It is getting harder and harder to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL these days. I mentioned in a prior blog post how Arizona, Buffalo and Oakland opted against potentially taking a risk on a top 10 pivot in the draft. Over the last 7 days, all three teams have replenished their quarterback cupboard by going after veteran players who seemingly fit their schemes.
Let’s take a look at all 3 individually:
Matt Flynn to Oakland: We all remember when Matt Flynn disembodied the Lions defense (to the tune of 520 yards and 5 scores) in the 2011 season finale in replacement of Aaron Rodgers. He appeared to show the touch and accuracy within the short passing game, capable of being a starting caliber signal caller. The Seahawks were attracted to Flynn’s lone showcase, enough to trade a draft pick for him and give Flynn $10 million in guaranteed money. Fast-forward to last season, we know Russell Wilson won the starting job in training camp and dazzled all of us with his leadership and terrific play, ultimately ending Flynn’s very short stint with Seattle. The only impediment towards Wilson being a lower pick was due to his height. He has an elite level arm and superior athleticism and he displayed the skills that made teams regret taking 74 players before him and beat out Flynn.
There is not much game tape on Flynn apart from meaningless pre-season games and the 2011 season finale against the Lions. Flynn does not have a big arm, nor does he have supreme athleticism at the position. He will be a solid quarterback for the Raiders, but players like him are plentiful in the NFL. Guys with average arms, who are not great athletes, better have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady like accuracy, anticipation and knowledge of the game, or they will be hard-pressed to be anything more than spot-starters or stopgap quarterbacks.
I see the same fate Flynn had sealed in Seattle, coming full-circle in Oakland. Flynn will compete for a starting job with Terrelle Pryor, who showed potential in a few short stints last season and has a similar skill set to Wilson. The Raiders may also draft a quarterback to develop as a project in day two of the draft. By the time training camp ends, Flynn may find himself holding a clipboard for a 2nd straight season, giving way to a player like Pryor who fits the mold of the new-wave of signal caller who can excel in a read-option type of scheme.
Kevin Kolb to Buffalo: Kolb was traded to Arizona two seasons ago for a second round pick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, in an attempt to re-invigorate a struggling Cardinals offense. Evaluating this trade now, the Eagles made out like bandits as Kolb has not led Arizona to the playoffs in his two seasons there and even worse, has not been upright in almost half his games.
The outcome of his time in the desert meant that a change was due and he now finds himself in Buffalo. From all accounts from coaches and Kolb himself, this is a better fit and I agree with such a notion. I have been a huge critic of Kolb over the years. His downfield passing ineffectiveness is due mostly in part because he lacks the necessary arm strength, but also he has an inherent unwillingness to utilize Larry Fitzgerald when he is most dangerous; catching passes at their highest point with corners draped all over him. I felt he was at his best in an offense with west-coast principles like the one he started in with Andy Reid in Philadelphia. Unlike the Cardinals, Buffalo already has a good offensive line in place, which will be music to Kolb’s ears considering the beating he has taken over the last 2 seasons.
It appears Doug Marrone will run a similar offense to the one Chan Gailey ran for two seasons in Orchard Park. A quick trigger passing game based off decisive reads, while also implementing a fast-paced, no-huddle offense will showcase the timing and accuracy Kolb displayed in his time with the Eagles. This scheme fits Kolb as he struggles when he has to hold on to the ball too long. It will be interesting to see if Kolb can better the numbers Ryan Fitzpatrick put up last season, as both ran similar offenses and have similar skill sets. The key for Kolb will be to show better accuracy and avoid the big interceptions, two aspects that likely ended Fitzpatrick’s career in Buffalo.
It still is not a slam-dunk that Kolb gets the nod as the incumbent starter as he will still need to beat out Tavaris Jackson and possibly a 2nd or 3rd round pick that Buddy Nix and his staff will surely draft as a quarterback of the future.
Carson Palmer to Arizona: This is the biggest move as Carson is the one with the most star-power. A 2-time Pro-Bowler, Palmer has received a lot of flack in Oakland yet he had a relatively solid season amassing over 4,000 yards, 22 touchdowns and a relatively low 14 interceptions. Considering he had no running game to speak of and inconsistent play at the receiver position, Palmer fared admirably. Now he goes to a Cardinals team that features more of a downfield passing attack with Bruce Arians at the helm. Andrew Luck benefitted last season from such an attack with Arians as his offensive coordinator and de-facto head coach, where he led the league with 10.2 yards per pass traveled through the air (ESPN Stats). It is widely believed that Palmer is going to a system that fits his strengths and it also does not hurt to have one of the best receivers in the league in Larry Fitzgerald.
The key will be for the Cardinals to improve their offensive line. This move almost surely ensures that they will take a lineman in a draft filled with athletic left tackles, as they were quiet during the free agency period trying to fill that position. If Palmer is going to take 5 and 7 step drops, the offensive line will desperately need to be stout in order to allow the necessary time for routes to develop and Palmer to scan the field. As mentioned, Kevin Kolb failed miserably in Arizona in part because he could not stay healthy thanks to an alarming 57 sacks in 14 starts with the Redbirds.
Even though history has no bearing on this transaction, lest not forget the last time the Cardinals went after a supposed “over-the-hill” and past his prime quarterback. Kurt Warner proceeded to lead Arizona to a 4-2 post-season record and was two minutes away from their first Super Bowl title. Do not quote me as comparing Palmer and Warner, but the parallels are similar and the talent is still there for Palmer. Despite the notion that his elbow injuries have zapped him of his big arm, the man who used to be called “jugs” still has enough in his right arm to make all the big time throws. Look for Fitzgerald to have a big year and slot and flankers Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd to excel with Palmer at the helm.
All three quarterbacks should be starters next season, but I can see a situation where the Bills and Raiders are going for younger options by the time training camp ends. Palmer will have a big season as he has more talent around him and still has a lot left in the tank.