Free agency shows how dependent NFL teams are on QBs 

If any more proof was needed that the NFL is now and forever will be a quarterback’s league, one need look no further than the flurry of post-lockout activity that involved a strange circle of QB-challenged teams looking for new field generals on the NFL’s scrap heap.

No one took a bigger gamble than the Arizona Cardinals, who — just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance with Kurt Warner under center — threw nearly $64 million, a former Pro Bowl cornerback and a second-round draft pick at their quarterback problems.

The Cards, who swung and missed badly when former first-round pick Matt Leinart failed to fill Warner’s shoes, and then again when last season’s big free-agent signing, Derek Anderson, proved he wasn’t the answer, cannot afford strike three on Kevin Kolb.

Kolb moves to the desert after seven undistinguished starts in four seasons with the Eagles, sporting a mediocre 73.2 passer rating, but with enough upside that the Cards were willing to part with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie along with the pick and the cash to get him.

Kolb was coveted by several teams after Michael Vick’s breakout season with the Eagles, but wasn’t it supposed to be Kolb, and not Vick, who replaced Donovan McNabb in Philly?

The fact that he wasn’t able to do so should have been a giant red flag for the Cardinals, but in today’s NFL, they had little choice but to ignore it.

The Minnesota Vikings had few choices as well, after paying a steep price for coaxing Brett Favre out of re-retirement last offseason. With Favre now officially retired, or at least out of Minnesota’s misery, the Vikings have now turned to Kolb’s former mentor to guide them: McNabb.

Ordinarily, the acquisition of a 34-year-old QB with a résumé like McNabb’s might call for a celebration, but with the former Pro Bowler coming off a failed one-year stop in Washington, in which he was benched by Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Shanahan, there’s little reason to believe he’ll recapture the magic he once had in Philadelphia.

One thing was certain in Minnesota: They were not going to go into 2011 with Tarvaris Jackson as their starter.

And Jackson was apparently well aware of it, as he signed with Seattle last week and was immediately anointed as Pete Carroll’s starter in the Emerald City.

Jackson put together a modest 76.6 QB rating in parts of five seasons with the Vikings, with a 24-22 touchdown/interception ratio that earned him a two-year deal worth a relatively low-risk $8 million with the Seahawks.

The fact that the ’Hawks were so eager to snap up Minnesota’s castoff is even more evidence of the difficulty teams have in finding true franchise quarterbacks.

Seattle had one of those, however, in three-time Pro Bowler Matt Hasselbeck, but $21 million convinced the franchise’s all-time leading passer to head south to Tennessee. The Titans were desperate to clean up their own QB mess after Vince Young flamed out, and the 35-year-old Hasselbeck was safe.

Bringing the QB carousel full circle, it’s Young who will now claim Kolb’s old role — as Vick’s backup in Philadelphia.

So with backups, has-beens and never-will-bes flying all around the league as football returns, perhaps the Bay Area’s two franchises, each featuring new coaches with new ideas and new schemes, are wise to ride into the season-that-almost-wasn’t with the same old signal-callers who closed 2010 under center.

Sometimes the devil you know is less frightening than the devil you don’t.

Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at bfrantz@sfexaminer.com.

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