Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been perhaps the story of this postseason, with his flawless play, memorable big throws and knocking off Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to reach the Super Bowl. And his impending free agency will no doubt be one of the big storylines of the offseason as well, though he is hardly alone among quarterbacks in flux.
This could be an unprecedented year for quarterback movement, with contract situations forcing teams to make difficult decisions. More than a quarter of the teams in the league will be in the market for a new passer, and the draft class is largely underwhelming. Michael Vick could be changing locations as well, though expect that scenario with Philadelphia to play out for awhile. It wasn't long ago that guys like Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn were getting paid, though they, too, could be moving on.
Carson Palmer and Matt Cassel can't feel very comfortable about their status with their AFC West teams, and a year after being drafted in the first round, it would come as no surprise at all if Brandon Weeden isn't starting for the Browns next season.
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Beyond all of that, the values of quarterbacks will come into greater focus in the coming months as well. Flacco, who will be franchised and could demand in the range of $20 million a year in a long-term deal, will play a role in that. Matt Ryan is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and his agent, Tom Condon -- who has shattered barriers with deals for Manning, Brady and Sam Bradford, among others -- will certainly push for monster compensation.
Jerry Jones remains committed to getting Tony Romo signed to a new contract, regardless of his faults, with one year left on Romo's current deal. Does he become a $16 million-a-year man? And the Lions, again flush up against the cap, need to restructure and extend Matthew Stafford's rookie contract to provide some cap relief. That won't come cheaply with him passing for more than 10,000 yards over the past two seasons.
The key dynamic will be which deal comes first. It's a waiting game, with the price going up and leverage increasing for the quarterbacks as the other deals fill in around them. A year from now, young bucks like Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick will be able to begin reworking their rookie deals, and we can only guess as to what the high end could look like for transcendent talents like that.
At the other end of the spectrum, will the Raiders really want to pay Palmer $13.5 million? I don't see it, though he could end up restructuring to stay. The 49ers won't want to pick up Alex Smith's roster bonus, and if they can deal him immediately they will do so.
Jacksonville, Kansas City (I'm not sure they keep Cassel even at a vastly reduced rate) and Arizona (who have a pending roster bonus with Kolb) could all make sense for Smith.
The Jets need quarterback competition and their new general manager, John Idzik, was with the Seahawks when they acquired Flynn last offseason. And expect the Eagles to take their time sorting through Vick's future and how he may fit in with new coach Chip Kelly and that spread offense.
If Vick is with the team Feb. 6, then $3 million of his $16.5 million deal becomes guaranteed, but the Eagles could still eventually deal him down the line and absorb that (remember, trades can't be consummated until the league year begins March 13). Cleveland is one of several spots that could make sense for Vick during what should be a wild period for teams either trying to jettison a quarterback, or one of the many teams desperately wanting one of their own.