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Ready to make a move
Owners meetings should bring more QB shuffling
Posted: Sunday March 14, 1999 03:46 PM
ATLANTA (CNN/SI) -- After three weeks of little or no activity on the free-agent quarterback front, the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix this week could trigger several trades and signings.
The lead domino looks to be benched Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell, the subject of trade talks with the Baltimore Ravens ever since the Redskins outbid the Ravens for Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson.
The Lions are seeking a second-round pick in exchange for Mitchell, while the Ravens are seeking to give a lower-round pick. Once the trade is finalized, Mitchell would sign a one-year deal with the Ravens, reportedly worth about $3 million.
If the trade can't be worked out, the Ravens say they'll wait until the Lions cut Mitchell on June 1 and pursue him then. Baltimore also looks to be the lead contender for veteran Warren Moon, who has found lukewarm interest since being cut by Seattle.
If the Ravens can acquire Mitchell, they'll likely send veteran Jim Harbaugh to San Diego in exchange for a fifth- or sixth-round draft pick. Harbaugh could serve as both a starter for the Chargers and a mentor to second-year pro Ryan Leaf.
The Ravens are the primary catalyst in getting the offseason quarterback shuffle going, but the Cincinnati Bengals will also play a major role. Jeff Blake, once thought to be traded away for certain, was given a sizable bonus last month. Neil O'Donnell and Paul Justin are both due to make more next season than most teams are willing to pay for backups, and there's growing speculation that Cincinnati will use the third pick in the draft to take its quarterback of the future.
Another team facing tough decisions is the Chicago Bears, whose starter, Erik Kramer, has been injury prone, and neither Steve Stenstrom nor Moses Moreno has shown themselves capable of leading the team to any significant success. The Bears might add a veteran and use the seventh pick in the draft to take a quarterback as well.
There are countless other teams with no capable backup, and given the rash of injuries to starting quarterbacks in the last two years, many will improve their depth with what's left on the market.
The Dolphins, unsure of Craig Erickson's health and seeking a young quarterback to take over for Dan Marino in the next few years, have been in contact with the agent for San Francisco backup Jim Druckenmiller. The Titans, who had Steve Matthews and Dave Krieg -- both unrestricted free agents -- as backups last year, may look to upgrade as well.
Other teams are looking for better backup quarterbacks to challenge their starters. The Steelers, seeking a veteran to compete with Kordell Stewart, have had talks with Jeff Hostetler. The Buccaneers, who may take a quarterback like UCLA's Cade McNown with the 15th pick in the draft, reportedly offered Moon a one-year deal. The Chiefs, who lost Rich Gannon to the Oakland Raiders, would like another veteran in case Elvis Grbac can't improve on a disappointing '98 season.
Steve DeBerg's return to the NFL has all sorts of long-forgotten quarterbacks giving the league another try. The Seahawks worked out former Falcons and Rams star Chris Miller, out of the league for two years, and even former Raiders first-round bust Todd Marinovich, though they seem to have lost their interest in both. Former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware signed with the Lions and will play in NFL Europe this summer. Then there's DeBerg himself, who may have lost his job to newly signed Danny Kanell, but doesn't seem ready to give up football yet either.
With as many as five quarterbacks expected to be taken in the first round of the draft in April, time may be running out for many of the former starters and career backups looking to continue their careers.
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