« Dolphins do their homework at cornerback | Main | Match the QB with the QB priority »

Starter QB demand double that of supply

How good are you at economics?

I ask because this post is about a fundamental principle of economics and good ol' American capitalism. This post is about the principle of supply and demand.

This post, by the way, also is about quarterbacks.

Simply, this offseason is not going to be very much different than the past couple of NFL offseasons in that there will be a number of available quarterbacks that seem on the surface to be potentially elite.

And there will be a number of NFL teams searching high and low for the available quarterbacks that seem on the surface to be potentially elite.

And the number of teams is greater than the number of candidate QBs.

That's bad if you're one of those quarterback-needy teams because someone is definitely going to be left looking beyond the draft's first round or beyond the first day of free agency for the elite quarterback they were supposed to find early in each process. Oh-oh.

Before I get into the ramifications of this, let's do the exercise.

The number of teams searching for a starting-caliber quarterback this offseason is eight by my count. Truth be told, it is probably more than that, but these are the teams most NFL people believe will be actively in the market for one of the available quarterbacks.

Those teams are Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington, Seattle, Arizona, Denver, possibly the New York Jets and, of course, the Miami Dolphins.

I did not include the Indianapolis Colts because unlike the other teams, we can be certain they will fill their QB need. They will either keep Peyton Manning (less likely) or they will draft Andrew Luck with the first overall selection (more likely).

The Colts could also do major damage to everyone's supply side economic plan by doing both, thereby taking two QBs off the market and creating a major scramble. But this is probably the least likely of the scenarios.

Beyond that, there are a number of quarterbacks seen as probable instant fixes to teams' QB issues. I'm not including QBs about to be picked late in the first round or on the second or third day of the draft because these, with few exceptions, cannot be instantly counted as immediate starters.

For our purposes, we're talking about QBs that teams will likely reach for with the expectation that they will immediately start in 2012.

And that number of quarterbacks after Luck is only four -- Peyton Manning, Green Bay free agent Matt Flynn, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III and Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

I would say even Tannehill is something of a reach as an immediate QB answer. From what I've seen, he's a project that will need a lot of work, a lot of honing, a lot of coaching to grow into an NFL starter. And even then there are questions.

Nonetheless, the grand need for start-capable guys almost forces me to put him in this group because folks at the Indianapolis Combine are talking about this kid being a top 20 pick and perhaps even higher if someone gets desperate enough.

So let's see ... the customers wanting to buy a QB will outnumber the so-called quarterback answers by about two to one.

Are you ready for a Black Friday-like scramble for the QBs? Are you ready to watch as somebody's going to be very, very disappointed?

For our purposes I'd like to eliminate the Jets from the conversation as a team wanting to draft a QB. The truth is they have what they think is a starter. And they have other needs. But because this teams is always wanting to do the back page headline grabbing thing, we cannot eliminate them as a suitor for Manning in free agency. That's the only place they probably factor.

As to how serious they will be, it must be said they can argue they're only a QB away from making a push deep into the playoffs because they made that push in 2009 and 2010. They can make the argument that there's no better place to succeed at QB than NY.

But they have salary cap issues and might have only $3-$5 million in space when the league year opens March 13. And to chase Manning, you have to convince him you're going to address your other obvious needs, thus surround him with a great chance to win now.

The Jets might not be financially able to make that argument.

That still leaves seven teams chasing four players. Let's examine those situations:

Denver? They also are only a threat in free agency. They have already stated they are going to bring in a QB to compete with Tim Tebow for the starter's job. So they are adding someone. But because they don't draft until No. 25 overall, they aren't a huge threat in the draft. They won't have the chips to move to the to top 10 to become a factor there.

The Broncos, however, are dangerous to the other teams if they chase Manning or Flynn. And that is possible. Fact is the Broncos can offer either QB perhaps the most playoff-ready team of any of the ones chasing a veteran QB. That is inarguable because not only did the Broncos go to the playoffs last season, they advanced to the divisional round after beating Pittsburgh. So they can make the case they have talent.

The Broncos also have a ton of cap room available, assuming they use approximately $27 million in carry over from this season. The Horsies can boast over $48 million in cap room to not only sign a QB but also address other issues that might concern a quarterback such as Manning.

Finally, the Broncos play in a division where 8-8 got them in the playoffs. That seems like a much easier assignment than say, playing in the AFC East where last season you had to win 14 games to beat out the 13-3 Patriots.

So consider the Broncos a (sorry for this) darkhorse candidate for Manning. They lurk and that is dangerous.

Cleveland is the most dangerous team on draft day. They have the No. 4 and the No. 22 overall selections in the first round of the coming draft. That means when the St. Louis Rams put their No. 2 overall pick on the block to the highest bidder, the Browns are a step ahead of everyone else in being the highest bidder if they wish.

What does that mean? It means the Cleveland Browns probably have first dibs on RG3 if they want it. They have the most chips on draft day and can offer St. Louis an immediate return in trade that no one else can match unless they throw in proven, young, outstanding players already in the league.

Overall, the most dangerous team out there seems to be Washington. They have both major salary cap space to work with -- approximately $41 million under the cap -- they have a proven Super Bowl winning coach, they have a hungry owner that isn't afraid to spend money, their revenue stream is consistent, and they also have the sixth overall pick in the draft.

