NFL Nation: John Skelton

Dolphins Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
DAVIE, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Miami Dolphins training camp:
  • The Dolphins went full pads for the first time this week. Miami’s coaching staff is putting a major emphasis on tackling and worked on a few full-contact drills. The Dolphins did their version of the "Oklahoma Drill" with linebackers against running backs. The running backs dominated and won a majority of the one-on-one battles. Miami’s linebackers continue to be a concern with stopping the run and covering tight ends and slot receivers.
  • Miami starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill had one of his strongest practices of training camp on Monday. Tannehill made strong, decisive throws and had big gains to receivers Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews and Damian Williams in team drills. Perhaps Tannehill gained momentum from his strong start to the preseason last week against the Atlanta Falcons. He will try to build on that Saturday in his second preseason game, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Speaking of quarterbacks, one of the big stories in camp today was the Dolphins reportedly working out veterans Rex Grossman, Brady Quinn and John Skelton on Monday. Miami has dealt with quarterback injuries to backups Matt Moore (shoulder) and Pat Devlin (hamstring). Both participated in practice, but have been limited in camp. Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin wasn’t willing to say what the workouts mean for his current quarterbacks. "We’ve had workouts nearly every single day," Philbin said. "This is no different. We’re always evaluation different people are out there."
  • On the injury front, Miami backup running back Damien Williams returned to practice after getting injured in Friday’s preseason game. New injuries Monday included offensive tackle Jason Fox (chest), running back Mike Gillislee (hamstring) and defensive tackle Micajah Reynolds (knee).
  • Finally, the Dolphins will return to the practice field at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday for their third session this week.
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has already said he will not be in the quarterback business when it comes to May's draft. For such a great salesman, Jones is sure missing a way to keep the Cowboys in the offseason headlines.

Saying no is easy to say in December and perhaps a way to show even more belief in Tony Romo, who is coming off back surgery. But Jones should not be so dismissive. He might be forced into doing it anyway.

To disappoint plenty of you, this will not delve into the merits of possibly going after Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles or Brett Hundley or any other possible quarterback in the first round. This is solely about the current state of the position with the Cowboys.

Romo will be coming off of his second back surgery in eight months. He turns 34 in April. He is coming off one of his best seasons with 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He is signed through 2019 and scheduled to count $21.7 million against the cap. That figure will be reduced when the Cowboys restructure his contract, but at some point they will have to come to the conclusion he cannot last forever.

Kyle Orton showed in the season finale he can still play the game. He threw for 358 yards and had two touchdown passes in his first meaningful game in a long time. The fourth-quarter interception was bad, but Orton was better than many thought. He could start for a number of teams in the NFL. There's also a question of how much longer he wants to play.

"You just don't even think about that right now," Orton said at his locker after the Eagles' game. "Just a tough way to end the season ... All you think about right now is everything you put into it and you've got plenty of time to think about the future."

Orton counts $4.3775 million against the cap. That's $26 million of cap space committed to the quarterback position. The Cowboys will have decisions to make in order to trim enough money to get under the projected cap of $126.3 million.

Orton might prove to be too costly at his current price. He has a base salary of $3.25 million in 2014. The Cowboys could restructure his deal like they did in 2013, but that would push future dollars against the cap. If they cut Orton, the move would save almost $1 million.

It would also leave the Cowboys without a backup to Romo.

And this is where the draft comes into play, or at least a cheaper veteran option. The Cowboys have not gone cheap at the backup QB spot since Jason Garrett arrived. Brad Johnson wasn't cheap. Jon Kitna wasn't cheap. Orton has not been cheap.

The Cowboys looked at veteran options leading into Week 17, like David Carr, John Skelton and Tyler Thigpen, but went with Kitna because of his familiarity with the offense with such a short turnaround.

Maybe it's silly to move on from Orton with Romo coming off back surgery. It might be sillier not to start the process of finding the quarterback to succeed Romo eventually.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – One of the reasons John Skelton is excited to be a San Francisco 49er is his desire to play for Jim Harbaugh.

“There’s no doubt about it, I wanted to play for him,” the quarterback said Wednesday. “He’s been there before. He’s played at this level. I’ve talked to guys who played for him and I’ve heard nothing but good things. … When you get to know him you see what he’s all about – it’s a passion for the game. He’d strap it on again if he could. … I want to learn from him.”

