With a new head coach coming into the fold, the position of quarterback will be closely examined, and it's hard to tell how it will play out. The Ravens currently have three on the roster, and possibly another one coming in the draft. At a minimum that's one too many, and possibly two.
So who stays, and who goes? I guess that depends on what John Harbaugh, and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron are looking for.
In Steve McNair the Ravens have an older quarterback who may no longer have the drive and determination to do what it takes to prepare for an NFL season. I said after the 2006 season that McNair needed to enter into a dedicated work out program to strengthen his arm and his often injured groin area. This year showed the effects of forgoing that type of off season conditioning, and as of this writing I haven't heard that he has any plans for one this year.
Unless McNair dedicates himself to getting into top shape you can stick a fork in him. His cap number will hurt the team even if they get rid of him, but it may come down to that. If nothing else it should show the Ravens front office that it can't over pay for aging players.
Positives; McNair can read a defense, and at this stage of his career I can think of little else he brings to the table.
He can't bounce back from injuries as he once could, and seems to have no arm strength what so ever. I don't think he wants to do what is needed to be a starting quarterback.
Kyle Boller is signed for the coming season, but he may not be what Harbaugh or Cameron are looking for to lead their offense, but then again he just may be. I've said from day one that the Ravens ruined Boller by throwing him to the wolves in his rookie season, and playing behind an offensive line that couldn't pass block. In games where Boller has had time in the pocket he's produced fairly well, though he still makes far too many bone headed mistakes, though he has cut down on them quite a bit.
Harbaugh and Cameron may see some promise in Boller that they think they can bring out. Other quarterbacks have struggled with one team, or one system for years, only to have a break out year under a new coaching staff, and a new philosophy.
Boller grew up in the NFL the hard way, and it seems that now he's finally starting to get it, but it may be too little too late. Boller can make the deep pass down field that has been lacking from the Ravens offense for far too long.
He has started to learn how to look off defenders and make them bite on a pump fake, or just look them off of the receiver. While he still has a habit of focusing on the receiver he wants to throw to, he has gotten better at it when given time.
He still holds on to the ball too long, and tends to run out of the pocket instead of stepping up into it, though there hasn't been much of a pocket provided by this offensive line.
His biggest problem as far as I can see is that he has a hyper personality and I don't think his mind, which works at warp speed can decipher what he sees when looking at the field. I've always said they should slip a Valium into his pre game meal.
Troy Smith didn't get much playing time last season, but what little he did get was impressive to a degree. He showed that he has good pocket presence, that being the ability to sense when the walls are about to cave in.
His biggest problem seems to be that he prefers to roll out of the pocket far too often, and his accuracy while throwing on the run is average at best. In his defense you could say that any quarterback that plays behind the Ravens offensive line is going to have that instinctive survival reflex to get out of harms way before you get killed. I'm sure he noticed the brain rattling hits that Boller took all season.
A new coaching staff will either have to make him more of a pocket passer, which he may not be suited for, or teach him to alter his throwing motion when he throws the ball on the run. He tends to try and throw the ball "over the top" instead of using a side arm style while rolling out and his passes fall flat.
The upside is that Smith is young, and very coachable. He hasn't developed any bad habits that he can't be broken of.
And then there is the possibility that the Ravens may draft another quarterback this Spring. It's been reported that the front office is high on Matt Ryan, and the Ravens could use their 8th pick of the draft to take the Boston College stand out, if the Atlanta Falcons don't beat them to the punch. If the team doesn't pursue Ryan, or if he isn't available that doesn't mean they won't take another quarterback in the latter rounds. There are some pretty good prospects that should be around in rounds 2-4. Colt Brennen, Joe Flacco, and Erik Ainge are a few that come to mind.
You can be sure that John Harbaugh and his offensive coaches will be looking hardest at the quarterback position from the moment the final staff is assembled. And one thing I'm sure they will do is have an honest competition during the mini camps and Spring Training, something that Brian Billick never did. And, as I said, the new coaching staff may see something in one of them that they think they can develop further.
A lot will depend on the type of offensive scheme that Harbaugh and Cameron will employ. If he chooses to go with something similar to the offense they run in Philadelphia then he may look to Boller to be the starter. If Cameron wants to emulate what he did in San Diego then once again Boller may be the choice. If they want to run more of a run and shoot style of West Coast offense then he may want to develop Smith.
I'm sure that the beat reporters will be asking Harbaugh and more specifically Cameron, about what type of system they plan to run as soon as they can get access to them, though they may not be willing to give that information at this time.
Overall I'd have to say the current quarterbacks on the Ravens roster are average, at least the way they've played the game up until now. That may be something that Harbaugh and his Cameron can change, or they may see that they would be wasting their time trying. We'll see.