Best QBs left in free agency

Packers may pursue veteran backup

With Craig Nall off to Buffalo and uncertainty surrounding Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers likely will pursue a veteran backup quarterback during the free agency period.

Here are a few available QBs for general manager Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy to consider:

-- Brian Griese (Tampa Bay) was playing as well as he has in career when going down with a knee injury in the 2005 season. Displaying the ability to play at a high level, Griese was running the Jon Gruden offense in Tampa Bay efficiently.

The Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Chicago Bears have shown an interest in Griese in recent days, with the Bears reportedly on the verge of offering the veteran a contract.

In Chicago, rookie Kyle Orton and oft-injured Rex Grossman led the team into the playoffs last season, but it was the Bears' defense that should be recognized for the success.

The Chicago front office is not comfortable heading into the 2006 season with the same cast at quarterback. Looking to add a veteran presence, which has displayed the ability to lead a team, Griese has become a hot commodity for the team.

Griese can occasionally throw the long ball, but his intermediate passing prowess has developed into one of the best in the game. When pressured, Griese will throw the ball up for grabs at times, which has led to turnovers, but his overall game has improved in the Jon Gruden-style West Coast offense in Tampa.

Under Gruden's tutelage, Griese improved his field-awareness and his check-down process was strong. Playing at the same level as he did in his early days in Denver, Griese had displayed the ability to be an effective and efficient signal-caller, when the talent surrounding him is average or better.

Coming off another knee injury, Griese's limited mobility should not improve. A strong offensive line would be beneficial for a quarterback such as Griese to maximize his ability.

-- Kerry Collins (Oakland) possesses the big-arm coveted by many evaluators at the professional level. Having big-game experience, Collins can provide a team in need with a viable option at this important position.

The Baltimore Ravens could make a strong play for the veteran, but the Packers may as well, especially if Favre does not return. Collins was the starting quarterback for New York Giants when current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel was the head coach.

While Collins' career has been productive, he has shown the tendency for inconsistency. At times, he will force the ball, due to his arm strength and can be pressured into making mistakes. Collins displays average agility and pocket awareness, and he gets caught holding the ball too long, which has resulted in unnecessary sacks and turnovers.

All being said, Collins remains a starting quality quarterback which placed in a system conducive to his talents could excel at a high level.

-- Aaron Brooks (New Orleans) a couple seasons ago could have been regarded as one of the up-and-coming players are the quarterback position. Since his rise to potential stardom, Brooks has struggled with the under-achieving New Orleans Saints.

McCarthy is as aware of Brooks' ability as anybody. Bringing Brooks back to Green Bay is not out of the question, especially if Brooks is unable to compete for a starting job elsewhere.

Brooks over the past couple seasons has gotten away from the strength of his game - his athleticism, but could thrive again under McCarthy.

When playing to his ability, Brooks is elusive. He can move away from the pass rush, set and throw the ball downfield with accuracy, and raise the level of play around him. Never displaying the patience to be a true pocket-passer, Brooks would often force himself to stay in the pocket, and then utilize his speed and quickness to make plays.

But Brooks hasn't played with consistency. Rather than set and throw, he often throws on the run, which has led to an increased number of poor decisions and turnovers. His athleticism, an asset earlier in his career has become a liability. He will quickly escape the pocket and throw into coverage, rather than let the play develop.

Some of the issue surrounding Brooks decline as a top-quality quarterback can be attributed to the situation within the New Orleans organization and New Orleans itself. The troubles and turmoil in New Orleans played on Brooks, and a change of scenery will help him.

Looking for a starting quality quarterback, the Oakland Raiders seem to be the most obvious match for Brooks. The Raiders are a vertical offensive team and Brooks can throw the ball downfield. Oakland head coach Art Shell is a players-type coach, which should fit well into the make-up of Brooks.

Packer Report Top Stories