Harbaugh is just as fired up to work with Skelton.

“Good stature in the pocket. Experienced guy.” Harbaugh said of the former Arizona Cardinals starter. “He’s played, won games and been in those battles. Had an excellent workout when he was here a few weeks back. One of the better workouts I’ve seen from a quarterback in one of those type of workout environments. … Big, strong, definitely has arm talent. I’m excited to work with him, and that’s really what it amounts to.”

The 49ers signed Skelton, who was recently cut by Cincinnati, and released rookie B.J. Daniels. The 49ers had planned to re-sign Daniels to the practice squad, but he was claimed Wednesday by Seattle.

Harbaugh indicated the 49ers wanted more overall experience at quarterback. Skelton likely will push Colt McCoy for the No. 2 job behind Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh wouldn’t talk about the backup competition, but it is clear the 49ers brought Skelton in to see if he can progress in their system. If Skelton quickly catches up, I could see a scenario where he overtakes McCoy fairly soon.

“[We have] three quarterbacks that all have played in games and been in the fire, and now we have three at our disposal,” Harbaugh said. “We have a great starter and two guys now, two guys to back up that have been in those games."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Wednesday that the team was hoping to reconnect with preseason star quarterback B.J. Daniels. But, naturally, the Seattle Seahawks got in the way.

According to several news outlets, the Seahawks claimed the seventh-round pick off waivers, one day after the the 49ers cut Daniels to make room for veteran quarterback John Skelton.

Seattle’s claim is not a surprise. Coach Pete Carroll said last month that the team liked Daniels, and both the 49ers and the Seahawks have made it a sport to poach players from the other’s roster.

The 49ers wanted to keep Daniels in the program. Harbaugh said less than an hour before the claim was made that the team hoped to bring back Daniels to the practice squad.

They cut him in favor of Skelton because they think Skelton's experience can help the 53-man roster more at this point. I get the sense the team thinks Daniels is very much a developmental player and that he’s nowhere close to being ready to help.

I know many fans will be up in arms about losing Daniels, who dazzled in the preseason. But the truth is, he is a long way from being a factor on Sundays.
Here are some observations from the Cincinnati Bengals' 34-10 preseason win at the Atlanta Falcons:
  • Judging by the first two series by the first-team offense, the Bengals are going to use two tight ends as their primary formation. It makes sense because that way both Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, two first-round picks, are on the field. Of Andy Dalton's eight drop-backs, three passes went to his tight ends. By going with two tight ends, the Bengals use a single back and no fullback.
  • Dalton didn't have much time to get into a rhythm. He was 3-of-7 for 37 yards. In his two drives, the Bengals managed 24 total yards and two first downs but never crossed midfield.
  • The Bengals played without three starters on offense, but that doesn't excuse them for hurting themselves worse with mistakes. The offense committed three penalties in the first quarter and every one came from the offensive line. Left guard Clint Boling had a false start on third down, and the other two penalties were committed by players competing for the starting center job (Kyle Cook and Trevor Robinson).
  • Rookie running back Giovani Bernard provided a glimpse of what he could do. On his first catch of the game, he nearly converted a third-and-20, gaining 16 yards on a short pass. He then ended the first half with a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal, which put the Bengals up 17-3 at halftime.
  • In the backup quarterback battle, Josh Johnson made big plays and John Skelton looked better than he has all summer. Even though Johnson isn't the most consistent thrower, he comes up with yards in big chunks, with his feet as well as his arm. Johnson had 60 yards on three runs in the first half, including a 43-yard scramble. He later connected on a 21-yard touchdown with Brandon Tate, getting the ball through tight coverage. Skelton, though, threw his best pass as a Bengal, hitting Dane Sanzenbacher on a 36-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He finished 4-of-5 for 72 yards, which resulted in a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
  • Speaking of Sanzenbacher, he scored two touchdowns in the preseason opener. In addition to the touchdown catch, he ran back a punt 71 yards for a score in the third quarter.
  • One of the biggest knocks on middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is his pass coverage. But he came up big on third down in the first quarter, running to the sideline to stop former Bengals tight end Chase Coffman short of the first down.
  • Starters who didn't play: WR A.J. Green (hamstring), LT Andrew Whitworth (knee), FB Chris Pressley (knee) and DE Carlos Dunlap (concussion).

