Commentary

Market for QBs is taking shape

A Friday of frantic action underscores teams' eagerness to solidify position

Originally Published: March 10, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

We all know the NFL is all about the quarterbacks, and Friday only confirmed it.

The Redskins traded three No. 1s and a No. 2 to move into position to draft Robert Griffin III. The Broncos, Cardinals and Dolphins made mad scrambles to have audiences with Peyton Manning. Unable to land Manning, the Jets did an expensive three-year extension with Mark Sanchez.

All of a sudden, the quarterback landscape is taking shape.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/The Denver Post/John LeybaPeyton Manning's meeting in Denver heated up activity in the quarterback market.
If the Broncos land Manning, they may try to unload Tim Tebow -- if someone is interested in trading for him. That might be tough. The Dolphins will probably land Manning or Matt Flynn. If the Seahawks can't get Flynn, they may have to draft Ryan Tannehill.

And the Browns?

It's either landing Flynn or sticking with Colt McCoy.

Already the rest of the teams in the quarterback market are settling for what's left. Former Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne might have to back up Sanchez in New York. Jason Campbell knows he has to take a backup job somewhere. Kyle Orton could go back to Kansas City or Chicago as a backup. Vince Young and others will be scrambling just to land jobs.

The panic over Manning on Friday was fascinating. Once he hit the road for visits, we had a chance to see how teams felt about their current quarterbacks. Tebow may be a fan favorite, but management in Denver knows he's a work in progress. Improving his mechanics and accuracy will take time.

And what's happening in Arizona? At the Super Bowl, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald went through the press box and stopped by to say hello. I asked him how Kevin Kolb was developing. He gave a positive report on Kolb but said, "If No. 18 [Manning] were available, I'd want him."

As it turns out, the Cardinals, according to sources, have lost confidence in Kolb and are desperate to get Manning. If they don't get him, they can spend the offseason working with Kolb. If the Cards do get Manning, they would let Kolb go.

They have to make a decision by March 17. That's when Kolb is scheduled to receive a $7 million roster bonus. Though getting Kolb cost them a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the Cardinals wouldn't mind admitting it was a gamble that didn't work out if they could get Manning.

No doubt Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC so he doesn't hinder Eli Manning's chances of going back to the Super Bowl. But he's also looking for the best team to get himself back to the Super Bowl. Arizona could be compelling, because the NFC West is winnable. Denver could work because a healthy Manning could win the AFC West.

Miami has one liability for Manning. The Dolphins are in the same division as Tom Brady. If Manning doesn't believe the Dolphins are better than the New England Patriots, he may lean toward Denver or Arizona. Kansas City is also an intriguing option.

Some of the losers in these quarterback derbies aren't in bad shape. The Chiefs still have Matt Cassel, and he was good enough to get the Chiefs into the playoffs two years ago. The Browns still have hopes of developing McCoy. Seattle and Dolphins are the most desperate to improve at quarterback.

Friday's urgency illustrated how important it is to make moves on quarterbacks. To win in this league, it's vital.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer