Free Agent QB Preview

By PFC Writer Wayne Lin

This offseason should be an interesting one for quarterbacks.  With so many teams in the hunt for a bona fide QB, talks will be heating up for a few quarterbacks that have the potential to be a sure starter.  The list has a few players worthy to be a starter in certain systems. 

JT O’Sullivan, San Francisco: The JT O’Sullivan project is over in the bay area.  He played admirably in the Mike Martz offense, but eventually gave way to Shaun Hill.  O’Sullivan finished the season with 1,678 yards passing and eight touchdowns.  The problem was he had 11 interceptions.  Part of O’Sullivan’s development hinged on his ability to run a system offense, which he did under Martz, but after Singletary took over, it was lights out for O’Sullivan.

Strengths: Believe it or not, he has tremendous arm strength.  The ability to get it down field, and accurately, was a huge factor in a few of the 49er’s wins last season.  He also has good footwork.  He can run out of the pocket and scramble, but he’s not that fast; not fast enough to gain a few yards.

Weaknesses: O’Sullivan has a knack to try to throw it into coverage or fit the ball into tight spaces.  Some QB’s in the league are talented at doing that, but not O’Sullivan.  He also struggles reading the coverage.  His inability to look at the third, sometimes fourth option did him in.  A three yard gain is better than sack or an incompletion.  It can be argued that he didn’t have the offensive line to protect him.

Prediction: O’Sullivan will end up with the Bengals.  The Bengals are a team that was in need of veteran leadership at the quarterback position. After Carson Palmer went down, they turned to Ryan Fitzpatrick.  He didn’t do that well to fill his shoes, but good enough to win a few games.  Cincy will look to bring some kind of veteran leadership in case oft-injured Palmer goes down again.

Jeff Garcia: Garcia is a journeyman, but he can fit well in any system.  He proved that in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Tampa Bay.  His age is working against him and his injuries each season are mounting.  That doesn’t bode well for him, but he still maintains a good veteran status.  Garcia came off the bench in Philadelphia and took the Eagles into the playoffs.  That goes to show he never missed a beat.

Strengths: He has great vision of the field.  His eagle-like vision sets him apart from the rest of the competition. One thing he prided himself on in ’08 was his ability to hit his third, fourth, sometimes fifth reads.  Essentially, he puts everything in front of him to get a better view of things.  Unlike O’Sullivan, he can fit the ball into tight places.  Ask Antonio Bryant.

Weaknesses:
His age doesn’t help.  With age also go intangibles.  He’s not as fast as he used to be and that leads to no yards gained or sacks that were pivotal down the stretch for the Bucs.  The speed he used to put on the ball is also down.  Garcia, in his days in San Francisco was known to be a gunslinger, but those slinging days are well behind him.  Garcia is also prone to injuries. In ’08 he had to make way for Brian Griese, who at times looked brilliant and at other times didn’t.

Prediction: Garcia will stay in Tampa.  It was well known his dislike of Gruden but now that Gruden is out in Tampa, Garcia will be back for at least one more season.  However, next season will be his last and the Bucs will select a rookie in the draft to mold under Garcia.  Griese won’t be the long term answer nor are the many other quarterbacks the Bucs like to employ.

Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers used him sparingly even after Roethlisberger went down with a concussion.  Leftwich, known for the last minute cut in ’07 from the Jags, still has the youth and intangibles of a quarterback to land somewhere and compete for a starting job.  I hear Detroit is looking for a quarterback and everything else.

Strengths: He’s mobile.  His mobility has been his strong suit even when in college.  He made the transition from Marshall to the pros with his legs, not necessarily his arm.  Under the definition of playmaker, earlier in his career he was one, and one of the best.  However, as time went on, the offensive line for the Jags and his want to do too much eventually cost him.  Leftwich’s footwork is still pretty solid.  Coming out of the pocket for the quarterback is important and he can shuffle and get out of there quickly.

Weaknesses: Leftwich is not a good run and throw quarterback.  He needs time to set his feet and throw it.  One of the problems that plagued Leftwich in his career is doing too much with the ball.  That entails Leftwich running out of the pocket to do things with this feet and making bad choices with the ball.  That in turn, leads to interceptions, fumbles, sacks, you name it.  He doesn’t like throwing the ball away.

Prediction: He will go to the Lions.  They are the best possible candidate to land Leftwich because he has had a few seasons as starter and he could be the spark to help win some games.  Jim Schwartz, now coach of the Lions saw much of Leftwich in Jacksonville so he knows how he plays.  Part of the issue with Leftwich in Jacksonville was he didn’t have a bona fide wide receiver to throw to.  John Kitna will most likely be out of Detroit.

Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals: No matter where he goes, he’s a winner.  He helped Eli Manning develop into the quarterback he is today.  Without Warner’s help there is no telling whether Eli would’ve taken the Giants to the Super Bowl in ’08.  Warner is excellence reincarnated.

Strengths: He’s got a cannon for an arm.  What’s better is that he’s so accurate.  He can lead a receiver to his target and that in and of itself is worthy of greatness.  It also helped he had receivers like Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald at this call.  Warner can make third and fourth string receivers look good as well.  Time management has never been an issue, particularly when the game is on the line.

Weaknesses: He starts games slowly (exception the Philadelphia game in the playoffs) but finishes strongly.  He has that flair for the dramatic.  Warner is going to the Hall of Fame, but it won’t be because of his speed.  Warner is one of the slowest quarterbacks in the league.

Prediction: Retirement.  He hinted at it earlier in the season after Boldin went down and now with Todd Haley taking the reign in Kansas City, Warner will be done and passes on his teaching and experience to Matt Leinart.

Matt Cassel, New England Patriots: This one is a little more odd because the Patriots put the franchise tag on Cassel.  Cassel is guaranteed over $14 million this season because of it, but some teams might shy away from that high price for a quarterback that only has one year of experience.

Strengths: The ability to read the defense.  He’s good at doing it because he played against a tough defense in college (USC) and in the pros on the second team.  He’s deadly accurate and can get the ball past the defense.  Even if a receiver is double teamed he can still get past the defenders.

Weaknesses: He only has one season under his belt.  Though he made that count, there are questions as to whether he can play this way at a consistent level.

Prediction: Chiefs take him despite the steep money.  Cassel takes the Chiefs to the first round of the playoffs and gets ousted by Brady and the Patriots.

How did I do?  If I left your favorite quarterback off the list, let me know and I’ll address him then.