What to watch: Bengals-Falcons

August, 8, 2013
A look at what to keep an eye on for Thursday night's preseason opener between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons, which will air on ESPN at 8 p.m.:

1. Backup quarterback job. The Bengals are set with Andy Dalton as their starter, and he is expected to go a couple of series. Then, it's time to get a look at who is going to be backing up Dalton. Josh Johnson has the edge over John Skelton so far in training camp, and that was to be expected. He has a better understanding of the offense, having played under Jay Gruden in Tampa in 2008. Skelton has never played in a West Coast offense, but has more game experience than Johnson. I'm interested to see if Skelton closes the gap tonight.

2. Strong safety competition. This looks like a three-player race now with George Iloka, Taylor Mays and rookie Shawn Williams. Iloka is currently atop the team's depth chart, and it's assumed that he will get the start. But Williams has looked very good at times in camp and seems to be a better fit at strong safety because of his physical style. I wouldn't be surprised if the third-round pick out of Georgia moves up the depth chart if he can make some plays in the preseason.

3. Wide receiver depth. There will be plenty of opportunity for the young receivers to impress. A.J. Green (knee) and Andrew Hawkins (ankle), two of the team's top three receivers, didn't make the trip to Atlanta. Another promising wideout, Marvin Jones (hamstring), is doubtful to play. Mohamed Sanu, who is expected to start opposite Green in the regular season, is the most experienced receiver who will be suiting up. For most of the game though, expect to see Dane Sanzenbacher, Cobi Hamilton and Ryan Whalen trying to state their case to make the team.
The Arizona Cardinals held a 10-0 lead in Atlanta last season when their defense picked off Matt Ryan, setting up first-and-10 from the Falcons' 18.

The team sent Larry Fitzgerald onto the field as the lone receiver in a run-oriented personnel grouping featuring two backs and two tight ends. Enabled by a play fake and outstanding pass protection, Fitzgerald beat the coverage and was running wide open through the end zone when quarterback John Skelton went to throw.

The pass missed Fitzgerald by several yards. This single play came to symbolize how much even a great receiver such as Fitzgerald requires a baseline level of quarterback play to produce at a high level. But in looking to explain all the reasons Fitzgerald's production plummeted last season, we should at least acknowledge another possibility -- that Fitzgerald wasn't at his best, either.

Facing fourth-and-2 in that same game against the Falcons, Arizona needed a conversion while fighting to overcome a 23-19 deficit with 3:08 remaining in the fourth quarter. This time, Skelton's replacement, Ryan Lindley, threw to Fitzgerald along the left sideline inside the 5-yard line. Fitzgerald was covered, but he leaped to get both hands on the ball, one at each point. Fitzgerald controlled the ball as his feet touched down, but he couldn't maintain possession as his body fell to the ground.

This wasn't a dropped pass by ESPN's game charting standards, but it was the sort of play Fitzgerald makes at his best. So, when the 10th-year receiver says he's coming off his worst season as a pro, we can presume he's taking his share of ownership for what happened in 2012.

The Cardinals would lose that Week 11 game to the Falcons and 11 of their final 12 overall. Fitzgerald would end a five-year streak as the NFC West leader in receptions and receiving yards. The San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree claimed top honors in the division with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards. Those numbers served notice that Crabtree would challenge Fitzgerald's largely unopposed run as the most productive receiver in the NFC West. But with Crabtree suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during practices this offseason, Fitzgerald appears primed to retake the top spot, particularly with a new quarterback (Carson Palmer) and an upgraded offensive line.

Or does he?

We consider today five leading challengers from the NFC West in 2013, ranked by ESPN's fantasy projections for total receptions:

1. Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks. ESPN projects Harvin to finish this season with 101 receptions for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns, figures Fitzgerald has not exceeded over the past four seasons, including in 2009, when Kurt Warner was his quarterback. Seattle has other viable options in Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Zach Miller. There are no guarantees Harvin will dominate the stat sheet. ESPN projects only 34 receptions for Tate, a player Seattle expects to flourish with Harvin attracting coverage.

