Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb might be a pretty good fit with the Vikings because Philadelphia and Minnesota have both run the West Coast offense for years. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
There are a few quarterbacks that are going to hear their names called in the first round of next month's NFL Draft, but there is no Sam Bradford or Matthew Stafford at the top -- slam-dunk prospects rated No. 1 overall -- like we saw the last two Aprils.
Missouri's Blaine Gabbert and Auburn's Cam Newton currently top the list at the game's most important position, although Gabbert is another in a long line of spread-option question marks and Newton's game didn't resemble that of a pro passer when winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship this past year. While Jake Locker of Washington and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas are battling to stay in Round 1, Locker's accuracy is a concern and Mallett's lack of mobility sends up red flags.
Sure sounds like a great time for Philadelphia to trade one-time starter Kevin Kolb, who lost his job to Comeback Player of the Year Michael Vick in 2010 and vows to be under center elsewhere in 2011. Eagles coach Andy Reid made his best effort to stay loyal to Kolb, as he did previously time and time again for the departed Donovan McNabb, but there was no denying Vick's metamorphosis from runner-that-can-also-pass to passer-that-can-also-run. Kolb has nothing to be embarrassed about after he was demoted to clipboard duty despite a long offseason receiving first-team reps, as Vick pulled a Randall Cunningham circa 1998: going from benchwarmer to MVP candidate.
At least a dozen teams around the league are in the market for a new signal caller, including three with top-10 picks in the draft that have been burned one way or another by failed first-round QBs of recent vintage. The Cardinals (No. 5) got next to nothing from Matt Leinart, the 49ers (7) need to finally cut the cord with Alex Smith and the Titans (8) for too long have been in a toxic relationship with Vince Young -- all three franchises may be hesitant to roll those dice again.
Kolb would be an immediate upgrade over anyone currently in Arizona, San Francisco or Tennessee, but the most logical destination for him is Minnesota.
The Vikings own the No. 12 selection in Round 1, and while they'd have to take a hard look at either Gabbert or Newton if one of the other was still on the board, that doesn't mean they'd be willing to give the pick away for Kolb, who is somewhat established but far from a sure thing.
"The Eagles said at the NFL owners meetings that they already have a first-round offer for Kolb and are hoping to receive one higher in the first round," said Tim Yotter, the publisher of VikingUpdate.com. "Don't bet on the Vikings being willing to give up their pick at No. 12 overall unless they would be able to sign Kolb beyond the one year he has left on his contract. Kolb would have been more attractive last year (if Brett Favre had stayed inactive), when the Vikings were drafting 30th and their offense looked more like the Eagles."
Using the power of deductive reasoning -- you took geometry in high school, didn't you? -- that first-round offer the Eagles have on the table is likely from Seattle, which is sitting at No. 25. Matt Hasselbeck threw the pigskin very well in the playoffs and still has the confidence of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, but he'll be 36 years old in September and is coming off a season in which he posted his worst passer rating (73.2) since 2001. With the exception of the Dolphins at 15 and maybe the Jaguars at 16, every other team from 13-24 has a quality quarterback.
Recently-axed Vikings coach Brad Childress was a disciple of Reid in Philiadelphia from 1999-2005 and served as offensive coordinator his final three seasons there, so even though the two organizations have run a similar scheme for some time, Childress' ouster during the 2010 campaign opened the door for change.
"With new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, the Vikings will still employ concepts of the West Coast offense, but it won't be as similar to Philadelphia's as it was when Childress was running the show," Yotter said. "Kolb is an option, for sure, but he isn't without risk because he's never completely grabbed hold of a starting opportunity."
Favre is (fingers crossed) retired once and for all. Tarvaris Jackson wasn't so much as tendered a contract as a restricted free agent and won't be back. Joe Webb had some highlights as a sixth-round rookie, but, remember, he was originally selected to be a receiver. Minnesota has to make some sort of starting-caliber addition at quarterback, be it a relatively high draft choice, a veteran free agent or through a trade.
Making matters worse for the Vikings as far as the draft is concerned, coach Leslie Frazier doesn't have a third rounder anymore since Childress carelessly shipped it to New England in October for four games worth of Randy Moss. If another position is addressed at No. 12, that means they could be forced to take one of the second-tier prospects in Round 2 like Florida State's Christian Ponder or Nevada's Colin Kaepernick. Ponder may be able to compete quickly because he looks like a West Coast passer, but Kaepernick needs at least a year of seasoning.
If and when free agency actually arrives, the pickings are awfully slim. Veteran Marc Bulger is arguably the best of a mediocre bunch, and he would be nothing more than another short-term fix for a club that has employed too many since the end of the Daunte Culpepper experience.
Frazier and Co. might have to bite the bullet for Kolb and give up No. 12 after all.
|John Crist is an NFL analyst for Scout.com, a voter for the Heisman Trophy and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America.|