How does QB draft class affect veterans?

The 2011 NFL draft quarterback class, in the minds of many NFL observers and analysts, does not include a "franchise" player. A franchise player is generally deemed by personnel evaluators as a player who will become one of the top performers at his position in the NFL over several years. In fact, personnel sources have said it’s one of the worst groups of quarterbacks available for the draft in many years in regards to high-end talent.

And with the current labor uncertainty, the value of the veteran quarterback around the NFL could go way up. Teams are simply in need of a quarterback who is ready to play, not one who might be ready in a few years.

Demand is bigger than supply

Based on current rosters around the league, there are at least seven teams in need of a starting quarterback for next season. And there are an additional five teams in need of a developmental quarterback capable of eventually starting down the line.

So the need for quality quarterbacks has not been this high around the NFL in some time. And the need for quarterbacks who are capable of mentoring younger signal callers is also in demand. While some personnel evaluators would call those guys journeymen in past year, you could probably call them wanted veterans this time around.

Projected free agents such as veterans Marc Bulger, Kerry Collins and Matt Hasselbeck could find better than expected interest. Demand is simply much bigger than the supply of quality quarterbacks around the NFL these days.

Win now, develop later

Bulger, who was Joe Flacco’s backup last season with the Baltimore Ravens, turns 34 next month. While he didn’t wind up taking a single snap from center in 2010, that actually might be a good thing. Bulger suffered from a spate of injuries the previous three seasons with the St. Louis Rams, so not getting knocked around for 12 months or more could help him last a bit longer in the long run.

Having Bulger in the fold for a few years would enable a team to bring along the younger quarterback more slowly, which is a rarity these days. Teams generally want to get their quarterback of the future behind center no later than the second year. However, if Bulger shows he has a lot left in the tank, that perspective team can take their time with the developmental quarterback.

Hasselbeck, who turns 36 in September, has been beaten up a bit by injuries over the past few seasons. He has not played a full season since 2007, but he did close last season well with the Seattle Seahawks. Because of his willingness to become a team player over the years, he could mentor as the starter or as a backup for a few more seasons with a new team should the Seahawks pass on re-signing him. The team has said he’s a priority to re-sign, but it didn’t seem that he was close to re-signing before the recent roster and transaction freeze.

Collins, who turns 39 at the end of next season, showed over the past few seasons that he still has something left in the tank. And Collins would be a solid short-term bridge to a younger developmental quarterback. That’s exactly what the team thought when they signed him to compete for playing time while backing up Vince Young at the same time.

Because of the labor uncertainty, Donovan McNabb (Washington Redskins) and Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia Eagles) are not able to be currently traded.

If trades were allowed, the line to acquire Kolb would almost certainly be quite long based. There simply is a dearth of quality young quarterbacks around the NFL. And Kolb, who turns 27 in August, is still considered young by personnel standards for the position.

In McNabb’s case, because of his benching and performance from last season with the Redskins, it’s widely expected that he will be released prior to the start of this coming season.

And McNabb, who turns 35 in November, knows quite well about the mentor role. He went through it with the Eagles back in his rookie season with the team back in 1999 when veteran Doug Pederson was the starter. Eagles head coach Andy Reid brought him in specifically to serve as a one-year bridge to McNabb and to serve in a mentorship role for the younger player.

McNabb probably thinks he could start a few more seasons, but he clearly has been on the downward slide in recent years. A new team could give him a try as a starter for a few seasons, but if he’s willing to handle a mentorship role, he could extend his career a lot longer than many think.

The NFL is all about filling roles, and if you’re a quarterback who still has something left in the tank, you’ll be gainfully employed for sure next season — just ask those teams struggling to find ones to fill out their depth charts at the position.