by Russ Bliss (5/8/11)

With the uncertainty surrounding when free agency will begin and what rules will govern it, it's giving us fantasy fanatics some real problems in terms of knowing who is going to be the starting QB for several teams. It makes it difficult to project in our fantasy football draft analyzer early simulations as the system runs completely off who are the quarterbacks on the team now and who is likeliest to start. It cannot run off who we think may be added thru free agency and eventually become the starting QB at a future time.

In coming weeks, the preliminary analysis will be forthcoming and assignments of fantasy football rankings for cheat sheets will have to be made in regards to those teams who are probably lacking their current starting QB. We will see whether the owners, players, and the court system do us any favors and make it easier.

For now though, let's look at the teams who either probably do not have their starting QB currently on their roster or are actively looking to bring in real competition for the job.

1) Miami Dolphins.

Chad Henne was the starter in 2010 but took a step back after being considered a prime fantasy football sleeper QB heading into the season on the back end of a strong finish to the 2009 season. However, things didn't pan out as hoped and Henne is on a very hot seat as the starter for Miami in 2011. The current hot talk is that the Dolphins want Carson Palmer, but it remains to be seen if Cincinnati will trade Palmer instead of just letting him retire. Donovan McNabb would be an interesting addition but there's been precious little word of that happening and I'm just speculating a desperate team may do a desperate thing. With so many teams needing a QB and the Dolphins having Henne, it's kind of hard to see a different QB other than Henne starting the season in 2011 for them.

2) Cincinnati Bengals

It's believed by many that Carson Palmer is quite serious about never playing for the Bengals again, and while he may change his mind eventually, the team has already planned on moving on with the drafting of Andy Dalton in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. I'm not quite sure Dalton is everything the team thinks he is, but they are currently ready to go with Dalton as their week 1 starter unless they can get a better veteran presence to help mentor Dalton than current QB's Jordan Palmer and Dan LeFevour. I'd say it's a good bet Dalton lines up as the starter week 1, but it isn't a sure thing.

3) Tennessee Titans

The Titans have reiterated that they will not be bringing back Vince Young even though Jeff Fischer is no longer the coach of the team. And it's a break they need to make. Drafting Jake Locker with the 8th overall pick in the draft was a bit of a shocker though as I would have expected the Titans to have gone with someone who owned a better completion percentage than 53% for his college career. But they love Locker's leadership and with only Rusty Smith and Brett Ratliff also on the team (once they officially discard Young), someone will be starting, and it's likely to be Locker. They have said they could consider bringing back Kerry Collins, but it appears Collins really isn't in their plans. If I were to bet, I'd say Locker is likely to be a rookie QB who starts week 1. But it isn't an optimal situation for him or the Titans.

4) Denver Broncos

Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton? Which one will it be? The new Broncos regime isn't sold on Tebow (or anyone that was brought in by Josh McDaniels) and while Tebow showed some playmaking ability the last couple of games of 2010, he is still regarded as a huge question mark. Orton is a steady veteran who excelled in McDaniels pass happy system for a while before cracks in game began to surface. Orton is a steady QB with some upside, but is not a premiere passer or reader of defenses. What he does well though is manage games and play smartly more often than not. Orton is due almost $8 million for 2011 and if the Broncos aren't going to start him that's a ton to be giving a backup QB. They would be happy to move Orton for a second round pick in the 2012 draft if they can get a taker. If so, Tebow would start 2011 unless they brought in a veteran free agent they felt good about. And there aren't many of those. If no deal is made, it's anyone's best guess whether Orton or Tebow would start week 1.

5) Washington Redskins

Everyone forgets that Donovan McNabb is still under contract with Washington and is one of only two QB's on their current roster. The other is John Beck. Now McNabb is likely out after a rift developed between him and Mike Shanahan in 2010 that sent McNabb to the bench and the Redskins would be thrilled to get any deal brokered which would get McNabb out of Washington. Shanahan is blowing smoke when he says he would be okay with Beck as his starter. Kyle Orton probably tops the wish list for the Redskins as he would bring in a steady presence but Marc Bulger is another possibility. Rex Grossman closed out 2010 as the starter but there has been no word on bringing him back to be their guy in 2011 and he is likely headed elsewhere. The Redskins starting QB of 2011 isn't on their roster right now.

