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Top free agents: Quarterbacks
1. Matt Hasselbeck: QB, Seattle
Even though Hasselbeck has struggled statistically the past four seasons, he is still the best available quarterback in a fairly weak free-agent pool. Hasselbeck hasn’t posted a QB rating over 75.1 since the 2007 season and has thrown a woeful 34:44 touchdown-to-interception ratio during that same three-season span.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Seattle, Tennessee
Arizona’s first choice would be a trade for Eagles backup Kevin Kolb, but if the Cardinals are unable to come to agreement in a timely manner, they may look to pursue Hasselbeck. There is still a possibility that Hasselbeck re-signs with his former team in Seattle, but Charlie Whitehurst had a fairly decent showing in a high-pressure Week 17 game to push the Seahawks into the postseason.
I look for them to turn over the offense to the younger Whitehurst, while Hasselbeck pursues a two-year deal elsewhere.
The Titans lost their veteran presence at the quarterback position when Kerry Collins retired earlier this month, and Hasselbeck could start for the Titans while mentoring their quarterback of the future, first-round draft pick, Jake Locker.
2. Marc Bulger: QB, Baltimore
Bulger has the skill-set to put him at the top of this list, but I question his mentality going into his 11th season. He didn’t play in any games last season, and I am not totally convinced he wants to start over with a new team and compete for a full-time starting role.
Potential landing spots: Arizona, Baltimore, Miami
Arizona could show interest only if they can’t come to a quick trade agreement with Philadelphia.
There have been recent reports that suggest that even if the Cardinals do come calling, Bulger will turn them away because of his preference of the East Coast.
With Baltimore’s only other quarterbacks on the roster being Hunter Cantwell and rookie Tyrod Taylor, it would do them well to re-sign Bulger.
Bulger could be a serviceable replacement if anything happened to Joe Flacco and still provide them an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot with a solid defense and improved running game.
Miami is the most probable of destinations if Bulger does in fact depart Baltimore. He can push Chad Henne and provide him with the veteran guidance that he has never received in Miami.
3. Alex Smith: QB, San Francisco
During Smith’s six years in San Francisco, he has had five different offensive coordinators. This lack of stability and consistency has been detrimental to his growth as a starting quarterback in the NFL. In 2010, his first season with back-to-back years in the same offense, he completed less than 60 percent of his attempts with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Potential landing spots: San Francisco
While San Francisco used the 36th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft on quarterback Colin Kaepernick, new head coach Jim Harbaugh has been intrigued by Smith in the short time they have spent together. I expect them to re-sign Smith, and both quarterbacks will have an equal opportunity to win the starting job, but I’m not convinced either will be the future of the franchise.
4. Seneca Wallace: QB, Cleveland
Seneca Wallace had his most significant playing time during the 2008 season while filling in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. That season, he threw for 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions but struggled with accuracy. Just last season, he appeared in eight games for the Browns and threw for 694 yards on 101 attempts.
Potential landing spots: Cleveland
I believe it is most likely that the Browns will part ways with Jake Delhomme rather than Seneca Wallace. It is possible that they retain all three players as they did last year, but Wallace would be the backup and Delhomme’s role would be more of a mentor to Colt McCoy during his sophomore season.
Wallace will never be a franchise quarterback, but he can be a serviceable second-string option and has a similar playing style to that of McCoy, allowing the offensive scheme to remain consistent regardless of who is behind center.
5. Matt Moore: QB, Carolina
Moore had a decent season in 2009, completing 62 percent of his passes and an 8:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but in 2010, he struggled with turnovers and consistency. He threw 10 interceptions in just 143 attempts and also lost two fumbles.
Potential landing spots: Carolina, Miami
Carolina could look at re-signing the most veteran quarterback from its roster a year ago, especially with the lockout minimizing the time this new coaching staff could have been spending with Jimmy Clausen and rookie Cam Newton. So, if anyone has been helped by the lockout, it has been Moore.
Miami could show interest in Moore to compete with Henne. Otherwise, reports have been surfacing that they may wait for Donovan McNabb to be released by the Redskins and pair his big arm with their big playmaking receiver, Brandon Marshall.
ON THE BUBBLE: