The Vikings are one of several teams expected to look for a veteran quarterback to mentor a younger QB and possibility start until the young one is ready. There are several options out there, and not all of them are over 30.
One of the priorities for some teams when the lockout ends – especially for those clubs who drafted quarterbacks expected to start early in their careers (Cam Newton
of Carolina, Cincinnati's Andy Dalton
, Christian Ponder
of Minnesota, Tennessee's Chris Rocker, and perhaps Colin Kaepernick
of San Francisco) – is finding a veteran "bridge" at the position. An inexperienced, non-threatening passer who could perhaps log a few starts while the rookie prepares to step into the lineup, or who might provide a temporary alternative/willing mentor if the youngster falters.
One guy who fits that description, and who might have generate a nice group of suitors in free agency, particularly with the Bengals, is five-year veteran Bruce Gradkowski
, who played in Oakland the past two seasons and who is a pending unrestricted free agent. There are certainly more high-profile passers who figure to be available, especially via trade, but Gradkowski is a steady player with an in-check ego, and will get surprisingly good play.
Gradkowski, 28, has a resume that includes 20 regular-season starts. Not a huge body of work, granted, but 11 of those starts came under Gruden's nose. Gradkowski might not know all the newer wrinkles of Gruden's playbook, but he has a basic familiarity with the design and desires of the team's first-year coordinator, having spent 2006-2007 in Tampa, when Gruden was an offensive assistant there.
There figure to be some other teams with an interest in the unheralded Gradkowski, think Tennessee, for instance, but his is a name that has been mentioned internally by Cincy officials. Guys of his ilk – like Trent Edwards
, Kyle Boller
and Matt Moore, among others – will merit a lot more attention in free agency than they might in most seasons. By the way, the Bengals' brass is still set against putting their reluctant starter, Carson Palmer
, on the trade heap.
At least for now.
Former Miami offensive coordinator Dan Henning suggested last week that the Wildcat likely will remain as part of the Dolphins' attack in 2011. Sure enough, rookie Daniel Thomas, the second-rounder who is most likely to assume a starter's role if Brown and Williams depart in free agency, played some quarterback in high school. And some of the pending free agents who might be Miami targets are well suited to the Wildcat formation. But first-rounder Mike Pouncey, who could start at center, had troubles with the shotgun snap at Florida early last season, isn't as comfortable with it and will need some work.
When the San Diego Chargers signed former Dallas second-round linebacker Kevin Burnett (2005) in the summer of 2009, the addition wasn't viewed as a significant one. But with his performance in 2010 – 80 tackles, six sacks and 16 starts for the first time in his career – re-signing the free agent Burnett has become a priority for the Chargers.
The four-year probation imposed last Thursday on Georgia Tech identified a few of the players, agents and "runners" involved in indiscretions there, but there remain a few Atlanta-based agents, and former Yellow Jackets players who worked for them, who played a part in the problems and may not be welcome back on campus.
The last word: "It's hard to talk to a person when they have millions, man, because there is so much noise in their life. Everybody around them is employed, and they have ‘yes men.' You got to start hiring a ‘no man.' – Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders in an interview with an Atlanta radio station, on cutting ties with troubled Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, whom he once mentored.