6) Minnesota Vikings

Another NFL Draft surprise was the Vikings selection of Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick. The Vikings have said they will give Ponder every chance to win the starting job, but speculation abounds that a veteran like Donovan McNabb to help bridge the gap would be preferable for them. Second year QB Joe Webb didn't show enough to earn trust, Rhett Bomar is completely untested, and Tarvaris Jackson has completely been forgotten about and is expected to be released as soon as the Vikings can do so. It's an odd situation since Jackson was once thought to be the guy, but he hasn't developed as hoped and his time appears to be through despite the concerns Minnesota must have. Brett Favre is going to finally retire so those holding out hope for Favre to change his mind and come back can go to sleep. Unless they land McNabb, which I think isn't a great idea for them, I expect Ponder will be one of 4 rookie QB's who will start the 2011 season week 1.

7) Carolina Panthers

It's not often a team takes a QB with the first overall pick in the draft and then goes out and brings in a veteran from outside the organization to compete with him for the starting job, but the Panthers really would need to be blind to think they can throw Cam Newton into the fire and expect things to go well. Sure Newton is a tremendous athlete, but as a QB he is raw and would need a tailoring back of the offense on an epic scale. If the Panthers are willing to do that, maybe Newton can have some moderate amount of success, but this has a train wreck feeling to it. And then there's also Jimmy Clausen. Clausen was miserable last season as the starter when pressed into action, but how fair is it to judge him with that OL and suspect WR corps? Clausen was overwhelmed to be sure, but he shouldn't be given up on so quickly. But it would be a huge surprise if Clausen somehow started week 1 over Newton. There are also Tony Pike and Keith Null, but neither is a serious contender for the starting job in any way, shape, or form. The Panthers could consider resigning Matt Moore (who started 2010 as the QB) but it appears they aren't interested in doing that. Cam Newton is very likely to start from week 1.

8) Arizona Cardinals

If any team can point at its QB situation as the one thing that is preventing it from being a playoff contender, it's Arizona. Not replacing Kurt Warner with a quality option turned into a disaster as Derek Anderson was horrific, Max Hall was equally brutal, and John Skelton was mediocre. Anderson is as good as gone once the Cardinals can release him. Hall is no better than the 3rd QB (if that), and while Skelton isn't being given up on yet, he is not being seriously considered by the coaching staff as an option to start the 2011 season with. The Cardinals are definitely a team waiting until NFL business is operational again to get their starting QB. Many reports say Kevin Kolb is their primary guy and it makes sense. But they have also been linked to both Kyle Orton and Marc Bulger. It's a fair bet that one of these 3 will be starting for the Cardinals and there's even been some speculation that Carson Palmer would be a possibility for them. There's one sure thing and I covered it recently in my fantasy football blog about the Cardinals and their 2011 QB situation: Arizona's week 1 starting QB is NOT on their current roster.

9) San Francisco 49ers

While Alex Smith is a free agent and not on the current roster, reports are that the 49ers want him to return and compete to be the starter for the 2011 season. It makes sense as Jim Harbaugh would like to get a crack at the former #1 overall draft pick and see if he can get him to the level many expected Smith to reach by now. But the 49ers also hedged their bet with second round pick Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick is not considered a polished product and supposedly needs more time, but he brings freakish athleticism and a strong work ethic that could endear him sooner than later, especially if Smith decides against coming back. With only horrible David Carr and unreliable Troy Smith as the other options, the 49ers are hoping for Smith to re-sign and start 2011 while they develop Kaepernick. It appears Smith is willing to give Harbaugh a chance for a year and I expect Smith is most likely to start week 1 in 2011 for the 49ers.

10) Seattle Seahawks

Granted, Charlie Whitehurst didn't exactly light anyone up when pushed into action, but I think the Seahawks do themselves a big disservice by not going into 2011 firmly behind Whitehurst and seeing what they have in him and whether he is worth all they gave up to get him before the 2010 season began. After all, Whitehurst did get them the win in week 17 that got them into the playoffs. But after one season, it appears the Seahawks are ready to give up on Whitehurst and not seriously let him compete for the starting job. The current plan appears to be to try and acquire either Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb via trade or hope they can re-sign Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is a solid veteran, but his age, and injury propensity in recent years, makes it hard to feel good about him holding up for an entire season. J.P. Losman is the only other QB on the current roster besides Whitehurst and there's no way Losman is getting a chance. It's likely their current starting QB isn't on this roster.