- John Clayton, NFL senior writer
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Donovan McNabb was the last player anyone expected to be on the free-agent market next year.
As far as talent goes, he's the best quarterback Dan Snyder has had since buying the Redskins. But Mike Shanahan obviously has his doubts, judging by his decision to bench McNabb in Week 8. With such doubts, it's unlikely McNabb will get the $12 million to $15 million a year contract extension that looked to be a slam dunk this past summer.
That would put the Redskins among nine teams looking for quarterbacks. McNabb probably will end up in Arizona or Minnesota. The Cardinals were reluctant to go for him this past offseason even though he'd love to play in the Phoenix area. With the failures of Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson and Max Hall, the Cards probably would now jump at the chance to get McNabb. For the Vikings, he'd be the perfect person to replace Brett Favre.
Here's my bold prediction for the Redskins: They will be the team to go after Michael Vick. Shanahan can do a lot of things with quarterbacks who move well in the pocket. He got the best out of Jake Plummer. The only problem with getting Vick is how the Eagles handle him.
Vick probably would give the Eagles a discount to stay because of how the organization gave him a chance to resurrect his career. A free agent after the season, Vick also could be franchised to block a move to Washington, but to do so would cost the Eagles around $15 million.
Teams such as the Seahawks, Jaguars, 49ers, Browns and Bills will all be looking at some of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Shanahan wants to win now. Sure, he may first try to trade for Jay Cutler, but if that doesn't work out, watch him go for Vick.
From the inbox
Q: If a player is deemed to have struck a player that would result in a suspension, and that game was a preseason game, would that player serve the suspension in the preseason game (assuming it's not the last preseason game), or would the NFL require that player to serve the suspension in the regular season?
Mark in Sydney
A: Yes. That happens all the time. The suspension would carry into the first or second regular-season game depending on the length of the suspension. If a player gets a three-game suspension with two games left in the regular season, the suspension would carry into the next season.
Q: After reading an ESPN.com story that compared Jeff George and Jay Cutler, I thought I might make another quarterback comparison: Scott Mitchell and Tony Romo. Both started as backups, then became starters. Both have similar statistics (I'm sticking with Mitchell's Lions years) and basically no success in the playoffs compared to the expectations. The biggest difference is that Romo doesn't throw as many interceptions as Mitchell did and that Romo has won a playoff game.
Gary in Middlebury, Ind.
A: As always, Gary, you raise interesting points. I think Romo is much, much better than Mitchell. I think Romo is more accurate. With the exception of this year, he's more consistent in getting a team to the playoffs. A lot of times, it's hard to get over the stigma of being an undrafted free agent. I remember covering Dave Krieg of the Seahawks. Krieg had a great career, but he always had to live with the fact that he was undrafted and came out of a small college. The team was usually looking for a quarterback to replace him. One of the problems in this league is that there aren't enough good quarterbacks to challenge other quarterbacks in camps. Romo has earned the luxury of being the unchallenged starter because he puts up good numbers. Unfortunately for Romo, he will have to wait until next year to get back to the playoffs and quiet the critics.
Q: Do you think that the Kansas City Chiefs are legitimate playoff contenders and could play into the later rounds?
Brandon in Missouri
A: We'll know a lot more Sunday when the Chiefs play the Raiders, but it's pretty clear the Chiefs have a great chance to win the AFC West and get a home game. But let's look ahead. Let's say the Chiefs get the fourth seed with a 9-7 record. Their wild-card opponent would be either the second-place team in the AFC East -- the Patriots or Jets -- or the second-place team in the AFC North -- the Ravens or Steelers. The Chiefs would most likely be underdogs in that game. They'd have their best chance against the Jets. It would be a running team against a running team. It would be Thomas Jones going against the team that let him go. I'd still favor the Jets because of the pressure they would put on Matt Cassel. The quality of the wild-card team could make it a one-and-done situation in the playoffs for the Chiefs.
Q: Why is the Kansas City offensive line not getting more credit for being the best in football? The Chiefs have stellar run blocking and have allowed only eight sacks.
Matt in Ames, Iowa
A: The reason the line isn't getting much attention is because the Chiefs aren't getting much attention -- yet. Everyone agrees they're one of the most improved teams in the league, but there hasn't been a big game to draw national attention. Example: The Chiefs-Raiders game this week is huge. If NBC had the ability to flex that game this early in the season, would they do it? Probably not. The ratings wouldn't be there. Neither the AFC West nor the NFC West is getting much respect. As the season goes on, though, the Chiefs will get their honors. They are well-coached and the team is getting the most out of its talent.
Q: Why can't the NFL come up with a rule that encompasses what a valid reception is?
Brian in Edmonds, Wash.
A: The league's efforts to clarify what a catch is or isn't have to be reviewed after the season. It's been a problem for more than five years now, and uncertainty remains. Remember a couple of years ago when officials were having trouble judging catches when a player hit the ground and the ball would come out? The league decided to set up a thought in the minds of officials that the receiver has to complete the catch and appear to be in a position to hand them the ball. There won't be any major changes, but the thinking process has to be tweaked because there are inconsistencies in the decisions.
Q: The Arizona Cardinals seem to be the most unstable team at QB so far this year. Though it's too early to predict where they will land in the draft, do you think they will try to obtain a younger QB during the offseason (Chase Daniel or Kellen Clemens come to my mind), draft a QB, or stick with Max Hall or Derek Anderson? Daniel had a really good preseason game this year for New Orleans, and Clemens, though not prolific, is more stable than Hall or Anderson. What are your thoughts?
Scott in Gresham, Ore.
A: The efforts to replace Kurt Warner completely failed. In retrospect, Cardinals ownership should have let Ken Whisenhunt sign Marc Bulger, because he would have been a perfect fit in the system. That move, according to sources, was blocked and Bulger ended up going to the Ravens for $3.8 million. I'm not sold that Daniel or Clemens would do any better. The coaching staff resisted the idea of going for Donovan McNabb, even though McNabb would have loved playing in Phoenix. Next year, the Cardinals need to grab him.
Q: What do you think of the youth and talent on the Raiders, specifically the D?
Parker in Seattle
A: I liked what they did in the offseason, when I made them one of my surprise teams. Now, they are living up to the billing. I liked the acquisition of Jason Campbell. Even though Campbell hasn't been great, he's making the guys around him better. They need to keep him as the starter. Except for the Seattle game (Week 8), the defense has disappointed me, but maybe the Seattle game turned things around.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
Don't be surprised if the Redskins, who appear to have soured on Donovan McNabb, make a play for Michael Vick in 2011, John Clayton writes in his latest mailbag.