Seattle’s five options at quarterback

With the lockout now officially at an end (‘excellent‘ – Mr. Burns) excitement is starting to mount as to who will be the Seahawks quarterback next season. Free agency is essentially open for business, although strangely with camp starting on Wednesday and with widespread negotiations allowed nobody can officially sign for a new team until Friday. Expect a lot of leaks and speculation until the truth is uncovered. Let’s look at the candidates…

Matt Hasselbeck

Teams can sign their own free agents from tomorrow, which means if Hasselbeck is staying in Seattle there’s no reason to believe it won’t be concluded before training camp begins on Wednesday. He has the opportunity to test the water and see what alternatives are out there. If the Seahawks maintain interest in re-signing the quarterback (as I understand they do even if he isn’t necessarily the first choice at this stage) then it should be sorted swiftly.

Hasselbeck has a lot of history with the team and the city. He’s respected in the dressing room and the organisation in general. He’s a spirited leader who still has the spark to compete at this stage of his career, as emphasised in a strong playoff victory over New Orleans in the post season. A case can be made that Hasselbeck has familiarity within the team, particularly the receivers, and would maintain a status quo as the offense rebuilds. 

At the same time we’re talking about a soon-to-be 36-year-old who would be the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL. Can you build an offense around a quarterback that essentially won’t be there when it peaks? As ESPN’s Mike Sando pointed out recently, Hasselbeck has the lowest passer rating since 2008 among quarterbacks with at least 35 starts. He’s thrown 34 interceptions during the last two years of regular season play and suffered a spate of injuries in the process.

Would re-signing Hasselbeck simply delay the inevitable parting of ways? And can you justify a new contract beyond 2011 considering his age and injury record?

Kevin Kolb

New Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is a protege of Andy Reid in Philadelphia and the scheme used by both he and Brad Childress in Minnesota was very similar to that used by the Eagles. The Seahawks likewise want to utilise a mobile quarterback who can get the ball downfield and extend plays. Philly have used Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb. Minnesota used Tavaris Jackson and Joe Webb. The Vikings adapted slightly for Brett Favre, but that’s understandable.

Kolb would have a very good grasp of what the Seahawks want to do going forward in what remains a Pete Carroll ideology for the offense, with Bevell calling the plays. He fits the mantra physically for what Carroll wants in his quarterback and he’s taken time to learn the pro-game. If the Seahawks traded for Kolb, they’d be making a much needed long term commitment at the quarterback position.

The question is – can Kolb justify the commitment? Look at this footage from the NFL Network’s playbook series. Mike Mayock didn’t necessarily agree with the critique and made this defense the following week. However, there are legitimate concerns. He has a slingy action, he’s been inconsistent as a starter – with turnovers and performance – and he’s suffered injuries. Trading for Kolb would likely be expensive in terms of compensation and then a big contract extension. Not to mention, if he fails the Seahawks are left with an costly bust that could define the Pete Carroll era.

It seems like Kolb is destined for Arizona, but the Seahawks have maintained interest throughout and could still make a late move. After all, they fought Arizona for Charlie Whitehurst.

Carson Palmer

Seahawks Draft Blog has been reporting trade talks between Seattle and Cincinnati for a long time now. The parties talked through a deal and we’ve received information that a trade could be forthcoming. We also understand that Palmer is Pete Carroll’s preferred option at quarterback. We’re not the only ones who aren’t ruling out a trade either – Sam Farmer at the LA Times suggested it could happen, Pat Kirwan reported only this week that he’d spoken to a Bengals source that suggested Mike Brown was not totally against a trade, former Bengals receiver and current NFL analyst Chris Collinsworth suggested Brown will trade Palmer and Shawn Zobel reported earlier this month that league insiders were assuming Palmer would be dealt.

It could be an ideal bridge option if the Seahawks intend to draft a quarterback in the next two years. He’s four years younger than Matt Hasselbeck and has previous history with Pete Carroll and leading receiver Mike Williams at USC. His stats were admirable last year despite the Bengals record and brutal schedule which included games against Baltimore (x2), Pittsburgh (x2), New England, Indianapolis, the New York Jets, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, San Diego, New Orleans and Miami. In 2009, he went 6-0 in the formidable AFC North and won the division.

