One of the obvious realities in the NFL right now is the degree to which quarterbacks seem to mean everything. Of the top 10 teams drafting in April, nine have what could be considered tenuous quarterback situations. (And remember, the league could be boarded up from a labor standpoint, but the draft will go on.) Even Dallas, with Tony Romo, seems to at least have an eye toward the market, or at least the draft.
With that in mind, here's the order I'd target the quarterbacks whose names are most often being thrown around in trade discussions right now. It's important to note that this list doesn't involve price, as each guy is coming from a different situation and their respective teams may be more or less flexible when it comes to dealing.
1. Carson Palmer
I can hear the dissenters, as Palmer is coming off a bad year for his standards. But if a team wants to win now, it can at least guarantee a level of proficiency with Palmer. He has a career quarterback rating of 86.9, has thrown for over 234 yards a game and not always in front of the best offensive line. Is Palmer the best quarterback for a franchise for the next 10 years if it makes a deal? No. But even three years is a coaching eternity in this league, and if you're a team such as Arizona or San Francisco, with a lot of good pieces but a void under center, how can you not get a price quote on a guy who has demanded to be traded?
2. Kevin Kolb
Is he a better "prospect" than Palmer? Perhaps. But as much as Kolb generates a lot of interest as a proven commodity, his resume is still lacking. He'll be 27 years old in August and has started just seven games in his career, with 11 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. Andy Reid and the Eagles are smart to keep the price high on Kolb. (With as much as Michael Vick has shown, he can be a star again in this league and his style of play will always necessitate confidence in the backup.) For the same price, a team will get more certainty out of Palmer.
3. Kyle Orton
Orton has been somewhat maligned, considering he has continued to improve and that heading into the 2010 season (an obviously disappointing one) he carried a 29-19 record as a starter. He has arm strength, a passer rating over 86 in each of the past two seasons and could continue to improve. I don't think John Fox is in a hurry to let him walk, but his name continues to circulate as a possible trade target.
4. Matt Flynn
It has to be said: Flynn has karma on his side. Before Aaron Rodgers, Seattle took Matt Hasselbeck off the Green Bay bench and got its franchise quarterback. Rodgers became the next success story. Flynn has thrown just 83 career passes, so much of the praise is simple word of mouth. But if Ted Thompson really likes a quarterback and doesn't want to let him go, that alone will draw the interest of other teams.
5. Donovan McNabb
I like McNabb, but time isn't on his side. He may not have been given much to work with in Washington, but he showed real signs of decline and it's hard to consider him much more than a Band-Aid, given that he'll turn 35 during the 2011 season. He completed just 58.3 percent of his passes last year and the accuracy questions will always be there.
6. Vince Young
Young remains an enigma, a guy who has been able to win games but could never seem to gain the trust of Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. Never a very accurate quarterback, there isn't a lot of confidence that he can adapt well to systems, so his stock on the trade market shouldn't be that high. The upside is he's still just 27, and plenty of good quarterbacks have blossomed past that age.