Acquiring veteran quarterback could be costly

In spite Joey Harrington's 361-yard performance in a 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions are still planning to pursue a veteran quarterback this offseason to provide competition at the position and in case of an injury to their starter.

(ALLEN PARK) - In spite Joey Harrington's 361-yard performance in a 28-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions are still planning to pursue a veteran quarterback this offseason to provide competition at the position and in case of an injury to their starter.

A hot topic among fans, some have speculated that Cincinnati's Jon Kitna or Tampa Bay's Brian Griese would be excellent candidates, but acquiring either of those two would be problematic.

Griese, 29, (3rd in the NFC, 97.2 passer rating) has established himself as the starter of the moment and perhaps the future in Tampa. Griese took over after Tampa's 0-4 start and has gone 5-3 as the starting QB. While coach Jon Gruden does have promising Chris Simms on the roster, he likely won't be in any hurry to mortgage the future to get Simms on the field.

Kitna, 32, signed a contract extension early this season to stay another year in Cincinnati despite losing his starting job after throwing for over 3,500 yards and nearly making the Pro Bowl. He did it, due in large part to not wanting to put his family through another relocation. Kitna and his family endured a cross-country move from Seattle to Cincinnati and he has expressed a desire to finish his career there.

Still, if he were acquired by Detroit he might not even have to move from Cincinnati, a four-hour drive away. Kitna would be the ideal candidate for Detroit since he is young enough and talented enough to provide solid competition for three or four years.

The bigger obstacle would be acquiring him. He won't come cheap, Cincinnati would likely want at least a 3rd round pick and maybe a 2nd, something that Detroit would be reluctant to part with.

So that leaves Lions fans looking for players whose contracts expire at the end of the 2004 season. The list isn't that great, Quincy Carter of the New York Jets, Vinnie Testaverde of the Dallas Cowboys, Gus Frerotte of the Minnesota Vikings and Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks.

Of that group, Hasselbeck stands out as the prize. Having thrown for 3,000 yards in each of the last three seasons, he is a seasoned veteran of the west coast offensive system under Mike Holmgren, Lions coach Steve Mariucci's former mentor.

Additionally Hasselbeck, 29, is young enough and moving into the prime of his career. He is likely to command a $10 million dollar bonus from any team he signs with. Detroit probably doesn't want to spend that kind of money. It is also extremely doubtful that Seattle will ever let him hit the open market.

Carter, just 27, on the other hand, might provide competition for Harrington but comes with some flaws. Carter has failed at least one NFL mandated drug test and another one would bring a lengthy suspension from the NFL.

Still, he threw for over 3,000 as the Cowboys starter last season and was an impressive 2-1 in relief of Jets starter Chad Pennington over a three-week stretch. Carter would likely be cheaper to sign due to his flaws and that would appeal to Detroit.

Testaverde's age, 40, would be a concern for Detroit although he has played relatively well in stretches. He would not provide any kind of meaningful competition for Harrington since his age means he would only be a stop gap. Still, his knowledge of the game and his ability to act as a mentor to a young quarterback might appeal to Detroit, an added plus is his ability to produce on a short term basis.

Testaverde would be an upgrade over both Rick Mirer and Mike McMahon. The only question is would he be interested in coming to Detroit?

Frerrote is the longest shot among this group. Having already backed up for Charlie Batch in Detroit, he still has a strong arm but hasn't been the best decision maker over the years. While his contract will expire, Detroit and Frerotte might not be the best fit.

The Lions could look to the trade route to acquire a seasoned veteran who is currently a #2 but has starting ability. Topping that list is the Titans Billy Volek.

Volek has had some sensational individual performances in relief of starter Steve McNair despite Tennesee's losing record. With McNair having undergone sternum surgery, the Titans may decide they cannot even consider trading Volek or they may decide to make him the permanent starter. He would likely require high draft pick compensation and perhaps even first round pick compensation.

That is highly unlikely from Detroit.

Seattle's Trent Dilfer has shown he can make the necessary plays to get a team to the Super Bowl. With Seattle having to invest major dollars in Hasselbeck, they might decide to listen to offers for Dilfer, 32, who probably has another two or three years left in the tank.

The wild card in all of this is the Saints' Aaron Brooks. Brooks has worn out his welcome in New Orleans, even with the Saints on the cusp of a playoff berth. Brooks has a huge cap number, close to $7 million next season and New Orleans is said to be considering releasing him to save cap room. If that's the case, they'll be competitors in the quarterback market next off-season.

Brooks has talent and would likely want to go somewhere he could start. That could be Miami or Arizona, who have uncertain quarterback situations. Dallas could also be interested. Brooks would be looking to recoup some of the money and would likely want at least $2 million as a starting point in any contract discussions. That might be too high for Detroit's blood.

While everyone seemingly agrees that a veteran quarterback is needed, acquiring quarterbacks is never easy and is a costly process. How much will Detroit be willing to ante up?

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