Quarterback Trade Market Is Tricky Business

Given his youth and promise, Kevin Kolb might be worth a first-round choice once the lockout ends. But projecting a quarterback — such as Kolb or Matt Flynn — with such a limited body of work is tricky business, and any team interested can't be sure the price is right.

If the recent reports are accurate, the Seattle Seahawks offered the Philadelphia Eagles a trade package that included a first-round selection for four-year veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb at some point before the lockout.

This just a year after dealing a third-round pick to San Diego, and switching second-rounders (a difference of 20 slots), for career backup Charlie Whitehurst, who had never started a game in his four seasons with the Chargers, but still got a two-year, $8 million contract from the Seahawks. The seeming mistake with Whitehurst — who, despite starting just two games in 2010, still has a few supporters in the Seattle front office — might be rectified if a Kolb deal is completed.

Or, given the uncertainty and unpredictability of the quarterback position, it could be compounded.

Such is the fickle nature of quarterback trades. Particularly those completed to gain a starter.

Trent Green was a two-time Pro Bowl selection during his six seasons in Kansas City and twice led the Chiefs to the playoffs, but he never won a postseason game. Drew Bledsoe earned a Pro Bowl berth in Buffalo after being acquired from AFC East rival New England in 2002, but the Bills never went to the playoffs in his three years with the franchise. Daunte Culpepper lasted one season in Miami, and in return for a second-round pick, the Dolphins got only our starts. Jake Plummer never played a snap in Tampa Bay after being acquired from Denver. Brian Griese proved to be itinerant. Steve McNair played well at times in Baltimore but faded in his second year with the Ravens. Matt Schaub has posted impressive numbers in Houston but the Texans are seeking a first playoff berth. Washington appears prepared to dump Donovan McNabb after only one season.

The jury is still out on some more recent acquisitions like Matt Cassel, Jay Cutler, Kyle Orton and Jason Campbell. Certainly each has experienced highs and lows.

At the annual league meeting at New Orleans in March, Eagles coach Andy Reid espoused that "some team will win a championship with Kolb," whether it be the Eagles (looking less likely) or someone else. Still, the four-year veteran has just seven regular-seasons starts and, despite throwing for more than 300 yards in three of them, no traded veteran quarterback has won a Super Bowl since 1994.

Reviews are mixed among the coaches and general managers to whom The Sports Xchange spoke in the past week about whether Kolb should command a first-round choice if the Eagles opt to trade him.

Kolb, who will be only 27 in August, certainly seems to be the quarterback in the perceived trade market who offers the best combination of youth, physical tools, contract affordability, potential and some results. But, again, his body of work is limited, and interested teams will be hedging their bets on what he might be able to produce more than the empirical results. Then again, quarterback deals are frequently made (Aaron Brooks and Matt Hasselbeck from the Packers, for instance) in the league as much for what a player might do as for what he has accomplished (Bledsoe, McNair, Brett Favre, Cutler).

"The bottom line," said one coach who is not in the market for a quarterback, "is that you can't win without one. So there's some 'crapshoot quality' to it, definitely. You're willing to gamble a little bit, to roll the dice, if you believe it's the (right) guy."

Still, a first-rounder is a steep price.

Since 2000, there have been trades involving 62 veteran quarterbacks, including eight who were dealt twice in that span. Although a somewhat arbitrary figure, 18 quarterbacks were acquired with the intention of them being starters, immediately or within a year or two. Yet only six of those deals involved a first-round pick.

In starting seven games in his career, Kolb actually has more starts than the two for which Hasselbeck, Brooks and Schaub combined when they were traded.

In the previous three seasons, Cutler was the only quarterback traded whose price tag included a first-round pick. A serviceable starter, Campbell, for instance, went from Washington to Oakland for only a fourth-rounder. Cassel started 15 games in 2008, but was shipped out by the Patriots for a second-round pick. Despite his six Pro Bowl appearances, McNabb didn't fetch a first-round selection.

Given his youth and promise, Kolb might well be worth a first-round choice, when the lockout ends and the trade moratorium is lifted. But projecting a quarterback with such a limited body of work is tricky business. And if history is an indication, the Seahawks, of any other team interested, probably can't be sure the price is right.

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Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.

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