Sunday, March 30, 2008

The QB Conundrum

by: Michael Steffes

As some have noted, the Hawks really are showing a lot of interest in all the 2nd tier quarterbacks. Many are wondering if the Hawks would really waste their visits creating the appearance of interest or are they really thinking about finding Matt's replacement. His contract is up in 2010, three seasons from now. Many of you have seen my take on this during various discussions, but I thought an in depth examination was overdue. Lets take a look....

I am on record as saying that this is a smokescreen and I stand by it. As you know, I often use a financial lens to help analyze things and in this case, that is very telling.

The Hawks have 3 QBs under contract already for 2008. Obviously they could cut one, but they haven't even seen Frye in a training camp yet. Why force yourself to cut him even if he looks good in camp. Also, you would lose all trade leverage, because other teams know that four QB's is a waste of a roster spot to everyone but John Gruden. Frye actually holds a lot more value than a rookie because he started for a year and a half in this league and he comes cheaper too.

To draft the QB's they prefer out of the ones they have worked out, it is likely they would have to use their 1st round pick, as all of those QBs are late first to early 2nd round picks. A first round pick carries with it a multi million dollar bonus and at most usually a five year deal. We would be paying a lot of money to someone who MAY be the guy 3 years from now. Plus, before his 2nd year starting you have to start thinking about an extension, unless you want to risk losing a guy you have devoted so much time too. This will be Green Bay's dilemma if Rodgers struggles this year, just watch.

Another thing is that taking a first round QB does nothing to further the goal of winning in Holmgrens last year. If the team is thinking TE with a high pick, the best thing they can possibly do to get value, is move back 5-10 spots. If only 1 of the teams looking for an early 2nd round QB thinks we might take one, then maybe we have a trade partner, which is the most difficult part of moving backwards.

This is smart strategic thinking, and the only thing it costs is a couple of visits that we would usually use on 7th round or undrafted possibilities. The gain is that they get the player that will help the most, this year, in the appropriate draft position, along with extra picks. The risk vs. reward here is substantially in the Hawks favor.

Finally, Seneca Wallace is also signed through 2010. So most likely, he will be part of the QB depth chart until then. Probably 2nd on game days so they can use him in special packages. Because of this, the smart move is to allow the team to evaluate Frye after a full season and compare his development to the rookie class. He could be a cheap alternative as insurance until the team can make a better assessment of how Hasselbeck is aging and when is the right time to think rookie. The one mistake this team shouldn't make is putting a 1st round (or early 2nd) quarterback on the roster that forces their hand when Hasselbeck's contract expires. No reason to push him out if he is still a top flight QB, or to allow a first round QB to reach the end of his rookie deal unused.

One other thing you have heard me note is that I think the team will want Jim Mora in charge when they choose Matt's successor. There is no evidence I can point to here. It is just a gut feeling I guess, based on what seems to stem from how QB's and the coaches who draft them are inexplicably linked in this league. Now maybe Mora could be instrumental in picking a QB this year, but I would think Mora is going to be pretty quiet in the war room, if only to avoid causing any rifts for the upcoming year.

Now you have a detailed look at where my beliefs that Hawks are not really serious about drafting a quarterback come from. One thing I most certainly believe when it comes to NFL teams and the upcoming draft is, that when there is smoke, is isn't always fire.