Sunday night's trade of QB Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia to Washington ended a weeks-long marathon of trade rumors surrounding the veteran signal caller. When one door closes, another opens, and from the moment that the Redskins made their annual big off-season splash, their incumbent starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, has been on the trade market.
According to an ESPN 980 radio report out of the nation's capital, the Buffalo Bills - who were heavily linked to McNabb prior to the trade - are one of five teams interested in Washington's quarterback leftovers.
Buffalo has been searching for a franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly's retirement in 1997. Their need has grown so desperate that the team has been linked to just about every available quarterback this off-season, washed up or in their prime. Campbell, 28, is decidedly in his prime, and reports indicate that it might only require a fourth-round pick to acquire a talented player who could compete for a starting job in many, many NFL locales.
The Bills, despite their reported interest, need to be very, very wary of a trade for Campbell.
It's not that I don't see the value of the deal. A fourth-round pick for a player as talented as Campbell seems like an incredibly worthwhile deal. The 6'5", 230-pound Campbell has been through a lot in his five-year NFL career, as the Redskins haven't exactly given him much help offensively - particularly along the offensive line - and only Trent Edwards comes close to having as many different offensive coordinators as Campbell has had. Through it all, he's seen a steady increase in production throughout his four years as a starter, to the point where he threw for 250 or more yards five times last season and finished as the league's 15th-highest rated passer.
From that angle, Campbell in Buffalo would finally provide the QB with some form of schematic stability. Bills head coach Chan Gailey will be acting as his own offensive play-caller, and as he's unlikely to get the boot from GM Buddy Nix after just one year on the job, Campbell would get at least two years - and probably more - of working in the same offense as a Bill. It's hard to forecast, but it's difficult to imagine that fact having anything but a (potentially astronomical) positive impact on his career outlook.
Campbell is also admittedly a solid fit for Buffalo. He's big, mobile, has a good head on his shoulders - i.e. it's not often that he's rattled, and he's mentally tough - and has the requisite arm strength to cut through the icy winds of Orchard Park winters with ease. Campbell's been sacked 81 times over the last two years, thanks in part due to his propensity to hang onto the ball a tad too long (but in much larger part to a terrible offensive line), but has managed to start 32 games despite taking that pounding, so durability is not a concern, either. From a talent standpoint, Campbell makes a lot of sense as well.
Give a talented quarterback schematic stability for the first time in his career. Get a quarterback that's a really solid fit for the Bills' environment for the highly average price of a fourth-round pick. There's a lot to like about that hypothetical.
Here's why Buffalo shouldn't do it: Jason Campbell is 20-32 as an NFL starting quarterback.
I realize there are excuses to be made regarding his record; we've already been over them - the line, the talent around him, the lack of schematic stability. Add in the fact that the Redskins have been trying to upgrade the position for two years, courting everyone from Jay Cutler to Brett Favre to McNabb, and it's not difficult at all to feel sorry for Campbell's situation. He's a pretty good player, and these excuses are valid.
I just don't think Jason Campbell is a player that you can win big with. The .385 winning percentage is concerning despite all of the odds stacked against him. Even in an ideal world in Buffalo, one in which Campbell has job security, scheme stability and all the help in the world, dramatic improvement in the win column might not equal much more than .500. Maybe Campbell is the type of QB that in that ideal circumstance can keep you in playoff contention, and get you there in particularly good seasons. Does anyone really think that Campbell can lead a team deep into a playoff tournament? I know my answer: I don't think he's that type of player.
Buffalo has a unique opportunity in front of them. They've finally gotten themselves a unified front office voice in the form of Nix, Gailey and their various associates, even if it's cost them points in the court of public opinion due to the unpopularity of the choices. That's important, and it's been achieved. What's even more critical is finding a quarterback that you can win with. Given the reports of Buffalo's interest in Campbell, they obviously think they can win with him. I just hope they don't think they can win big, because that's a risky line of thought.
The bottom line for me here is this: I like Jason Campbell. Few quarterbacks have been through as much adversity as he has during his time in D.C., and he's gotten through it with great class and, remarkably, steady improvement on the football field. There is definitely a chance that he can turn himself into an upper-echelon quarterback with a change in environment, and it wouldn't exactly break my heart to see him get that opportunity in Buffalo. He's easy to root for. But Buffalo needs to complete this re-build the right way, and I'm just not sold that building around a quarterback who might not be able to win big - no matter the value of his acquisition - is the best move for the long-term.