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PFW: Teams looking for QBs in the offseason

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PFW: Teams looking for QBs in the offseason

Hot-stove NFL draft talk can never start soon enough, especially after a potentially hot commodity like Miami (Ohio) junior QB Ben Roethlisberger lit it up the way he did last Thursday night in the Mid-American Conference championship game against Bowling Green — throwing for 440 yards and four TD passes in Miami’s 49-27 victory while displaying impressive touch and command on both his long and short passes.

The way we hear it, both Roethlisberger (sources say it’s very likely Roethlisberger, who has met with potential pro agents, will declare for the draft) and Mississippi senior Eli Manning look like bona fide top-five picks in the upcoming draft, and a number of teams will, at the very least, seriously consider them as first-round picks.

Which teams are we talking about? Let’s start with three bottom feeders that could be in the best position to go after either Manning or Roethlisberger because of where they will be picking in the first round — Arizona, San Diego and Oakland.

The Cardinals, we’re told, have pretty much decided that Josh McCown, currently the backup behind Jeff Blake, is not the answer at quarterback. With a head-coaching change expected, a high-profile No. 1 pick like Manning could be a double parlay that generates badly needed business at the box office. That said, a huge question remains: Will frugal Redbirds owner Bill Bidwill be willing to fork over the big bucks necessary for a first-round QB? Arizona has used first-round picks on quarterbacks just twice since 1987. They selected Timm Rosenbach in the 1989 supplemental draft, giving up their first-rounder in 1990, and they used a first-round pick in 1987 to draft Kelly Stoufffer.

The Chargers have become a potentially intriguing pursuer because of what looks like a growing lack of confidence in Drew Brees, but our sources believe that they’re more likely to go after a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds. With Brees and Doug Flutie still on the payroll (one or the other will likely be jettisoned in the offseason), they are expected to be looking for value and may also consider adding an affordable veteran free agent.

The Raiders are always intriguing, since it’s so hard to ever get a read on what’s going on in the mind of owner Al Davis. But with the team definitely headed for a youthful transition and armed with extra draft picks, team sources wouldn’t be surprised if the Raiders take a hard look at drafting a quarterback with their first pick — but not necessarily with the mind-set of starting him right away. We hear the team still believes it owes the injured Marques Tuiasosopo a shot. There are also rumors that the Raiders will go after a veteran free agent like Mark Brunell and cut their losses by letting go of a fading Rich Gannon, who has a base salary that skyrockets in ’04. In either case, they would be comfortable grooming a first-round QB pick similar to the way in which the Bengals are grooming Carson Palmer behind Jon Kitna.

Could there be a lot of other teams in the mix for the likes of Manning or Roethlisberger? Absolutely.

Put the Steelers (although they might opt for former Michigan stud Drew Henson in a trade with the Texans), Bills (Drew Bledsoe is clearly on his last legs) and Packers (looking for the next Brett Favre) at the top of the list.

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