He’s also suffered injuries like Matt Hasselbeck in recent years and never truly maxed out his potential in Cincinnati as a former #1 overall pick. For every person suggesting a trade is possible, there are ten people willing to tell you there’s no chance Mike Brown cuts a deal.

If the Seahawks can acquire Palmer for the price we reported – a 5th round pick and a conditional 3rd – then it’s an ideal bridge option to the future. The question is, will the Bengals make the deal?

Charlie Whitehurst

Bring up Charlie Whitehurst and the over reactions can be heard all the way on the Moon. The Seahawks made a bold move to trade for the former Clemson Tiger last year, trading a cumulative third round pick to keep him out of Arizona. They held a press conference to announce the trade and it seemed, at least in essence, that a quarterback competition was beginning. Instead, Whitehurst never really came close to unseating a struggling Matt Hasselbeck at any point during the regular season.

Our sources report that the Seahawks top brass maintain a level of faith in Whitehurst. In certain circumstances, they’d be prepared to enter the 2011 season with him as the starter. Whether that actually happens or not is anyone’s guess at the moment, but the front office is faced with a situation where they traded and paid a quarterback for two years work and received very little for the investment.

Although he’s faced a lot of criticism, in neither of his stints in the NFL has he received the opportunity to take starting reps and really lead a team as the bona fide starter. Some will suggest there has to be a reason for that, others will question whether he was ever realistically going to beat out Billy Volek in San Diego or Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle.

The worst case scenario if Whitehurst fails as a starter is the knowledge of that in itself and a high draft pick. The benefit of him succeeding could be a medium or long term starter at quarterback. It’s not a crazy option.

Tavaris Jackson

The rumor mill exploded last week when John Clayton suggested Jackson could be the team’s starter in 2011. He reiterated that point today on 710 ESPN Radio, even going as far to suggest signing him would be at the expense of Matt Hasselbeck on a handsome $6m per year contract for the next two seasons.

It’s an easy association to make because Jackson previously worked with Darrell Bevell and has the physical and athletic attributes the Seahawks are looking for in a quarterback.

Even so, his name has never come up in any conversation I’ve had with our sources and it just seems a bit too much like connecting the dots. Could he be signed as competition and a potential replacement for JP Losman? Sure, that makes a lot of sense. Will the Seahawks be investing $12m in Jackson to be their starter for the next two years? I find that very unlikely indeed, even as a bridge option and a low-risk gamble. If they’re going to go in this direction, I suspect Whitehurst will be given every opportunity to win the starting job during training camp.


  1. Blueboy

    No idea if he is a so called fit etc, but i always felt Jim Sorgi looked decent when in for Peyton Manning and im sure he is a FA……..Feel free to shoot me down in flames for this suggestion if needed!

  2. Cliff

    Rob, for the Palmer trade is it a 2012 5th and 2012 3rd or a 2013 3rd?

    • Rob

      It would be a 2012 5th and the third rounder would be dependant on performance related targets and may not necessarily be a 2012 pick.

  3. Lance M

    Jackson question:

    2 years, $12M sounds high, but what if the plan to sign him also includes a plan to cut CW? Not sure how CW’s contract would count against the cap if cut, but after a year of watching him up close maybe the Hawks choose to go a different direction with a backup. Jackson knows the system giving him the advantage. Then Hawks trade for Palmer or re-sign Matt. Total speculation on my part, but PC has shown a willingness to make bold moves.


    • Rob

      If they’re paying a quarterback $12m over two years this off season, I suspect that guy will be the starter. I think the Jackson talk is a red herring and classic connect the dots journalism. With no competition or market for TJ, why would Seattle pay that?

  4. ba_edwards24

    In the 2nd paragraph you seemed to say that there will be an exclusive window to sign our own FAs; that’s not true. We can discuss contracts with them, but not sign just like all other teams’ FAs. Another interesting thing pointed out is new players joining a team can’t report to camp until the union re-certifies. I am not sure if that includes traded players (Kolb/Palmer) but that is the case for FAs. Not sure if that includes rookies either (I assume it doesn’t). Regardless we’ll know by Friday (and likely sooner due to media) who our QB is for 2011. Exciting.

    I can’t find a list of those who are RFA v UFA. I am starting to think nobody is restricted. You’re either UFA or under contract. Can anyone confirm or refute that?

