I can’t help but speculate at this time of year what the next season’s roster will look like. Obviously, the quarterback position is on my mind. Isn’t it always? You guys probably think I’m a little obsessive about that position, and maybe I am, but it’s the spot that drives the team both offensively and defensively. Its importance cannot be underestimated. No, I’m not here to battle the draftniks again for the rights to the first overall pick. In fact, I think that the boards and perhaps the Lions will start to drift away from Stafford and Sanchez as viable number one options. I’m not a scout, so my information comes from the same place yours does and those sources are not as high on either of these guys like they were a few weeks ago. It’ll all change a thousand times before late April, so this chatter is nothing more than speculation… like all media talk about the draft.
But if it’s not Stafford or Sanchez, then who? Someone has to be under center come September. There are only four truly viable options to get a quarterback. Draft one, sign one, trade for one, or use one you already have. Let’s look at each of these in a little detail and I’ll give my opinion on what percent chance each of these scenarios has of actually happening.
In the Lion’s immediate situation, I disagree wholeheartedly with taking a quarterback lower than the first round. If we are going that route, just start Stanton. Don’t waste another pick on a guy that’s purely potential or project. If that type of player exists on your roster, you don’t pick him again (i.e. Stanton & Henson). If you draft a guy in the first round, it sends the clear signal that he is either the starter or the heir apparent… no controversy. At some point, he’ll get every opportunity to play. The lower round guys rarely get that opportunity. The staff never truly believes in him. His shot is in pre-season and then he always has to beat out the journeyman stop-gap that we’ve signed. It just doesn’t seem to work well. If it’s not at the top, drafting is not a good option this year.
Percent chance our starter will come from the draft: 20%
Well, the list is pretty thin. Unless some unexpected cuts happen, the probability of finding a quality starter in Free Agency is bleak. I think that Collins and Warner are back with their respective teams in 2009 and even so, why sign a guy for one season unless you have a young guy waiting in the wings. We already have Kitna and Culpepper on the roster. That leaves Matt Cassell, who will likely be franchised, or someone like J.P. Losman or Rex Grossman. No, they don’t make me feel warm and fuzzy about the starting position either. Like I said, unless some team makes a relatively dramatic move, quarterback free agency will look like a bare cupboard come March.
Percent chance our starter will come from free agency: 5%
In order to trade for someone, there must be a team out there with two quality quarterbacks. Quality, of course, is a matter of one’s opinion. I still hear people talking about trading for Derek Anderson. Why? The guy had weapons around him this year and proved that he was a one-hit wonder or an inconsistent player at best. Why give a pick for him? Keep in mind, that to give up a pick the guy has to be capable of starting and still have upside. Take guys like Todd Collins or Brad Johnson off the table right now. Hopefully, that is not who we are looking for. Also, take all of the heir apparents off the table as well. Guys like Matt Leinart, Vince Young, etc. Their teams still expect a contribution from them and either won’t part with them or if they do, it will come at a very steep price. There are only a few guys in mind that MIGHT be good trade options if the trade comes cheap enough. My short list would include… Kyle Orton, Alex Smith, Seneca Wallace, Kellen Clemens, Jim Sorgi, and Sage Rosenfels. These are guys that have shown a little potential and are still young enough to have a few good years left. I added Sorgi because learning behind Manning has to count for something. Anyway, you are probably about as impressed with this list as I am. Unless one of these guys comes dirt cheap and all other options fail, I doubt that trading will be the ticket.
Percent chance our starter will come via trade: 1%
The Lions had five different quarterbacks take snaps this year and it’s appalling that we still don’t know if we have a starter in our midst. The options are Orlovsky, Stanton, Culpepper, Henson and Kitna. Let’s be real and take Henson off the list. He’s a project, nothing more. Having him and Stanton should keep the Lions from taking a late round project. Stanton is the real wild card here. I have no idea what Mayhew thinks of him. Are they secretly thinking he can start or like Martz, Coletto and Marinelli, do they feel he’s a not-so-ready for primetime player? Mayhew and Schwartz’s plans for Stanton will directly impact all personnel moves. Orlovsky is the biggest bust/boom prospect. He’s a risk because you have to put yet another financial investment in him… even though he is still relatively unproven. In his starts, he was average at best (on an average offense) and never showed flashes of greatness. I’m afraid they want him as a one-year starter and have to pay a 2 to 3 year price for him. In the end, though, I think he’ll disappoint. Culpepper, in my humble opinion, is at the end of a good career and can’t help the Lions anymore. He’s too old to have potential and too expensive to sign short term. Kitna is the real intrigue for me here. Not necessarily in a good way. Probably still the most capable quarterback on the roster for a one-year option. The true questions about Kitna are if he can 1) overcome the cold shoulder he received from the Lions and put his heart back into the game and this city, 2) be content with whatever offensive approach the Lions decide to take and 3) be okay with being the back-up if need be.
Percent chance our starter will come from the current roster: 74%
All of that said… my approach would be to first cut Culpepper. Regardless of anything else that happens, Culpepper cannot help this team any more than Kitna and Kitna is cheaper. Also, regardless of the draft, I would NOT resign Orlovsky. With limited options, it will be tempting, but they should go another route. If all else fails… draft options fall through, no quality free agents or trade options… they should keep Kitna, Stanton and Henson on the roster. Let Kitna and Stanton battle for the number one spot and Henson remains a pet project. If Kitna wins out, start him and prepare to take a quarterback in the 2010 draft. If Stanton wins, Kitna is your quality, veteran quarterback and Stanton will get his chance to show that he is your quarterback of the future. If he turns out to be a stud, it saves you a first round pick next year as well. If, of course, Stafford grades out at number one, you still keep Stanton and Kitna. Kitna becomes your back-up and Stanton takes Henson’s spot as the project.
Okay, lots of opinions to digest. Remember, this isn’t a discussion about wanting to draft a quarterback or not… we’ve beat that one to death, I think. I want to hear your comments on trade options or free agent options that I missed and what to do with the guys on the roster. Swing away!