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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

There just aren't enough quality NFL QBs

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Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 03:53 PM
TAMPA -

When NFL players finally return to work, half the league will be scrambling to fill the most important position in team sports.

While Josh Freeman's presence gives the Buccaneers surging confidence, a general lack of quality quarterbacks threatens to wreck franchises from Miami to Seattle and sink head coaches.

Things are so bad under center that aging quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Donovan McNabb still have a decent chance to switch teams and remain starters.

Even former Buc Bruce Gradkowski could find himself in demand.

Philadelphia's Kevin Kolb, who has started all of seven games as a pro, is the subject of daily trade rumors because so many clubs remain in quarterback distress.

"The quarterback position is a hard one to evaluate,'' says Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. "Bill Parcells would always say, 'Find somebody that can evaluate quarterbacks. Get 'em and pay 'em whatever you need to.' "

Haley is still trying to figure out whether Matt Cassel is the answer in Kansas City.

Blessed with the NFL's No. 1 rushing attack, the Chiefs won the AFC West as Cassel threw only seven interceptions. Still, KC had the fewest passing yards in the conference and Cassel appeared lost against Baltimore in a lopsided home playoff setback.

Tampa Bay's two Florida counterparts are plagued by quarterback issues that are inhibiting progress.

The Dolphins appear to be sticking with erratic young Chad Henne while the Jaguars, seeking more dynamic play at the position, could vault rookie Blaine Gabbert ahead of veteran David Garrard.

"From our end, does Chad deserve the opportunity? No question about it,'' says Dolphins coach Tony Sparano. "Did he show progress? Yes, he did.''

Miami fans may not agree with that assessment after Henne went 6-8 last season, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.

In Denver, new coach John Fox is weighing the merits of veteran Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow.

The retirement of Kerry Collins in Nashville and the expected departure of Vince Young leaves rookie Jake Locker as the front-runner to start at quarterback for the Titans.

The Redskins are hurting under center, with an expected training camp duel between John Beck and Rex Grossman that understandably leaves Washington fans apathetic.

When training camp begins, San Francisco, Cleveland, Buffalo, Arizona, Carolina, Minnesota and Cincinnati will have to make hard decisions about who will lead them in 2011.

Former FSU standout Christian Ponder has a real opportunity to start for the Vikings as a rookie. If the Bengals can't reconcile with Carson Palmer, new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is likely to go with second-round pick Andy Dalton under center.

Like the lack of common sense at the NFL negotiating table, there's not enough quarterbacks to go around.

Meanwhile, the Bucs have no such concerns – as long as Freeman remains healthy.

Recently voted No. 86 by his peers in balloting for the NFL's top 100 players, Freeman could realistically be considered the most valuable young commodity in the league.

While most of his rival general managers search for the next Freeman, Mark Dominik has the luxury of methodically building the Bucs around a franchise quarterback.

And as age inevitably creeps up on Peyton Manning (35), Tom Brady (33) and Drew Brees (32), the paucity of elite quarterbacks around the league will surely become even more glaring.

"You can win without a star quarterback,'' says Buffalo coach Chan Gailey, "but it's hard because we've put so much pressure on that position.''


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