west coast offense.  McCoy had trouble completing short passes to players who just weren’t open going across the field, and fits much better throwing vertically to receivers who are open, and using his own legs to get horizontally when the defense gives it to him.

McCoy might be able to land a starting job for a team in a year if he gets a chance to play.  For now, he remains the reminder that while some quarterbacks gain reputations as coach killers, there are coaches like Pat Shurmur who too easily avoid reputations as quarterback killers.

Raiders trade for Matt Flynn

Alluded to above in the Kevin Kolb section, and much like bringing in Kolb to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, this seems like a move made not designed to make a team better, but designed to painlessly offset a self-created problem.  Matt Flynn is not better at quarterbacking an NFL team than Carson Palmer is.  He’s younger, and not a horrible investment at this point in his career, but he’s not the kind of player you take a draft pick hit on to acquire.  Kind of like bringing on Kolb because the Fitzpatrick situation got untenable.  These situations weren’t untenable because of on-the-field play, but because the organization never set clear expectations for the future.

The Raiders are certainly rebuilding, but this is a long time into Reggie McKenzie’s tenure to still be actively getting worse.  It’s troubling that Flynn adds nothing that the Raiders didn’t already have with Palmer playing quarterback for them.  It will be more troubling when a healthy Flynn is watching Terrelle Pryor take snaps this season.  But the great hope with both Kolb and Flynn is that rebuilding teams got younger at the quarterback position, solving the “our QB is much older than the rest of our roster” problem.  That’s something, I suppose.

Cardinals trade for Carson Palmer

The Cardinals got the best quarterback in this roulette wheel giving up perhaps the least to get him (well, they certainly gave up more than the Bills for Kolb, but…y’know).  I’m not sure where this leaves the Cardinals, however.  It likely moves them into contender status, but that’s a label that about 13 teams in a loaded NFC East have.  It certainly doesn’t separate them from any of the other contenders.  With that said, it isn’t clear if any other teams — including Kansas City — improved by as much as the Cardinals did here.  Palmer is a better player than Alex Smith is.

Palmer’s age (33) may be less of an issue for the Cardinals than it was for the Raiders, but I’m not entirely sure it should be.  The 49ers and Seahawks are way out in front of this division right now.  While this buys the Cardinals the necessary time to find their quarterback of the future, I fear that a tough defensive slate may make Palmer appear less effective than he really still is, but by the time that the Cardinals are playing an average defensive schedule again, Palmer likely will not be a Cardinals.  It’s no secret at this point Palmer would have rather been a Buc, where he really would have reminded many of Brad Johnson.  With the Cardinals, Palmer is going to make his money, without doing a ton of winning.

Even with a strong head coaching hire in Bruce Arians, the Cardinals are still a second tier franchise, and the irony of the situation is that Palmer’s only opportunity to spend time in his career with a good organization was to remain a Bengal back in 2011.

John Skelton released by Cardinals

Skelton was in the final year of his rookie deal anyway, set to count for nearly $1 million against the cap.  So this was an easy move.  Skelton may or may not catch on elsewhere.  He might make some sense as a backup for the Panthers.  The Bucs and Saints may also show interest.

Tampa Bay Bucs involved, but make no transactions

Among teams that made no moves, the Bucs were most involved in these trade talks, as it would appear they are looking for an upgrade on Josh Freeman.  The Bucs were almost certain to not do any better than Freeman this offseason, as players who are better and younger than Freeman simply aren’t on the market, and you can expect significant improvement out of the 25 year old this season.

But the Bucs tried to get Carson Palmer, and before that they tried to get Matt Flynn, and they may have been interested in Kevin Kolb and Jason Campbell too.  Now the Bucs can either make quarterback a priority in the draft, go sign a second tier backup like Brady Quinn, or move into attempted contention in 2013 holding steady at quarterback.

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