The 2012 NFL Draft will be remembered for producing the most promising crop of quarterbacks in almost 30 years.
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The class of 2013 is shaping up as a godsend for past picks trying to salvage their pro careers.
The draft normally provides the panacea for at least some quarterback-needy squads, like last year with Indianapolis (Andrew Luck), Washington (Robert Griffin III) and Miami (Ryan Tannehill). As it stands now, there might not be a passer selected in this year’s top 10 picks for the first time since 2000.
That’s how underwhelming a group led by West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley appears based upon the personnel moves teams have made this offseason involving veteran retreads.
The rookie slide might become a free fall if a quarterback isn’t drafted in the top 10. Every team choosing between Nos. 11 and 32 is set at starter. If one isn’t picked in the top 10, the most likely scenario for a first-round pick at quarterback would be a team trading back into the first round to grab one.
With the exception of Detroit at No. 5, eight of the first nine teams selecting on April 25 ended last season with varying degrees of uncertainty under center. Here’s a breakdown of where things now stand for those squads and why it’s bad news for the draft stock of rookie quarterbacks:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs hosted Smith on a pre-draft visit Monday, but that appears more of a desperate attempt to generate a trade partner than legitimate interest in making him the No. 1 overall pick. If the Chiefs really thought so highly of Smith, why would they have traded a second-round pick to San Francisco for Alex Smith and signed New Orleans backup Chase Daniel in free agency in March?
The more likely choice for Kansas City at No. 1 is one of two left tackles — Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
Jaguars general manager David Caldwell has left open the possibility of selecting a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick, but landing an outside pass-rusher to fuel new head coach Gus Bradley’s defense is the more likely direction Jacksonville will take.
The Jaguars still might want to take a longer look at Blaine Gabbert, who was supposed to become their franchise quarterback as the No. 10 overall choice in 2011. Gabbert has shown little to indicate he was worthy of such lofty draft status, but he’s also only 23 years old and played the past two seasons in the kind of unstable environment that can doom a developing quarterback. As it stands now, Gabbert and Chad Henne will compete for the starting spot in 2013.
The Raiders were perceived as being the team most likely to draft a quarterback first, but that is no longer the case following their trade Monday with Seattle for at least a short-term starter. Matt Flynn will now replace Carson Palmer, who was traded Tuesday after he refused to restructure his contract.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie also has repeatedly said Terrelle Pryor will have the chance to compete for playing time during the preseason. McKenzie might lean toward securing a quarterback in the second round so he doesn’t bypass any of the blue-chip defensive talent that would still be available with the No. 3 overall pick.
As head coach Andy Reid’s 14-year coaching tenure was ending in Philadelphia, it appeared Michael Vick would be leaving the Eagles, too, with Nick Foles elevated to starting quarterback. Neither happened. New head coach Chip Kelly believes Vick has the right tools to run the up-tempo offensive system he’s bringing from the University of Oregon.
Vick agreed to a restructured contract that will pay him $7.5 million in 2013, with the chance to collect another $2.5 million through incentives. The Eagles also rebuffed trade overtures for Foles, who showed good potential when starting six games as a rookie last season in place of the injured Vick. There is no pressing need to take a quarterback at No. 4.
When working as an NFL Network analyst, Mike Lombardi was an outspoken critic of Brandon Weeden. This has led to speculation the Browns would be open to using a first-round pick on a quarterback for the second straight season now that Lombardi is Cleveland’s general manager. The Browns, though, seemingly put that idea to rest last week when they signed Jason Campbell as an unrestricted free agent.
Campbell, 31, has 71 career starts for three different NFL teams (Washington, Oakland and Chicago). He is a bigger threat to unseat Weeden than previous backup Colt McCoy, who was traded Monday to San Francisco.
The Cardinals have finalized a trade with Oakland for Palmer. The 10-year veteran will enter training camp as the clear-cut frontrunner to start even after Drew Stanton was promised a bona fide chance to compete for the position when he signed as a free agent in mid-March. You’ve got to feel for Stanton, who was misled by the New York Jets after signing there last offseason when the team subsequently acquired Tim Tebow. (The Jets then released Stanton, per his request).
Palmer posted gaudy passing numbers on a 4-12 Raiders team beset by injuries at running back and wide receiver. New head coach Bruce Arians reportedly believes Palmer’s skill set would fit well in the offensive system he’s installing. The Cardinals began preparing for Palmer’s arrival on Monday by releasing John Skelton, who started Arizona’s 2012 regular-season opener.
General manager Buddy Nix has espoused the desire to draft a quarterback, dating back to last season as Ryan Fitzpatrick was heading a Bills squad en route to its 13th consecutive season without a playoff berth. Buffalo might still add a high-profile rookie, but whether that selection will come with the No. 8 overall pick is now in serious doubt.
Although the release of Fitzpatrick opened the door for a first-year starter, the quarterback picture became more cloudy last weekend when Buffalo signed free agent Kevin Kolb to a two-year, $13 million contract. Such money indicates the Bills believe he is a better option than Tarvaris Jackson, who was re-signed to a one-year, $2.25 million deal before the free-agent signing period began.
Kolb is being given a third chance to prove he is a viable NFL starter after losing that spot in Philadelphia and Arizona. Fitzpatrick is now Jake Locker’s backup in Tennessee.
New York Jets
Nobody could blame the Jets if they selected a quarterback at No. 9. The top four quarterbacks on the roster all have warts: Mark Sanchez (who would be gone if not for brutal salary-cap ramifications), David Garrard (who hasn’t started a game since 2010), Greg McElroy (considered a career clipboard-holder) and Tim Tebow (who will assuredly be cut if a trade partner can’t be found).
But let’s look at this from new general manager John Idzik’s point of view. If head coach Rex Ryan is fired after this season — a realistic possibility considering the Jets are in rebuilding mode — his replacement might not want to inherit a young quarterback he didn’t have input in selecting. There’s also plenty of decay on New York’s defense that needs addressing.