2. Anquan Boldin, 49ers. Fitzgerald's former teammate in Arizona becomes the statistical beneficiary from Crabtree's injury. His production with Baltimore spiked in the playoffs last season after Boldin had 65 catches for 921 yards and four touchdowns in 15 regular-season games. Improved play from Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was one factor. The 49ers' Colin Kaepernick has an 81.2 Total QBR score in his first 10 starts, counting playoffs. No player in the five-year history of the metric has posted a higher QBR score through his first 10 starts. That could help Boldin remain productive.

3. Vernon Davis, 49ers. Davis had 210 yards receiving over the 49ers' final two playoff games. He seemed underutilized as a receiver at times last season, but I expect his stats to spike this season. Crabtree was the preferred target for Kaepernick. We know that isn't going to be the case for much of this season.

4. Chris Givens, St. Louis Rams.
No Rams player has led the NFC West in receptions since Torry Holt in 2006. Givens impressed as a rookie. Right now, however, it's tough to know how all the pieces are going to fit in St. Louis. Rookie first-round pick Tavon Austin is going to factor right away, most likely. The team also invested heavily in free-agent tight end Jared Cook. ESPN seems to be hedging its bets by projecting Givens, Austin and Cook with between 51 and 57 receptions apiece.

5. Andre Roberts, Cardinals. ESPN's fantasy projections have Roberts with 57 receptions and teammate Michael Floyd with 53. Floyd seems like a volatile variable within this equation. He had 14 receptions over the Cardinals' final two games last season. He finished his rookie season with 45 receptions for 562 yards and two touchdowns. I'm taking the "over" on ESPN's fantasy projection (53 receptions for 686 yards and two scores).

The second chart shows ESPN's fantasy projections for every NFC West wide receiver and tight end with at least 40 projected receptions. The projections for Fitzgerald -- 79 receptions for 1,256 yards and seven touchdowns -- approximate his average totals for the past three seasons, with a spike in receiving yards. He's right there in the No. 2 spot, unfamiliar ground for the only consistently productive wideout in the NFC West.

Les from Philadelphia read our recent piece on quarterback victories over average and wondered if we could apply the same approach to other teams.

"Can you do the same analysis for other QB-challenged teams such as Philadelphia, Minnesota, etc.?" Les asked.

We can take a shot at it, Les. First, a quick primer on the methodology.

Total QBR measures quarterbacks' contributions to winning on a 100-point scale, with 50 as average. The scores correlate with a team's likelihood of winning a game. In other words, a team scoring 50 in Total QBR would, on balance, win about half its games. The chances for winning would be 75 percent for teams with QBR scores around 75, and so on.

With this established, we can calculate the wins over average a quarterback provides over the course of a 16-game season. We simply average his single-game QBR scores, subtract 50 from that number, convert the result into a percentage and multiply by 16.

A quarterback with a Total QBR score of 75.0 would provide four victories over average, for example (75 minus 50 equals 25, and 25 percent of 16 is four).

The first chart ranks 2012 quarterbacks with at least four regular-season starts by wins above average, based solely on their single-game QBR scores last season. The San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson ranked among the NFL's best.

The second chart shows the quarterbacks with the worst figures for wins above average. These quarterbacks' performances reduced their teams' chances for winning by 1.5 to 5.3 games per 16-game season.

The Arizona Cardinals' Ryan Lindley (minus-5.3) and John Skelton (minus-5.0) top that list. Kevin Kolb was better, but he was still eighth-worst in the league at minus-1.9. Note that the figures for these quarterbacks project their impact as if each played a full season. Skelton and Lindley combined to start 10 games.

Les asked about Minnesota and Philadelphia.

The Vikings' Christian Ponder was 19th at plus-0.2 wins above average. His single-game QBR scores averaged out to 51.5 in 16 starts. The Eagles' Michael Vick (minus-1.5) and Nick Foles (minus-0.8) ranked lower.

We'll revisit this information as the offseason continues.

The chart below takes a longer-term approach. It shows wins above average over a 16-game season based on single-game QBR scores since 2008. I added a column for expected wins if these quarterbacks played for teams that were average in other ways. By this method, expected wins are simply wins above average plus eight. We might think of Peyton Manning as a 12- or 13-win quarterback based on how he played last season. Note that some quarterbacks making surprise appearances on the list played fewer games.

Peyton Manning appears twice, once for his work with Denver last season and also for his contributions with Indianapolis previously. The Denver-era Jay Cutler also appears. The Chicago-era Cutler has been far less impressive, checking in at plus-0.3 wins over average. That version of Cutler doesn't appear in the chart.

Leading up to the start of the NFL draft (it's only 10 days away), the AFC North blog will evaluate each position and where it stands as a need for each division team. Let's start with the quarterbacks, which is an intriguing draft talking point in the AFC North.

The Cleveland Browns are the only AFC North team without an established starter, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the other division teams use a mid-to-late round pick on a quarterback. While I list the Browns as having the biggest draft need at quarterback, you can make a case for the Bengals, Ravens and Steelers being No. 2.

This is the ranking in terms of needing to draft a quarterback:

1. Cleveland Browns: I don't see Cleveland taking a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick. The Browns, though, could take one as early as the second round if they trade back in the first round and acquire a pick in the second. Cleveland has taken an up-close look at most of the top quarterbacks, from Geno Smith to Matt Barkley to E.J. Manuel to Ryan Nassib. All of the options are open for the Browns, who can draft a quarterback to compete with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell or select one to develop behind them.

2. Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals have Josh Johnson and John Skelton as backups to Andy Dalton. I wouldn't say they are set at quarterback. Johnson and Skelton have a combined 8-14 record as starters. The Bengals have worked out Manuel and Nassib, which shows they're doing their homework on some of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Still, it would be a surprise to see Cincinnati draft a quarterback in the first three rounds. The Bengals may take one in the middle rounds if the right quarterback is there.

3. Baltimore Ravens: This may raise some eyebrows because the Ravens have gone with Tyrod Taylor as the backup to Joe Flacco for the past two seasons. There has been a sense that the Ravens would like to upgrade the backup spot. Baltimore brought in Curtis Painter to compete with Taylor last offseason. Taylor also didn't instill confidence in a sporadic performance in the regular-season finale at Cincinnati. The Ravens have multiple picks in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. In other words, they have enough to take a flier on a quarterback.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have been questioned in recent years about when they're going to draft a quarterback to develop behind Ben Roethlisberger. With Roethlisberger turning 31 last month, those questions will only increase. The Steelers created some buzz when they had dinner with quarterback Tyler Bray before attending his pro day. Pittsburgh is set at backup quarterback after signing Bruce Gradkowski this offseason. The Steelers, though, can draft a quarterback to compete with John Parker Wilson for the No. 3 spot.
The dominoes for pedestrian quarterbacks continued to fall Wednesday, when the Cincinnati Bengals claimed John Skelton off waivers. Skelton was pushed out of Arizona after the Cardinals traded for former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer.

The Bengals have gotten younger at the backup quarterback position, but not necessarily better. For the past two seasons, the Bengals went with Bruce Gradkowski, a 30-year-old quarterback who led Cincinnati to a come-from-behind victory two years ago in limited action. Now, the competition to be the backup to Andy Dalton is between two quarterbacks in their mid-20s -- Skelton and Josh Johnson -- who have a combined 8-14 record as starters.

Skelton, 25, went 8-9 as a starter for the Cardinals, including a 1-5 record last season. A fifth-round pick in 2010, Skelton has thrown 15 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his career.

Johnson, 26, has never won in five career starts for the Buccaneers. He has thrown five touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his 27-game career.

“We’re glad to add John to cultivate a competitive situation behind Andy Dalton,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “He’s a young player, but he has had valuable experience starting and leading a team in the NFL.”
The Arizona Cardinals have parted with five of the seven quarterbacks to drop back for the team since Kurt Warner's retirement following the 2009 season.

John Skelton's release Monday made him the latest post-Warner quarterback cast aside.

The Cardinals announced that move and Brian Hoyer's signing to a one-year deal amid speculation the team would add Carson Palmer via trade with the Oakland Raiders.

The chart ranks Arizona quarterbacks since 2010 by number of pass drop backs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Those numbers include plays when the quarterback dropped back to pass, then ran with the ball.

Skelton, a fifth-round pick in 2010, had 12 touchdown passes with 22 interceptions and 45 sacks in 17 starts. The Cardinals posted an 8-9 record in those games. That included 5-2 during the 2011 season, results that contributed to then-coach Ken Whisenhunt's decision to name Skelton the starter over Kevin Kolb entering the 2012 season.

Whisenhunt thought the team could win with Skelton as long as the quarterback had help from a strong ground game, talented receivers and a stout defense.

Injuries claimed the Cardinals' top two running backs and multiple starting offensive linemen. Skelton struggled and lost his job to rookie Ryan Lindley during a defeat at Atlanta. Lindley finished the season with zero touchdowns and seven interceptions. Skelton and Lindley combined for two touchdowns with 15 picks in the 10 games they started last season. Arizona went 2-8 in those games.
Judging from the context of Dennis Allen’s conference call with media members, it appears new quarterback Matt Flynn will, as expected, get first crack at the starting quarterback job rather than Terrelle Pryor.

Allen said nothing changes and there will be competition. Well, that was the plan had Carson Palmer stayed, as the Raiders hoped. Allen said earlier this offseason that Palmer would head into camp as the starter. He had talked about specific packages for Pryor. On Monday, Allen continued to say that was the plan for Pryor.

“I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot. Obviously, we feel confident about Matt Flynn as a quarterback and giving him the opportunity to potentially win the starting job,” Allen said. “I think we still feel positive about giving Terrelle Pryor an opportunity to compete and specifically having a package of things that he can do really well and giving him an opportunity. So I don’t know that there’s a whole lot that’s changed as far as the mindset of what we feel like we can do offensively.”

Allen also talked about Flynn -- who has started two games in five NFL seasons -- in the same category as Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers as players who had to wait before getting their turn. It is clear the Raiders are expecting Flynn to be the starter. Sure, Pryor can always beat him out (Flynn lost his job in Seattle last summer to Russell Wilson), but it seems the Raiders still think Pryor has to prove he can handle the job before getting it.

Meanwhile, Tracy Porter may decide where he is going to play in the next couple of days. He has visited Oakland and New Orleans. There is little chance Porter will return to Denver. The Raiders are also interested in Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins.

The Cardinals cut quarterback John Skelton. It is another sign that the Palmer trade will go through with Arizona.
Carson Palmer could become available to the Arizona Cardinals and other teams with unsettled quarterback situations.

A few thoughts on the possibilities:
  • The situation: Palmer is scheduled to earn $13 million in 2013 salary from the Oakland Raiders under a deal inherited from the team's former leadership and renegotiated by its current one last year. Palmer could become available for trade or through release if the sides cannot workout a deal that makes more sense from a salary-cap standpoint. Palmer appears unwilling to rework his contract, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. A timetable for Palmer remains unclear.
  • Forget about a trade: Acquiring Palmer would mean acquiring his contract. I cannot imagine the Cardinals acquiring a $13 million salary for a 33-year-old quarterback who ranked 29th in Total QBR last season at 44.7. That would make no sense, especially if the Raiders were going to release Palmer anyway. Arizona has been freeing itself from cumbersome contracts recently, not seeking them out. The team would have more than $20 million in 2013 cap space committed to Palmer, Drew Stanton and Kevin Kolb's old contract if the team acquired Palmer's current deal.
  • Palmer would help: Palmer has a 12-28 starting record with a 48.1 QBR score and 83.1 NFL passer rating over the past three seasons. He would still upgrade the Cardinals' quarterback situation. Palmer is close to an average starter, in my view. His reputation is better than that, but even if he's merely average, Arizona could use him. The Cardinals got sub-backup play from the position much of last season. They rank last in QBR (26.8) and passer rating (65.7) over the past three seasons. They have zero or one viable starter on the roster right now, depending upon your opinion of Stanton. They need more than that, obviously. Adding Palmer would, in theory, give the Cardinals an average starter and a backup with potential in Stanton. Arizona could then feel better about the position heading into the draft.
  • Cap considerations: The Cardinals released Kolb, but the quarterback's contract is counting $6 million against the Cardinals' salary cap in 2013. Stanton, Brian Hoyer, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley are scheduled to count about $4.9 million against the cap. Any deal with Palmer would be signed in that context. Stanton has guaranteed money in his deal. Hoyer has a $2 million salary that is not guaranteed. The Cardinals have scrambled to fix their salary cap, cutting veterans before signing or re-signing 10 unrestricted free agents for less than $15 million in total cap charges. They would have the flexibility to sign Palmer on a shorter-term deal worth somewhere north of the $5 million per year Matt Hasselbeck recently got as a backup in Indianapolis.
  • Getting ahead of ourselves: If Palmer left the Raiders, Oakland could be in the market for a quarterback such as ... Seattle's Matt Flynn? Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie was in Green Bay when Flynn was there. It's something to keep in mind.
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Cardinals could usually count on a quarterback competition under former coach Ken Whisenhunt.

That sometimes reflected the absence of a franchise quarterback. Whisenhunt also believed in making all players earn their starting jobs, even if it meant going deep into training camp and the preseason without a clearly defined starting quarterback.

Those days are over.

First-year Cardinals coach Bruce Arians plans to name the Cardinals' starter for 2013 well before training camp. That is his philosophy.

"I don't think there's any doubt when you have an established quarterback, it is much better than when someone is competing for a job," Arians said Tuesday from the NFL owners meeting. "Guys' friendships get involved and their own evaluations are made in the locker room because of friendships, and it's not always in the best interests of the ball club."

Whisenhunt and coaches such as the Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll aren't willing to exempt quarterbacks from having to compete for their jobs. Whisenhunt in particular felt credibility in the locker room was at stake when a coach supported one quarterback as the starter in the absence of clear evidence the job had been earned outright.

Arians isn't going to name a starter randomly, of course, but he does treat the position differently. Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid and others lean toward this method of quarterback treatment. They feel as though the position deserves special treatment for the way its handling impacts the locker room.

"It's better to have one and he is your guy and let's rally around that guy," Arians said. "That is just my opinion. I have never been a two-quarterback guy."

Arians was responding to questions about his philosophy independent of what came before him in Arizona. I never brought up Whisenhunt or past quarterback battles featuring Matt Leinart, Kurt Warner, Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, etc.

It was with that history in mind, however, when I asked Arians whether he would be more apt to have a starting quarterback named during the earlier stages of training camp.

"Oh yeah, ours will be done before we get to camp," Arians said. "Our quarterback will be named quickly. We'll just see what is all there when we start practicing."

The recently signed Drew Stanton should have a head start on Brian Hoyer and Skelton when the Cardinals begin practicing. He played under Arians in Indianapolis and knows the offense.

Rules adopted last offseason allow teams with first-year head coaches to begin on-field work early next month. The Cardinals and other teams will not hold offense-against-defense sessions until after the draft.
Drew Stanton is the leader in the Arizona Cardinals' quarterback clubhouse following Kevin Kolb's release Friday.

That could change as the offseason progresses. The team could draft a quarterback or acquire another veteran. Until then, here are a couple of thoughts on where things stand specifically in relation to Stanton:
  • Four starts: Stanton has started four games since Detroit made him a second-round choice (43rd overall) in 2007. There's not enough evidence to say much about his prospects. The chart below shows four-game stat totals for Colin Kaepernick, Kolb, Sam Bradford, Stanton, Russell Wilson, John Skelton, Charlie Whitehurst and Ryan Lindley. They are or recently were young NFC West quarterbacks of note. Wilson's hold on the starting job in Seattle appeared tenuous after four games last season. He finished the season in the Pro Bowl. Four games isn't enough to go on.
  • Circumstances matter: Matt Millen drafted Stanton in Detroit. New Lions leadership drafted Matthew Stafford a year later. That new leadership wanted Shaun Hill as the backup. When injuries forced Stanton into action during the 2010 season, he was the quarterback of record for victories over Green Bay and Tampa Bay. Beating the Buccaneers gave the Lions their first road victory since 2007. To summarize, Stanton walked into a horrible situation in Detroit. That situation got worse for him through no fault of his own. He later signed with the New York Jets only days before the team acquired Tim Tebow. The Jets then traded Stanton to Indianapolis right before the Colts drafted Andrew Luck. It's been one misfortune after another for Stanton. Things could be looking up for him in Arizona.
  • Hoyer in picture: Stanton got a three-year contract worth $8.2 million. The team previously placed a $2 million tender on quarterback Brian Hoyer, meaning any team signing Hoyer would have to send a second-round choice to Arizona if the Cardinals chose against matching.




Thursday, 9/18
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