Ranking the Dolphins free agent quarterback options

Usually this is the period of the offseason where we enter the doldrums phase. In a normal offseason all of the big name free agents would have new homes, any blockbuster trades would have already went down, and the draft would be in the books. There wouldn’t be much left to discuss. There would only be waiting for the rookies to ink their first contracts and training camp to finally arrive. But as you can tell, this is no normal offseason.

I’m sure we would all gladly take the most boring phase of the NFL calendar right about now, instead of the uncertainty that hangs over the league’s head. But it’s the situation we’re unfortunately in, and we’ll have to make do. And if the courts do the right thing in the next couple days and lift the lockout, we could be in for some unprecedented excitement in May.

For a team like the Dolphins, with remaining major holes to fill, the lockout can’t be lifted soon enough. They addressed several pressing needs in the draft, but they are going to have to open up the checkbook and, at the very least, bring in a veteran running back, quarterback, and possibly offensive guard.

Of those positions, the one that is going to get the most attention, and rightly so, is quarterback. You’re not going to become a legitimate title contender in this league without a franchise quarterback. Chad Henne certainly hasn’t given us a reason to believe he can become one, but since we’ve seen late bloomers before, in extreme cases that is, I guess we can say the jury is still out. But after two inconsistent, mediocre seasons at the helm, the Dolphins must bring in someone that is capable of pushing him in a preseason competition and potentially unseating him as the starter.

The remaining options out there that are most capable of doing so would have to be traded for. Carson Palmer, Kevin Kolb, and Kyle Orton are, in my opinion anyway, the top three quarterbacks that are expected to be attainable this offseason. Sure, there are concerns with all three, which is why they are attainable in the first place.

There isn’t a quarterback in the history of the league that has entered the trading block without legitimate concerns alarming enough to scare away a few teams. But Palmer is one of the top quarterbacks in the league when he’s on top of his game, Kevin Kolb has flashed brilliance in limited action, and Kyle Orton is arguably one of the most underrated quarterbacks in all of football.

We will continue our discussion on the three, as well as Matt Flynn, tomorrow. Today, I want to go a different direction. A high draft pick would be worth the investment if the Dolphins are convicted about one of those guys. But what if they’re not high on any of them? What if they want to enter the 2012 draft with all of their picks to work with, instead of being handicapped by a missing second-round selection for the third consecutive year?

Well, there are some capable names on the impending open market as well. None of these options would restore hope to the franchise like Palmer or Kolb, but most are capable of pushing Henne.

6. Matt Leinart: Other than the potential he came into the league with, there isn’t much to get excited about with Matt Leinart. He’s also only 27 years old, meaning if the light bulb finally came on, he could be the long-term solution in Miami. But his career total of 14 touchdowns compared to 20 interceptions should be enough to keep the Dolphins away. And when you consider that ratio came from his four years with the Cardinals, where Leinart had weapons like Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at his side, it seems pretty obvious he isn’t starting material in this league.

5. Marc Bulger: The now 34-year old quarterback didn’t get any action with the Ravens in 2010. Bulger threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in all three of his final years with the Rams and his QB rating never broke 71.4. It appears he’s as washed up as they come and probably wouldn’t be anything more than a solid veteran presence in the locker room.

4. Brady Quinn: At only 26 years old and with only 12 starts under his belt, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Brady Quinn could salvage his career. He does have one more touchdown pass than interception (10-9), and has experience playing in Brian Daboll’s system. But his 52.1% completion percentage is red flag to say the least.

3. Matt Hasselbeck: At 35 years old, Hasselbeck wouldn’t be anything more than a short-term fix in Miami. But in reality, the Dolphins should probably be content with that. If this franchise is going to find the next Dan Marino, they’re more than likely going to draft him. The front office didn’t pull the trigger on a quarterback in the draft this year, so finding a veteran to hold down fort until they do would be a realistic goal to have. With an elite defense, a rejuvenated ground attack, and consistent quarterback play, the Dolphins would be a playoff ready football team. There are some big “ifs” there, in all three instances, but Hasselbeck would give them the potential to have consistent play at the quarterback position.

2. Donovan McNabb: McNabb is also up there in age (34) and is coming off a disappointing season in Washington. But he’s only a year removed from a very solid year with the Eagles where he totaled 22 touchdowns, 10 picks, and 3,553 yards. You also get the feeling that he’s hungry for one final stand. He was chased out of Philadelphia after a fantastic career and Mike Shanahan was embarrassingly disrespectful to McNabb in 2010. A quarterback starving franchise like the Dolphins would hopefully treat him with the respect he’s earned. But then again, McNabb isn’t a great fit scheme wise, as the Dolphins don’t run the west coast offense.

1. Vince Young: In my opinion, Young is the only signal caller that is expected to hit the open market that still has the potential to be a franchise quarterback. He obviously has some maturity issues and could potentially be a locker room cancer for a team that already has a strong personality like Brandon Marshall on offense. But there is no denying the guy’s talent. He’s the type of player that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. If you don’t think his athletic ability has a huge impact on football games, just remember how relieved we all were that Kerry Collins got the start against the Dolphins in Week 10 last season.

Young’s biggest endorsement is his winning percentage. You don’t go 26-13 as a starter in this league by accident. The man is a proven winner. And to top it all off, Young is fresh off his best statistical season as a pro. In his 8 starts in 2010, Young accounted for 10 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, which was good enough for a 98.6 quarterback rating. At the end of the day, I would prefer seeing the Dolphins trade for Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton, simply because pure passers are the guys winning Super Bowls, but if they can’t strike up a deal, or don’t want to trade away another early-round draft pick, signing Vince Young makes a whole lot of sense for this football team.

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