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2012 NFL Free Agency: Breaking down the Quarterbacks

Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn takes a moment in between plays during the second half of their NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Green Bay, Wisconsin January 1, 2012. REUTERS/Darren Hauck (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Free agency in the NFL begins on March 13 and leading up to that date I’ll go position by position while highlighting the best players, best bargains, as well as the riskiest investments. Let’s start with the quarterbacks.

Best in Class: Drew Brees, Saints
While his agent Tom Condon is “baffled” by how slowly long-term contract negations have been going with the Saints, Brees is highly unlikely to land outside of New Orleans this offseason. In addition to breaking Dan Marino’s single-season passing record with 5,476 yards, Brees also set league records for completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2 percent) in 2011. If he were to hit the free agent market, there would be a mad scramble of teams willing to break the bank for his services. But again, all indications are that he’ll wind up back in New Orleans, ready to terrorize NFL defenses again in 2012.

The Biggest Risk: Matt Flynn, Packers
Flynn completed 31 of his 41 pass attempts for 480 yards with six touchdowns in just one start last season versus the Lions, which understandably turned some heads. But was his performance a product of the offense that he was running or is Flynn a bona fide starter that deserves a chance to shine? Everyone looks good driving a Cadillac but 480 yards and six touchdowns is 480 yards and six touchdowns. Quarterbacks don’t put up those kinds of numbers by accident, I don’t care what defense they were playing against. The Dolphins seemingly make the most sense to sign Flynn because they hired former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach. But with Mike Sherman now the OC in Miami, the Dolphins could lean towards prospect Ryan Tannehill instead. (Tannehill was Sherman’s quarterback at Texas A&M the past few years.) Either way, there are plenty of quarterback-starved teams that could be interested in Flynn’s skill set. Which team will take the risk is the question.

The Best Value: Jason Campbell, Raiders
Given the ransom that former head coach Hue Jackson parted with in order to acquire Carson Palmer from Cincinnati last year, it’s highly likely that Campbell will be searching for his third home in the last three years. But at 30 he still has plenty left in the tank. A broken collarbone limited him to just six games last season but he had resumed throwing again back in December and will be completely healthy by the time OTAs start. While he’s never been a quarterback that can win on his own, surround Campbell with enough talent and he’s more than capable of getting the job done. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he’s got great size and has always thrown a nice deep ball. He was also on his way to having one of his best seasons in the pros before he was injured last season. The biggest question is whether or not he can stay healthy moving forward because if he can, he’s proven that he can be productive in the right environment.

The Rest…
David Garrard would be worth a look as a backup and Kyle Orton fits the same mold as Campbell in that if a team surrounds him with enough talent, he can be productive. I wouldn’t touch Chad Henne with a 10-foot pole but he’s available, as is Detroit backup Shaun Hill, who like Henne does have starting experience. Vince Young is perhaps the biggest wildcard on the market but if no team wanted him as a starter last year, he’ll find it tough sledding again this offseason. While he’s likely to wind up back in San Francisco with a new deal, Alex Smith is a free agent as well.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Fade Material: 2011 NFL Week 17 Predictions

A trainer works on the hands of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton (8) after he was injured during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 4, 2011 in Chicago. Orton only played one snap before being injured. UPI/Brian Kersey

This is it: Week 17. This is for all the marbles. Everything is on the line. My back is against the wall. Time to put up or shut up. It’s now or never. One last time for glory.

Have I hit on most of the clichéd sports phrases yet? No? Well post your favorite phrase in the comments section and have it mentioned the next time I do my predictions!

After my 3-1 effort in Week 16 (the Panthers, Vikings and Eagles all covered while the Chargers laid an egg in Detroit), my record this season is now 30-31-2 against the spread. As I noted last Sunday, my goal is to finish above .500 and save what’s left of my dignity, which means I need to go 4-0 or 3-1 this week in order to accomplish the feat. That’s no hill for a climber…

Jets @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET
Stick a fork in the Jets – they’re done. Their defense and running game hasn’t been as good this season as they’ve been the previous two years under Rex Ryan, which means Mark Sanchez’s awfulness isn’t been covered up. The Dolphins proved last week in New England that they still have plenty of fight left in them, even though they’re head coach-less and are looking at a major offseason overhaul. With their season slipping away in the fourth quarter, Sanchez puts a bow on things by throwing one last pick-six as Ryan looks dumbfounded at the scoreboard.
THE PICK: DOLPHINS –3

