AFC West: Matt Moore
Welcome to Eight in the Box, an NFL Nation feature that will appear each Friday during the offseason. This week’s topic: How each AFC West team needs to address the quarterback position.
Denver: A year ago, the Broncos' brass was quietly putting together a plan to court Peyton Manning and rid itself of the albatross known as Tim Tebow. The plan worked perfectly. Manning agreed to join the Broncos on March 19, and Tebow was traded to the Jets two days later. It was the story of the 2012 NFL offseason. The Broncos will make no such dramatic quarterback headlines this year. They are set with Manning as their quarterback and second-year player Brock Osweiler as backup. The Broncos love Osweiler and think he will be ready to start when Manning retires in two or three years. Thus, the Broncos are set here.
Kansas City: The Chiefs’ quarterback situation was as murky as any in the NFL, but the issue has been solved. The team has agreed to trade for former San Francisco starter Alex Smith. The Chiefs targeted Smith, and I think it was a smart move. First, he fits the team’s West Coast system, and he is game manager who doesn’t turn the ball over. He should fit with this roster and give the Chiefs a chance to improve. Also, Smith was the best option in a bad year to pick up a quarterback. Smith is far from great, but he is more than serviceable. The Chiefs could do a lot worse. Perhaps backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi could be brought back, but there will be a new starter in Smith as Andy Reid begins his Kansas City tenure.
Oakland: The Raiders plan to go to training camp with Carson Palmer as the starter. Third-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be given a chance to be the backup; Oakland will be looking closely to gauge whether he is ready to push Palmer. The Raiders say it will be a competition, but coach Dennis Allen has said that Palmer will go to camp as the starter. The Raiders liked Pryor’s poise and command in a Week 17 start in place of an injured Palmer but still think Pryor is raw. Still, Palmer is 33 and not getting better, so Pryor will get his chance at some point. But for now -- assuming he restructures his contract from its current $13 million-plus salary-cap number -- Palmer is the starter.
San Diego: The focus here is making Philip Rivers a top-level quarterback again. Both new coach Mike McCoy and new general manager Tom Telesco said the presence of Rivers was a major selling point for their respective jobs with the Chargers. Rivers, 31, has been subpar the past two seasons -- though he has lost a lot of weapons and his offensive line has been a shambles. The Chargers believe Rivers will be fine if they build around him. That will be the focal point of the offseason. Charlie Whitehurst, a favorite of the previous regime, was Rivers’ backup last season. It remains to be seen how this brass feels about Whitehurst. I wouldn’t be shocked if San Diego looks for another backup in someone like Matt Moore (who was in Carolina with McCoy) or in the form of a developmental quarterback in the draft.
He will miss Thursday’s preseason opener against Green Bay and may not play next week against Dallas. Undrafted rookie Mike Harris has been playing for Gaither. Gaither should be ready for the regular season, but Harris is very likely nearing himself a roster spot with his unexpected extensive work.
Meanwhile, there is a chance Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t pay at San Diego on Thursday because his starting left tackle, Marshall Newhouse, is out because of a concussion.
In other AFC West news:
- Oakland receiver/kick returner Jacoby Ford said he is excited about the chance to finally return punts in the NFL. He is a proven kick returning star.
- ESPN’s John Clayton thinks the Broncos could be in play for quarterback Matt Moore to be the in-between Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler. Of course, Moore has to be cut by the Dolphins first.
- The man who once accused former Oakland coach Tom Cable of assault has been arrested on assault charges.
Let’s get things clear: No matter what the Broncos may now say in the aftermath of the flubbed trade attempt, they wanted to trade Orton. They wouldn’t have spent the past three days trying to deal him to Arizona or Miami for their health. They wanted to move the veteran quarterback to clear salary-cap space and they wanted to give Tim Tebow an open highway to see if he can be the future of the franchise.
Now, Denver is at a major crossroads.
Tired of waiting for the road blocks to clear, Miami has acquired Matt Moore and they are reportedly out of the Orton mix. Of course, with Kevin Kolb in the fold, so are the Cardinals. No other team is currently in the market for a starting quarterback. That will only change if a quarterback suffers an injury during the preseason.
So what do the Broncos do? They are stuck with a valuable player they don’t want and their quarterback situation is a complicated mess. Whatever Denver does, it has to make a decision quickly.
Here are the Broncos’ choices: They can cut Orton. They can make him the starter. They can make him the backup to Tebow and wait for someone to get hurt.
Keeping Orton as the starter while waiting for another quarterback to get hurt is tricky because it will stunt Tebow’s development. This is a player who needs all the repetitions he can get in a year in which the lockout took away priceless offseason time from Tebow and his coaches. If Tebow is going to be Denver’s starting quarterback Sept. 12 against Oakland on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football," he needs to work with the first team pronto.
What would starting a quarterback it didn’t want in Orton do for Denver’s long-term progress? This is a team that is rebuilding. Orton won’t be there in 2012, and not finding out what Tebow can do until 2012 would be counterproductive as well.
The Broncos are in a tough spot as a result of the Dolphins’ decision. Denver has to decide what to do and live with it.
UPDATE: NFL.com reports the Dolphins are still interested in Orotn. That would be good news for Denver.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
San Diego -- Here are the inactive lists for both Carolina and San Diego.
No major surprises here. As expected, the Chargers will be without two standout offensive linemen: center Nick Hardwick (foot) and left tackle Marcus McNeill (neck). Jeremy Newbery will play center and L.J. Shelton will play for McNeill and try to keep Panthers sack master Julius Peppers away from San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers.