Cardinals get a young leader
It was the only move the Arizona Cardinals could make. They did not need a stop-gap at quarterback, someone who could hold down the fort while the coaches groomed John Skelton, their fifth-round draft pick last year. They needed someone who could win, now and in the future, so that maybe Larry Fitzgerald will stay in Arizona past this season and try to help the franchise get back to the Super Bowl.
Donovan McNabb and Matt Hasselbeck are fine quarterbacks capable of leading a team into the playoffs, but at their age, they are not long-term solutions. Kevin Kolb is young, talented and hungry, if not still a little green. He is 26 years old, with four valuable years in the Philadelphia Eagles' system, and after getting passed on the depth chart last season by the unexpectedly spectacular return of Michael Vick, Kolb is highly motivated to lead a team.
Arizona certainly expects Kolb to be the man. The Cardinals gave up Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round draft pick to Philadelphia for Kolb, and then gave Kolb a reported five-year, $63 million contract that included $22 million in guaranteed money.
That is quite the haul for Kolb, who has started just seven career games. The pressure will be on Kolb to succeed, and succeed quickly.
Kolb is unquestionably a risk, but he is a good buy. He is the son of a football coach, and a student of the game. In seven starts for the Eagles, Kolb showed he has decent arm strength and an ability to put the ball on target. He has had strong performances, such as his game against Atlanta last season when he completed 79 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns. The next week against Tennessee, however, he struggled, throwing two picks.
Kolb plays at a quick tempo, although he has had a tendency to lock in on his receivers. He is not elusive but with time should develop confidence in the pocket. Having Fitzgerald should help. The two worked out together this summer, anticipating that a deal would occur.
Kolb is a natural leader who inspires his teammates. Eagles players loved him, until Vick showed he was the Vick of old. Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was sold on Kolb after speaking to him following the trade. "I can see now we have something special," Dockett tweeted, and he was right.
Ashley Fox covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
Trade saves Vikings' season
Up front, I have to acknowledge that my elite quarterback theory didn't work last year when I thought Donovan McNabb would add a couple of wins to the Washington Redskins. An elite quarterback going to a new team should add at least four points a game.
For whatever reason, McNabb wasn't elite, and he turned into a bench player for Mike Shanahan by the end of the season. Maybe McNabb, who is 34, has lost that edge of being an elite quarterback, but I think he's the one quarterback move that was the best of the offseason, topping the Kevin Kolb trade to Arizona.
I compare the Kolb trade to the Matt Schaub move to the Houston Texans in 2008. Schaub put up good numbers during his first couple of years in Houston, but he didn't move into the elite category until his third season, when he started putting up 4,000-yard seasons. Kolb may follow the same pattern -- put up good numbers early and develop into a potential elite quarterback in a few years.
Kolb is a significant upgrade for the Cardinals, but the McNabb-to-the-Vikings move saves Minnesota's season. The Vikings have a lot of older players on their roster, and their window for winning is small. They are also in a push to get a new stadium, and they need to become competitive and successful.
McNabb gives him that chance. The key for him is his ability to avoid interceptions. During his years with Andy Reid in Philadelphia, McNabb might not have been the most accurate West Coast offense quarterback, but he was one of the best in NFL history at not throwing interceptions.
Sure, his interception total grew to 15 last year in Washington, but he didn't have great receiving and running talent around him. In Minnesota, he has Adrian Peterson, one of the best runners in football. Peterson corrected a fumbling problem last year, and if McNabb goes back to his old ways of protecting the ball, the Vikings should be able to sustain drives and score points.
Had the Vikings gone with Christian Ponder at quarterback, I think it would have been hard for them to get to nine wins unless Peterson had a 1,600-yard season. The presence of McNabb may not make the Vikings a 10- or 12-win team, but at least he should get the team to nine wins. That's why his addition was the most significant among the quarterbacks this offseason.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.