So the Redskins can chase both Manning and Flynn if they want and if they fail to land either, they could offer the next most attractive package (as in having the highest pick this year) to the Rams. The Redskins are also probably the most desperate franchise searching for a signal-caller. They don't have anyone to play the position so they must add. And coach Mike Shanahan is likely soon feeling the need to produce a winner after failing to do that his first two seasons with the team.

That's not good for one of the highest-paid coaches in the league.

The Redskins are a dual threat both in free agency and the draft. They have a high pick and big cap room. And they can be portrayed as desperate enough. That makes them perhaps the most dangerous of the teams chasing a QB this offseason.

The Chiefs were flying under the radar until the Indianapolis combine because general manager Scott Pioli likes it that way. It's a smart approach. But behind the scenes they are clearly intent on bringing in quarterback competition for Matt Cassel. They said as much at the combine.

And while Pioli played coy about the possibility of adding Manning, coach Romeo Crennel opened the door to the idea. And everyone who heard him say KC would consider talent such as Manning's can see the Chiefs chase Manning.

They can make a strong case. They have nearly $48 million in cap room so they can not only fit Manning under the cap, but also add pieces to make him feel surrounded by talent and capable of competing immediately. That is probably attractive to the soon-to-be 36-year-old Manning.

The Arizona Cardinals are viewed as a team capable of attracting Manning. They can pitch the fact Larry Fitzgerald is elite and they have other offensive weapons on hand. They can pitch a domed stadium in which to play. They can pitch playing in a seemingly soft division. They can pitch the idea that adding Kurt Warner years ago got them to the Super Bowl and so a redo is possible.

But the Cardinals have only modest cap space estimated at about $10-$12 million. They have a proven offensive system already in place and might not be willing to change that all around for Manning. They're also somewhat committed to Kevin Kolb, who cost them a ton in contract money and compensation last year.

So I don't see them over-extending themselves for Manning. Chase him? Maybe. Land him? They probably are not a favorite.

As for their chase of Flynn or a draft pick, I don't see them repeating the Kolb exercise with Flynn and their No. 13 overall selection makes them a non-factor in the RG3 chase. They could factor for Tannehill.

Seattle seems a likely destination for Flynn. Their GM was in Green Bay when Flynn was drafted there. They have the feel of a franchise that wants to address the QB issue long-term rather than with a temporary bridge guy, which is what Manning seems to be.

Given that, the Seahawks could go all crazy and chase Manning and owner Paul Allen has $31 million in cap space to play with to surround Manning with talent if he desires. The Hawks also play in a winnable division. And Pete Carroll strikes me as a coach comfortable with turning over the offense to Manning where, say, a Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona doesn't.

Seattle owns the 12th pick in the draft. They'll have a hard time competing for RG3. They probably can chase Tannehill if they decide to go that direction. But again, this team seems like a good fit for Flynn.

And then, of course, there's the Dolphins. I'd put them down as a triple-threat kind of team. They don't have the most ammunition to get Manning because they are expected to have only approximately $15 million or so in cap space and while it is not so much about using that space on Manning, it would be necessary to use it on other players with whom to surround Manning with talent.

Miami is also a darkhorse team in a trade-up possibility for RG3 because they love the kid, general manager Jeff Ireland is well familiar with his abilities, and believes he has inside information on the kid. The Dolphins, owners of the No. 8 overall pick, have already spoken with the Rams about a potential trade-up to No. 2, according to one NFL source.

If the Dolphins do not land Manning or Flynn, I see a strong, strong push for RG3.

But let's face it, Miami's priority is Manning. Has been. Will continue to be. And it is probably solidified by the fact other teams now are viewing Manning as a good possibility. That mob mentality suggests the Dolphins are not failing to see something on Manning other teams are seeing.

No, both the Dolphins and other teams think Manning will continue to be a stud (I don't) so the Miami resolve may be strengthened. The fact both Ireland and new coach Joe Philbin said at the combine they are not tied to a 23, 29 or 33-year-old quarterback (Philbin's words) opens the door for the Manning chase.

The Dolphins don't mind going after the bridge QB. They're basically preparing you for that.

Miami loves its chances because Manning loves it in South Florida. As I reported first last week, he was working out in South Florida and as I reported first during Super Bowl week, he owns a condo here. The Dolphins see all that as an advantage.

The weather is also an advantage. The fact the defense was decent last year is a plus. The fact Miami has relatively high picks to use on players to surround Manning with talent is another advantage.

But the cap situation is not optimal. Competing against the Patriots every year is not a major plus. And even competing against Rex Ryan, who for all his faults is a good defensive coach, is also not a plus.

The Dolphins will be all in on Manning. If they fail there, that is a major, major setback. Where they go from there, I cannot tell you. The Dolphins haven't said how they feel about Flynn which would be the next chip to fall.

So that's it overall.

Later today I'll break down for you which players are most likely pointing to which teams. Obviously, the Dolphins are most pointed toward Manning. They are tilting the demand for the former Pro Bowl player heavily in a supply-poor environment.

Comments