Teams wanting a veteran quarterback are likely to face this choice: Matt Flynn, Alex Smith or Michael Vick?
All are under contract for 2013, but it is likely all will be available in some form. So I asked three front office men about the trio. They were in agreement that this would be their order of preference if they had to sign one of them:
1. Alex Smith. The evaluators believe the 28-year old has the best combination of experience and potential. One noted that Smith played for seven different coordinators in his eight seasons, and as a result Smith might have more potential for growth. He also noted Smith’s development as a leader and his good attitude through his recent benching.
But another wondered if Smith might revert to his previous form if Jim Harbaugh is no longer coaching him. Smith’s passer rating under Harbaugh is 95.1 compared to 72.1 in his previous six years.
This is how one of the front office men evaluated him: “His arm strength is just average, but he’s an accurate underneath passer. The thing you like about him is he doesn’t make the big mistake. He is a good caretaker. He’s smart. But he is more of a game manager. The question with him is this—is he good enough to get you to the next level? And it obviously was a question Jim Harbaugh had.”
2. Matt Flynn. NFL teams remain intrigued by Flynn, but not wowed by him. Nobody is dinging him too badly for being beaten out by Russell Wilson in Seattle. But nobody is going to stand on the table for a quarterback with two career starts and 141 career attempts. Flynn remains an unknown five years into his NFL career.
“He has shown enough of an upside to merit an opportunity,” one front office guy said.
Said another: “You probably need a West Coast offense for him. He has an average arm, it’s not a gun. He throws on time pretty well. He isn’t a runner, but he can move in the pocket fairly well. He probably only can get you so far.”
3. Michael Vick. The fact that Vick is 32 years old could work against him, but not necessarily. Said one talent evaluator: “He is interesting if you have the right situation for him. It depends what you are trying to get done.” Vick could be a good bridge to a young quarterback on a team that feels it has many pieces in place with the exception of a QB.
There is some concern that Vick is a descending player. And a running quarterback who is descending has limited value. “He has taken a lot of hits and is inconsistent with his decisions on scrambling,” one front office man said. “If you are waiting for him to be a pure pocket passer, he has always been inconsistent in that area.”
Another views Vick this way: “He does not have the unique athletic skills he once had to create, but he still moves around better than most. What made him is speed, and that is deteriorating. The problem is he can’t hold up as well as he once did. His ability to stay healthy, secure the football and make decisions all are questionable.”
None of the quarterbacks who are expected to be available are blemish free. That, in part, is why they could be available. But each has enough redeeming qualities to create a market.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.