The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

Get 'Em Young 'N Cheap

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The twist here is that the very rules that have made it easier for quarterbacks to pile up big passing numbers also have made it increasingly difficult for them to last an entire season unscathed.

When the NFL tinkered with the rules before the 2004 season to crack down on clutching-and-grabbing tactics by defensive backs and open up the passing game, it left defenses with only one way to stop the pass: Go after the quarterback. So now pass rushing is at a premium. Quarterbacks take more hits than ever from bigger, faster defenders, and it has become unrealistic for a team to believe it can make it through an entire season playing only one quarterback. You'd better have at least two that can play. Why, the Kansas City Chiefs already are on their third different starter this season.

The problem is, you can't afford to pay big money to two or three quarterbacks, not with the salary cap. So the idea here is not to go the route of the 49ers and have someone like Alex Smith as your would-be backup (before his season-ending re-injury to his shoulder). The idea is to have an ascending young player (think Matt Cassel) or a descending old player (think Gus Frerotte) at that spot. Both of those classifications of quarterbacks come relatively cheap.

The Vikings, it says here, will be far better with Frerotte at quarterback than they were with Tarvaris Jackson at the position. I'm not saying that Frerotte is an all-world player. But all the Vikings need, with their offensive line and their running back and their defense, is a threat in the passing game, and Frerotte is a threat.

Still, signing the old guy isn't the way to go if you can get the right young guy. Cassel now looks like that guy in New England while subbing for the injured Tom Brady. He's on the Tony Romo plan: Enter the league with no fanfare, sit and wait and practice and learn with no expectations and no pressure and then get it done when you get your chance. That's the best way of all to have the right backup quarterback in the salary cap world: Spot someone with promise late in the draft (or after the draft is over and he's gone unpicked) and then invest the time needed to coach him and get him ready to play when needed. It worked for Romo, and now it might work for Cassel.

By Mark Maske  |  September 17, 2008; 10:46 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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