    I would love to get Stephen Bowen from Dallas. He’s a cheaper alternative and should start at 3 tech when Mebane leaves while also providing depth outside at 5 tech with his 6 foot 5 frame. He’s only 27, and they are already 15 over the cap before casualties of Barber, Newman, Columbo, James, Brooking. If they want to sign a FA or two in the secondary, they will likely have to let Bowen go. Ray McDonald is another good option as SF will likely have to break the bank for Franklin, and resign Smith. Cutting Clements’ hefty salary will help, but I think McDonald will move teams and be an option similar to Bowen as a 5 and 3 tech depth player. Either would be our best option at 3 when Mebane leaves. Also love Jacob Ford from TEN. Monster potential at leo and is cheaper option because he was injured last year. He’s also only 25. If you can’t tell, I’m all about breakout bargains on the D line. JS and PC should be to.

    • FWBrodie

      Polumbus is the Hawks only RFA.

  5. Misfit74

    I’m not convinced Kolb ‘fits the mantra’ of Pete’s ideal QB. I think PC favors stronger-armed passers to take advantage of deeper throws, play-action, and play-action boots, etc. Kolb’s skill-set is eerily similar to Hasselbecks – timing, short passing, quick decisions.

    If our team is being built on the run game (which I’m skeptical of just how much) then that makes play-action and timely bombs slightly more important and those things are not Kolb’s strengths.

    That said, Tavaris Jackson can take his big arm and sign somewhere else.

    I prefer Orton and really hope we go after him. He’s very mobile, is an above-average downfield passer and would be a perfect ‘bridge’ to a QB of the future in a season or two.

  6. Mike in OC

    Does anyone know who might be interested in signing Vince Young? I still think he has a lot of upside and has already done well (physically) in the league. With PC’s penchant for straightening out head cases and his familiarity from the National Championship, he might be a consideration.

    Having said all that, though, my preference is still Carson Palmer (I am a USC homer), or bring back Matt. What I DON’T want is to waste draft picks on Kolb. I think he’s not going to be as successful as the hype makes him out to be. Just my opinion.

  7. Your Mom

    Please let me wake up to a Palmer to Hawks trade tomorrow

    • Rugby Lock

      Don’t wake up quite yet…

  8. Your Mom

    very sad

  9. Deez55

    Rob, not that I don’t trust your sources because they have been very good in the past, but with all the info coming out about Mike Brown refusing to reward Palmer with a trade and such, isn’t this deal pretty much dead?

    Outside of bringing Hass back, Palmer is the only guy on this list that really keeps the Hawks relivant in the play-off chase next season. Ol’ Chuck Clipboard Jesus, has shown he isn’t the long term answer. Tavaris Jackson had playmakers in Minnesota that were comparable to what the Hawks have, with a good offensive line and he didn’t show much, in my opinion. Kolb, hasn’t shown much of anything either and his cost is way too high for a club that, whether us fans like it or not is rebuilding, a 1st and 3rd, plus a monster contract extension.

    If they are going to go with veterans who are going to compete with Whitehurst wouldn’t it be smarter just to get cheaper options and see if a guy like Leinart can come in and work within a system that fits his skill and cost the team less in the long run, where they could spend that cash on adding another bigger name player on the defensive side of the ball?

    • Rob

      The press conference today didn’t announce a trade and Brown kept his hard line approach. Does that make a deal dead? Not necessarily. I’m not so naive to ignore Brown’s presence and his speech today… but to play devils advocate – what if it was a speech designed to try and prompt greater compensation?

      What if they have decided to play hard ball for the long haul and refuse a trade until weeks into the season or training camp?

      This deal was discussed. The fact it hasn’t been finalised neither means the reports were untrue or that it is dead.

      • woofu

        Looking doubtful to me. If Brown ever wants to hold the line again he can’t budge on this one and won’t imho.

        Dead in the water as suspected.

  10. Nick in Pullman

    Hi Rob. I love the website. I was curious where you think Terrell Pryor fits into this conversation?


    • Rob

      Hi Nick, thanks for the kind words.

      I think they’d love his athleticism and potential, it’s just whether teams believe he’s going to buy into being a work in progress. Is he going to sit, study and work as a clipboard holder for 2-3 years? At the moment he’s not a polished passer – a thrower not a passer so to speak. The physical qualities are all there, it’s just whether the mental qualities match up.

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