Point/Counterpoint: Draft a QB in the 1st?

In this first Point/Counterpoint series for 2009, guest columnist Mark Salois discusses why taking a QB in the first round is a risk.

Some Seahawk fans feel that it may finally be time for Seattle to use their unusually high (for them) 1st round draft choice to select the eventual replacement for 3 time pro bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Here are just a few of the reasons why that could be a decision that may have negative effects on this franchise for years to come:

1. Salary Cap Impact

With the 2009 salary cap expected to be in the area of $123 million (up 6% from 2008) we can estimate how much a quarterback drafted with one of the top 10 picks will cost.

2008 #3 overall pick Matt Ryan signed a 6-year $72 million deal that included $34.75 in guaranteed monies.
2007 #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell was inked to a 6 year $61 million deal including $32 million in guarantees.
2006 #3 pick Vince Young cashed in with a 5-year deal worth $58 million with $25.7 guaranteed.
2005 #1 overall pick Alex Smith agreed to a $49.5 million deal with $24 million in guarantees.

Noticing a trend here? Since 2005, these four quarterbacks have represented an annual rookie salary hike of 12%. For our purposes we'll assume a conservative 5% salary increase for the top slotted quarterbacks in the 2009 draft and use the average salary of the first 2 quarterbacks on the above list, Matt Ryan and JaMarcus Russel. So we'll go with an average of a 6-year deal of $69.825 million (with the 5% adjustment), which includes $33.37 in guaranteed money.

Matt Hasselbeck is slated to cost $9 million against the cap and Seneca's pay will add $1.9 million. If one were to add a highly drafted quarterback's salary (near $11 million) to this the problem becomes clear. The Seahawks would be tying up 18% of the 2009 salary cap on 5.7% of the roster, none of who are likely to be on the field at the same time. The above numbers are simple averages only. Contract structures and rookie pool allocation can and do make the numbers very liquid.

There have been whispers that the league is considering adopting a rookie salary cap in the very new future (perhaps in time for the 2010 draft). If that is indeed the case, the Seahawks could benefit greatly by staying the course for next year hoping that the proposed cap kicks in and brings 1st round draft choice's salaries down to more manageable levels. Add in the fact that the CBA is due to expire soon and it is clear to me that this is a bad year to lay out that much guaranteed money for what amount to a big question mark.

2. Rookie quarterback or instant known talent upgrade?

How would you like to make a coveted free agent an offer he could not refuse? Say someone like Albert Haynesworth. How about signing budding star Leroy Hill to a well deserved long-term contract? Can you envision how good this defense could be if we had a stud DT like Haynesworth keeping blockers off of our dynamic linebacker corp? I can. And I like it a lot.

The money that would be spent signing a rookie quarterback to a long-term deal could buy us a Haynesworth and a Hill extension with cash left over.

3. Fear of the unknown

Ryan Leaf. Alex Smith. Andre Ware. Cade McNown. David Carr. Tim Couch. Akaili Smith. Rick Mirer. Just some examples of epic 1st round quarterback busts.

Scared yet? If that is not scary enough let me remind you who will be making the draft picks this year. The defensive minded duo of Tim Ruskell and Jim Mora. I'd feel much better about investing a 1st round draft choice on a potential franchise quarterback if it was someone like Mike Holmgren making the evaluations.

A healthy Matt Hasselbeck is a 33 year old pro bowl caliber quarterback. The concern regarding his back is valid, but all recent reports indicate that the doctors believe that he will fully heal with a few more weeks of rest. If injuries should once again strike, we have a more than capable back-up in 28 year old Seneca Wallace who is in the midst of enjoying the most impressive stretch of his career. The quarterback situation in Seattle is just fine and many organizations would gladly take the Hasselbeck/Wallace combo if it were available to them.

That said, I think we can all agree that Hasselbeck is mostly a product of the system who benefited by having quarterback gurus Holmgren and Zorn teaching him. He has average arm strength, speed, and agility but counters with excellent footwork and football intelligence. Those very traits describe many quarterbacks that will still on the board in the 3rd round in almost any draft (exception taken re: David Greene). The point is that we can find a quarterback that is well suited to run our future offense without having to use a high draft pick to do so.

It's been stated several times that any NFL quarterback can pick any defense apart if they are given adequate time in the pocket. Almost the entire 2009 offensive draft should be focused on upgrading the line (with the exception of possibly a wide receiver). If Matt's back is as bad as some make it out to be, even Seneca Wallace could lead this team on a long playoff run if he is given time to throw.

You can get to and win a super bowl with an average or even below average quarterback. Trent Dilfer and Ben Roethlisberger have proven that. Hell, you can even get to the big one with Sexy Rex Grossman behind center. The phrase that "defense wins championships" is overused but at the same time very valid. Even I could give the 3 keys to the game that the talking heads are always yapping about right before kickoff. 1. Win the turnover battle. 2. Run the football. 3. Play good defense.

My conclusion would be that we do not need a quarterback right now. We need offensive lineman. We need a big fat stud DT. We need a healthy wide receiver. If we can get some of those positions shored up, the health of Hasselbeck becomes less of a concern. We could run the ball more effectively and protect Matt better. As stated above, even a quarterback the likes of Dan Marino cannot win a super bowl without a quality complement of teammates helping him. John Elway could not get it done until Terrell Davis showed up and turned him into more of a game manager type QB.

We need to use every available resource upgrading the supporting members of this team. Right now quarterback is the least of our worries.

Mark Salois is known to NET Nation as acer1240. If you would like to drop Mark an email, you can do so at: saloisd@mtintouch.net

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