Free Agent QB Overview

Good grief, is it time to preview the NFL free agent market already?

At the Rams’ website, Nick Wagoner says yes. Let’s just say RamView’s about as prepared for free agency right now as the state of Louisiana was for bad weather in 2005. Fortunately, my lack of preparation is infinitely more survivable, so let’s dig on in.

One thing I won’t do that Wagoner does is uselessly rank restricted free agents, and that includes players like Jason Campbell who look unrestricted right now, but will revert back to restricted when the new NFL calendar year hits without a collective bargaining agreement, which is as big a lock as there is in sports these days. I don’t know why Wagoner bothers with a top 5 that has four players about as likely to actually change teams as Alex Barron is to make the Pro Bowl. It’s like making a list of the world’s most eligible women with Angelina Jolie, Eva Longoria, Heidi Klum and Danica Patrick on the top, when they’re all married.

But now that we’re free of restrictions, let’s also start at quarterback, shall we?

Quarterback

Rams current depth chart:
Marc Bulger 140-257 (56.7%), 1,467 yards, 5 TD, 6 INT, passer rating 70.7 in 9 games

Kyle Boller 98-176 (55.7%), 899 yards, 3 TD, 6 INT, passer rating 61.2 in 7 games

Keith Null 73-119 (61.3%), 566 yards, 3 TD, 9 INT, passer rating 49.9 in 4 games

Mike Reilly DNP; rookie with no career stats

Notes: Bulger is due to make $8.5 million in 2010. Boller is an unrestricted free agent.

The rest of the preview is after the jump!

Analysis: 2009 was frequently referred to in NFL coverage as “The Year of the Quarterback”. Too bad the Rams sat it out. They were 5th-worst in the NFL in passing yards, 6th-worst in passer rating, 4th-worst in INTs with 22 and 3rd-worst in TD passes with 12, one of which was by the kicker, Josh Brown. Bulger, the opening day starter, once again did not come close to starting all 16 games, and Ram QBs were sacked 44 times, 7th-most in the league. Bulger’s still an accurate thrower and I believe the biggest reason for his downfall last season was that his receivers let him down. But at the same time, he’s not a QB who makes the players around him better, and his accuracy and decision-making seemed to decline as last season wore on, an ongoing trend as he’s taken a solid beating the last couple of seasons. He can run an offense as a game-manager kind of QB but doesn’t show any more that he can go out and carry an offense to a win if he has to. And as always, injuries are a major problem for Bulger, as his immobility in the pocket makes him a sitting duck. It’s a legitimate question for Rams Park whether Bulger can deliver value on the field anywhere close to his scheduled salary. For most of the length of his current megacontract, he hasn’t. Boller is a gamer and has good mobility, but he’s not consistently accurate, and at his best, he’s just good enough to get you beat. His knack for costly turnovers wrecked the legitimate chance he had here last season to take over as the starter. Injuries continue to dog his career as well. There’s little about Boller’s game that cries for the Rams to bring him back next season. Null’s statistics were surely awful. He was way too careless with the ball and his deep passing accuracy is poor. Null’s got good short accuracy, though, and he showed he can run the offense with good rhythm in spurts. He hung tough in the pocket better than any Ram QB last season and has the best play-fake on the team. Null’s an intelligent player with significant holes in his game but also significant potential. If he shows he’s polished the rough areas this training camp, he’s a legitimate QB2 candidate. I suspect Mike Reilly will enter training camp as the “camp arm” with a possible shot at QB3 at best, but there can’t be much of a book out there on him. He’s certainly welcome to pull a Kurt Warner on everyone if he’s got it in him.

Free agency
Top 5 UFA QBs: 1) Chad Pennington 2) J.P. Losman 3) David Carr 4) Patrick Ramsey 5) Chris Redman

Sleeper: Brian St. Pierre

Thanks, we’ll get back to you: Charlie Batch, Mark Brunell, A.J. Feeley, Jeff Garcia, Josh McCown, Charlie Whitehurst

Gawd no: Rex Grossman, Daunte Culpepper

Viewing the field: I know why Wagoner leaves the RFAs in when he analyzes the free agent field now. This QB class, for instance, is depressing just to look at, filled with washouts, washed-ups, and at-best-backups. Pennington probably doesn’t have enough arm left any more to even be a serviceable paper boy, but he’s a proven winner, team player and mentor to younger QBs. If he can pass a physical, that is. Losman ranks high because he’s about the only one under 30, with starting experience, with a good arm, with mobility, and because, like I said about Kyle Boller last year, he has just enough potential to fool guys like me into thinking he’ll be a solid QB for the right coach. It’s doubtful he’s a fit for what the Rams want to do on offense anyway. Carr and Ramsey are basically Bulger except they can move a little. Redman sees the field very little but came on strong for Atlanta at the end of ’07. I remember saying this time in ’08 that the Rams should go after him. The scouting report for St. Pierre reads much better than I’ve ever seen the guy play. But if the scouts say he’s a good leader, has a strong arm, is mobile, reads the field well, and can take a hit, the Rams ought to make sure to take a look at him. He may have an issue with a back injury, though. The streaky, brain-farting Grossman, however, would be a complete waste of money and a roster spot. Culpepper has always been a turnover machine. He’d be a great fit if he were still somewhat mobile and his size allowed him to absorb plenty of punishment, but he’s too beaten up any more for that.

RamView’s move: My hunch, though it’s really only that, is that Colt McCoy is going to play his way up into being very draftable with the Rams’ 2nd-round pick, and I think I’d have to spend it on him if my hunch is right. With Bulger being pretty damn expensive as a mentor, and not really knowing how well he’ll embrace the role, I think I’d part ways with him and go (a lot) cheaper with Pennington in the role of mentor/backup and throw McCoy into the fire. I can live with Bulger another year if the draft value at QB doesn’t prove to be there with one of the early picks. I’m dumping Boller no matter what I do. If Bulger stays, I like Redman as a backup, but St. Pierre would be fine (if healthy). I don’t care that neither has had much starting experience; the UFA QB’s this year that do have mostly spit the bit. Null and Reilly battle it out for #3 in camp, which I’d expect Null to win.

Prediction: The Rams will open free agency by cutting Bulger after failing to negotiate his contract down. The Raiders will give Philadelphia their first-round pick for Michael Vick, after which the Rams will strenuously deny they ever had any interest in him. They’ll end up signing someone like Carr and trade up into the late first round of the draft to select opening day 2010 starter McCoy. Since Mike Martz really wanted to draft him in 2003, Boller ends up in Chicago. Bulger signs with, of course, the Big Dead, takes over as starter at midseason when, of course, Matt Leinart flames out, and leads them back to the playoffs on the strength of a couple of 350-yard, 4-TD efforts, against, of course, the Rams.

Next: running backs.


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