Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Free Agency Preview: Quarterbacks

As the Scouting Combine begins to get under way, a lot of attention is going to turn towards the Draft. However, with free agency beginning on February 29, now is a good time to take a look at the likely options that will be available in free agency, and to determine which players Miami should steer clear of and which players might make a good fit for the Dolphins.

In order to properly assess the options available, we must establish some guidelines for what this team is looking for. This team is officially rebuilding. I would put its ETA as a competing team in the range of 2-3 years from now. Given that reality, any free agents the Dolphins add should be added with a view towards that eventual time frame.

Here are a few rules the team should adhere to as it starts to shop around:
  • Go for youth/stay clear from older players. This team is not one or two players away from competing. Thus, older veterans with little left in the tank should not be brought aboard. Miami needs to look for young players with upside still remaining so that they can be developed while the team is rebuilding. Older players have generally reached their potential already and will demand a large salary for little production. As a flexible rule, Miami should only look to add players who are under 30 years old.
  • Avoid the Joey Porter-type salaries. Maintaining a healthy salary cap from year to year is critical for any team, and especially one with a long-term plan of rebuilding. If Miami is going to spend the big-bucks on a player in free agency (and with $35 million in cap space they most likely will) that player had better be young and getting better, not old and declining. One bad contract could hamper the team for years down the line.
  • Avoid character-issues. Miami is in no position to be taking risks on players with character concerns. Their potential does not outweigh the risks.
  • Horde draft picks. Miami needs every draft pick that it can muster. It shouldn't even think about trading away picks for restricted free agents.
Let's begin our look at the possible free agents that will be available with the quarterback position.

The situation: Miami's only viable option at QB at this moment is John Beck. And that's not such a bad thing, in my opinion. He's young and has a great amount of untapped potential - a perfect mix for a rebuilding project. Miami has the time to let him develop, so let's let him develop. We don't need an old veteran to come in and start. What good will that be to this team down the line? However, an older QB could be useful as a backup/mentor for Beck.

Free agents:
  • Derek Anderson, RFA: Anderson may sign an extension to stay in Cleveland, but if he doesn't the Browns might put a restricted free agent tender on him forcing any team that wants him to pony up a first-round and third-round draft pick or possibly even two first-round picks. Anderson was pretty good this year. He was nowhere near being good enough to warrant that kind of investment. Anderson came out of nowhere this year, and for all we know this season could have been little more than a flash in the pan. I doubt that it was, but no one knows whether he can maintain that level of play in the future. If he were an unrestricted free agent, I would be very excited about adding Anderson, but with the added price tag of high draft picks, it simply isn't worth it.
  • Rex Grossman, UFA: It should be clear by now that Grossman is too erratic to rely on as a starting QB. Sure, he may turn in a dazzling performance now and again, but more often than not you are going to get horrendous starts out of him. Some coaches might think they can fix that, but I'm not of that opinion. He's had ample opportunity to change, and he hasn't. I wouldn't expect that to suddenly change with a change in scenery. If Miami brought him in strictly to serve as the backup, I would be okay with that. But if he were to take starting reps away from Beck, that would not sit well with me. I doubt Parcells and Ireland will want him anyway, as he is much smaller (6'1", 217 lbs.) than they would prefer.
  • Daunte Culpepper, UFA: With the way that Culpepper and Miami parted ways, I think it's best to stay away from a reunion. Add to that the fact that Culpepper is 30 and will likely never be back to his old form and he becomes one guy to stay away from for sure.
  • Josh McCown, UFA: McCown is nothing special, but he is still relatively young (28) and isn't completely terrible - two things that would make him a decent backup for Miami. At 6'4", he's got the height that Parcells would like. Still, I think the Phins can do better than this.
  • Quinn Gray, UFA: I would love to see Miami sign Gray to be the backup QB. He's only 28 years old and in his brief appearances has played pretty well. Gray played in 8 games last season for the Jaguars (4 starts) and put up 986 yards with 10 TDs and only 5 INTs. His QB rating was 85.6 and his DVOA rating was a surpring 19.5%, good for 12th best in the league (see here for explanation). If Jacksonville doesn't resign Gray, Miami should jump on him quickly.
  • Trent Green, UFA: Yes, Miami recently cut Green, but both sides were amenable to rejoining one another. Green certainly doesn't fit the youth characteristic, but as I have written about previously, if Green were to come back strictly as the third string QB, I would like to have him back. In that position, he would serve primarily as a second QB coach for Beck, and it seems like Beck and Green had a very good relationship this past season. I think Beck would be well-served from another year with Green by his side. Unfortunately, I doubt Green's competitive desire will allow him to accept such a role.
While there are no "must-haves" in this pool of free agents, I think that Miami's shopping list should be (in order of preference):
  1. Quinn Gray
  2. Rex Grossman
  3. Josh McCown
Most of the other guys should be avoided.

My ideal lineup at QB next season would be:
  1. John Beck
  2. Quinn Gray
  3. Rookie

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