Matt Hasselbeck is signed through 2010. If Matt Hasselbeck plays well the next two seasons and wishes to re-sign, Seattle is faced with an unfavorable scenario. Hasselbeck will be 35. He will turn 36 at the start of the 2011 season. If he's not already in decline, he will be on the absolute cusp. It will be very unpopular to not re-sign Hasselbeck, and if we assume he plays well, the team will not be in position to take a top quarterback prospect. Seneca Wallace will be gone. The team could re-sign Hasselbeck for too much money and attempt to develop a mid-tier prospect, but few quality quarterbacks slip.
If Matt Hasselbeck plays well next season, but not in 2010, Seattle will be faced with an unfavorable scenario. Hasselbeck doesn't seem the type to play until the bitter end, and I think he would retire. Though a top overall quarterback will be in reach, that quarterback will probably have to start right away. Not only will he not play well, but the experience could arrest his development. Assuming it doesn't, Hasselbeck re-signs or the team acquires someone decent, it still puts Seattle in a tough spot. By 2011, much of its defensive talent will be peaking. Seattle will be rebuilding its offense just as its defense begins its peak.
If Matt Hasselbeck plays poorly next season, it's unlikely he plays well in 2010. It's unlikely he'll play in 2010. Even if Hasselbeck plays poorly in 2009, Seattle should rebound. Its defense will play better, the schedule is still easy, and the Cardinals will likely be worse. If Seattle finishes even 6-10 it could be out of the running for both Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy. Whatever quarterback Seattle takes, he will likely have to start in his first season, if not right away, at some point in the season. The defense will be on the up, but the offense will be just beginning.
If Seattle acquires a quarterback, and the pickings are slim, it will enter 2011 with a defense entering its prime, a payroll free of Hasselbeck and Patrick Kerney, and a quarterback beginning his third season with Seattle. If all goes well, it will be reentering its window of contention. But who?
Brian Brohm: Brohm is super cheap and at just twenty three, a complete wildcard. Green Bay signed Aaron Rodgers to a six year, 65 million dollar contract last season. Formerly a top prospect, Brohm wants to start. The trick is convincing Green Bay into a trading a super-cheap, young and talented quarterback. The Packers used their 56th overall selection to take Brohm, if Seattle is interested, their third round pick could be enough.
Matt Cassel: New England franchised Cassel. Right now, he's due 14.65 million dollars in 2009. New England may retain Cassel as Brady insurance, but it's more likely they attempt to sign him and then flip him to another team for a quality draft pick or picks. As an established NFL starter, he will command a lot in the way of trade. He'll also be pretty expensive. Most importantly though, there's a compelling case he just isn't that good. He ranked 37th in Air Yards. That means most of his value was tied to receiver run after the catch. That's not coming to Seattle, nor is Randy Moss. For all the talk about the Patriot's success as a team, the Cassel led passing offense dropped from historically good to middle of the pack. Cassel will be 27 before the start of next season, is already a four year veteran, will be expensive and probably tops out at average.
Derek Anderson: Cleveland signed Anderson to a 3 year, $24 million dollar contract in 2008. He proceeded to have an awful season on a hyper-talented offense before being benched. Anderson was never much of a prospect and never looked good before 2007. As I once told someone who asked me if we sold lotto tickets, give me a buck and I'll give you a one in a billion chance to win.
If I'm not missing anyone, that's about all who's available outside the draft. Seattle is in a good position to draft the top overall quarterback, and historically, the top overall quarterback has yielded the best results, but since we've already talked Stafford to death (and simultaneously not even begun to talk Stafford) let's talk about the other talents Seattle could target. Not a judgment on Sanchez, but it just seems exceedingly unlikely.
Second Tier Talent
Josh Freeman played against a super softball schedule and against even a semi-tough opponent, the wheels fell of. Freemen is super young and has the all-important/actually not that important combination of giant arm and prototypical height. A product of an awful class, thought to have a high ceiling by people who ignore everything but arm strength and more likely a bust than almost any player projected to be drafted in the first day.
Third Tier Talent
It's hard to say exactly who this is. At the moment, it's something like: everyone else.
So Seattle's in an unenviable position. An expensive, aged quarterback on the downslide, a defense built to breakout in the next few years, and a top five draft pick with only one quarterback worthy of it. One isn't a lot of options. Seattle could punt, grab the best talent available and ignore a monster need at quarterback, or even hope a third tier player somehow becomes more, but that doesn't so much solve the need as procrastinate and potentially make the need more dire. Without a top quarterback, the team isn't anywhere near contention. Top quarterbacks tend to come from the first round. It seems like a huge risk.
Consider this, if Michael Crabtree is a very good player, like Larry Fitzgerald good since everyone is obsessing over that comparison, his contribution is still not enough to make Seattle a contender in 2009. Fitzgerald had only 58 catches for 780 yards his rookie season. Seattle's offense is not a very good wide receiver from greatness. Its line is spotty, its running backs average, and its receiving corps dependent on Deion Branch's health. The defense should rebound, but not from garbage to the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. This team just isn't likely a contender in 2009.
Hasselbeck is 36 in 2010, and even if the rest of the team emerges, is going to be bad. The team is either going to run out a way-past-his-prime Hasselbeck, a rookie, or a quarterback entering his second season. Not to break hearts, but contention isn't likely in either of Seattle's next two seasons. If the team selects Matthew Stafford, he'll probably be given about four seasons to play poorly before the team moves on without him. New GM, new coaching staff - it could happen in three.
Quarterbacks are given too much credit for wins and too much blame for losses. Part of the reason highly drafted quarterbacks struggle, play for losing ball clubs and wash out of the league is that the teams that draft them are very bad to begin with. Part of the reason Atlanta took off under Matt Ryan is that their offense was already very talented. Part of the reason Joe Flacco is considered a success is that the Baltimore Ravens were already likely to bounce back (as predicted by Football Outsiders). Stafford may not be the bridge from losing to contention, but the team is rebuilding with or without him. If he flops, the team is out another year or two. If the team refuses to draft him because of fear of failure, well, there's no sign of when Seattle will be competitive again.