Chiefs @ Broncos, 4:15PM ET
I have a hunch that things will end very poorly for the Denver Broncos this season. It’s almost like they’ve spent all of their Tebow bucks just getting to this point (i.e. knocking on the door of a division title and a playoff berth) and now that they’re out of loot, they have no money to pay back the creditors. Romeo Crennel is auditioning for another NFL head coaching job, so you know Kansas City’s underrated defense will be prepared to play tomorrow. And would you look at who the Chiefs quarterback is this week, why it’s none other than Kyle Orton! The man who was benched for Tebow and then jettisoned out of town when the youngster started winning. I envision Orton running off the field at Sports Authority Dick’s Sporting Goods UnderArmor Field at Mile High tomorrow with a big, goofy grin on his face as the Denver crowd weeps in the background.
THE PICK: CHIEFS +3.5

Lions @ Packers, 1:00PM ET
This one is tricky because Green Bay essentially has nothing to play for after already wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the NFC last week. Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Packers’ starters will only see a few series, if they even play at all. That means Matt Flynn will have a turn to drive the Cadillac for a week, and there’s no telling how Mike McCarthy will call this game. Will he keep things basic and vanilla or will he toss in a couple of trick plays for craps and grins? Either way, the Lions haven’t won at Lambeau since 1991 so I look at that line and something just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win easily and head to either New York or Dallas next week, but I just can’t pull the trigger on Lions –3.5. (Even with Flynn and the boys playing the majority of the game for Green Bay.)
THE PICK: PACKERS +3.5

Bucs @ Falcons, 4:15PM ET
If the Lions beat the Packers at 1:00PM ET then the Falcons essentially can rest their starters in preparation for next week because they’d be guaranteed the sixth seed in the NFC. But if Detroit loses than Atlanta can improve its playoff positioning and avoid possibly going to New Orleans again next weekend. But even if the Lions win, the Falcons still have something to prove to themselves following their horrendous effort last Monday night versus the Saints. If you read the local papers, the Atlanta players have said to a man that they want a rematch with New Orleans but the seed of doubt has been planted following their 45-16 loss. They need a strong showing this weekend against a hapless Buccaneers team that quit weeks ago before they head into the playoffs. Thus, whether Matt Ryan and the rest of the Falcons starters play a half or the full game, they need a strong effort tomorrow.
THE PICK: FALCONS –11

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2011 NFL Week 17 Primer

Baltimore Ravens’ Terrell Suggs has his helmet taken off by Cincinnati Bengals’ Andrew Whitworth during the fourth quarter at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on January 2, 2011. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

MARQUE MATCHUP: It’s the final week – pick one.
Some will argue that the Cowboys-Giants Sunday night matchup is the biggest game of the week, but it’s no bigger than Ravens-Bengals. While Dallas-New York will finally settle the NFC East race, Baltimore needs a victory to win the AFC North and secure the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while Cincinnati needs to beat the Ravens just to clinch a playoff berth. There is no shortage of important games on the schedule this week, including Kansas City-Denver and San Diego-Oakland. (If the Broncos beat the Chiefs they’ll win the AFC West, or if they lose and the Raiders beat the Chargers, then Oakland will win the division.) In fact, out of the 16 games on the Week 17 schedule, only five contests have absolutely no barring on the playoff races in either conference. It figures to be a wild Sunday in the NFL, with postseason implications galore.

THE POTENTIAL (NOTEWORTHY) UPSET: Packers over Lions
Some of you may be thinking, “This wouldn’t be an upset, you clown.” But the Packers have nothing to play for and thus, will likely rest their starters this weekend. Considering they’re a 3.5-point home underdog, technically this would be considered an upset, so shove it. Wait…what?…You’d have to go back to December 15, 1991, for the last time the Lions won at Lambeau Field. That’s a massive drought; an even bigger drought than the Lions’ 11-year span of not making the postseason. Granted, the rest of Green Bay’s starters played that night but Matt Flynn nearly willed the Packers to a victory last season at New England when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined with a concussion. With nothing to play for, Mike McCarthy may let it all hang loose against a Detroit team that must win in order to secure the fifth seed in the NFC (and therefore avoid playing at New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs). It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit will win this Sunday versus Green Bay’s backups, but in case you haven’t been paying attention: Green Bay’s backups are pretty freaking good, too. We’ll see if the ghosts of Lambeau Field haunt the Lions one more time this Sunday.

THE GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY: DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos have one mission and one mission only: Beat Kansas City at home on Sunday and win the AFC West. That’s it. That’s all they have to do. They don’t have to win and then hope for another team to lose like the Raiders, Titans and Jets do. All they have to do is take care of their own business at home against a 6-9 Chiefs team and they’ll be headed to the playoffs. That said, this is the same Chiefs that knocked off the defending (and undefeated) Packers a few weeks ago in Kansas City. Romeo Crennel is likely auditioning for a head-coaching job so he’ll have his defense ready to shut down Tim Tebow on Sunday, and let’s not forget that the discarded Kyle Orton is now Kansas City’s starting quarterback. This game is a writer’s dream because there are plenty of storylines to choose from. Still, Denver is the better overall team and has a chance to wrap up the division while clinching what was an improbable playoff berth at the start of the season. All those goofy horse heads have to do is win.

PUT UP OR SHUT UP: CINCINNATI BENGALS
The Broncos, Cowboys and Giants are all candidates for the “Put up or shut up” section this week, but if I’m only choosing one team then it’s the Cincinnati Bengals. Look, the Bengals have had a tremendous season. Nobody expected them to win more than five games this year, let alone nine and have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win in the final game of the season. Thus, this year is already a success in most people’s eyes. But they’re here, so they might as well finish the job and storm into the playoffs with a head full of steam instead of backing in because other teams (i.e. the Raiders, Titans and Jets) lost. Cincinnati obviously still has a lot to prove but if it can beat Baltimore at home this Sunday, it’ll give the Bengals confidence that they can win next week in Houston. If they get drubbed, then their season is likely over or they’ll back into the playoffs having lost to Pittsburgh (twice), Baltimore (twice) and Houston during the regular season. So strap ‘em up Bengals, and prove to the NFL that you’re one of the six best teams in the AFC.

Chad Henne set to torture Miami fans some more

Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne (7) throws during play against the Atlanta Falcons in the first half of their NFL preseason football game in Atlanta, Georgia August 12, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Chad Henne is one of those quarterbacks who will torture his team’s fans. He has a great arm and he seems like a likeable and competitive guy. He’ll make some great plays and get you all pumped up, and then he’ll do his best Derek Anderson impersonation and suffer another mindless meltdown.

He was right back at it in his first preseason game against the Falcons:

The pass that never should have been thrown, the one that settled into the hands of an Atlanta defensive back, was simply one of those Chad Henne moments.

We’re all too familiar with those moments, right?

They make you yell at your television. They make you want to punch holes in walls. They make you do crazy things like pine for Trent Green, for goodness sake. These moments convince you Henne will never be a winning quarterback and make you wonder why the Dolphins front office or coaching staff haven’t figured that out yet.

When Brent Grimes caught Henne’s second interception of the first quarter Friday night, an errant throw following a miscommunication with receiver Davone Bess, that moment of truth arrived with a roar at the Georgia Dome.

He’s young, so there’s an argument to be made that he just needs time to develop. That’s fair. But as an Ohio State fan who had the pleasure of watching Chad Henne go 0-4 against the Buckeyes, I wouldn’t hold my breath that Henne is going to change.

Miami was smart to go after Kyle Orton, and the Broncos were almost stupid enough to let Orton go and try their luck with fullback backup quarterback Tim Tebow. I’m not sure what happened to that deal. maybe Orton wasn’t worth the money he was asking for. Who knows. But Miami is now screwed for 2011. Orton would have given them a chance to be a playoff team. I’ll be shocked if they go that far now with Henne.

Broncos want premium pick for Orton?

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton (L) scrambles away from New York Jets safety Eric Smith (33) in their NFL football game in Denver October 17, 2010. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora writes that the Broncos aren’t going to part with quarterback Kyle Orton for a third or fourth round pick like some are suggesting.

There’s no doubt Orton’s internal value is high and his $8.5 million contract is sufficiently low. You can have him at the right price — Denver is obviously rebuilding, needs picks and Orton is in the final year of his extension — but it won’t be cheap.

If the right call comes in and the offer is strong, it will be considered, according to sources. But the idea that a third- or fourth-round pick might get it done is woefully misguided. A high second-round pick that converts to a first-rounder based on production, now that could be a different story.

La Canfora can be shaky at times when it comes to projections for players or teams, but he speaks the truth here.

Let’s not make Orton out to be Peyton Manning. Peyton he is not. But surround him with enough talent in the offense and the guy can win. During his three seasons with the Bears, he was 21-12 as a starter. In 2009, his first year in Denver, he threw for 3,802 yards, completed 62.1% of his passes and finished with an 86.8 QB rating. Last year, he finished with an 87.5 QB rating.

No, Peyton he is not. But the guy is serviceable and he’s a starting quarterback in the league. As La Canfora points out, he has value to the Broncos and they’re not going to trade him away for third or fourth round pick just because Tim Tebow is waiting in the wings. Teams often have success when they can foster competition all over their roster – especially at quarterback.

Granted, if the Broncos can get a second, or a second that converts to a first like La Canfora suggests, then by all means: trade him. But until then there’s no point in giving him away for spare parts.

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