FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It's April 1. Do you know who your quarterback is?
There will almost certainly be nine new starters this season, and another four teams, including the Dolphins, are uncertain about their starters. That could swell that number to 13.
This is, in large part, what free agency has wrought. As criticized as he was, Trent Dilfer would be starting for the Super Bowl champion Ravens if not for free agency. Because Elvis Grbac was available, the Ravens could dump Dilfer, a free agent, without blinking.
Get used to seeing quarterbacks in different uniforms, and perhaps with different numbers. Brad Johnson is out of Washington and in Tampa Bay. Doug Flutie is no longer with the Bills — he's gone to San Diego. Jon Kitna is out of Seattle and in Cincinnati. Tony Banks, once the future of the Ravens, will start for the Cowboys.
There are more changes to come. The Bears and Falcons are looking for upgrades and aren't sure they have the man they're looking for on the roster. Meanwhile, no one is going to be throwing money at Dilfer, despite his championship ring, until after they assess what they get out of the draft.
THEY'RE ON THE CLOCK: The consensus top five in the draft;
—QB Michael Vick of Virginia Tech to the Chargers.
—DE Justin Smith of Missouri to the Cardinals.
—WR David Terrell of Michigan to the Browns.
—DT Gerald Warren of Florida to the Bengals.
—WR Koren Robinson of North Carolina State to the Falcons.
The big loser in that group? Warren, who is going to one of the two or three worst franchises in the league. The big winner? Vick, who is going to a club that finally has top front-office personnel in place. He will spend a year tutoring under Flutie.
THIRD-AND-LONG: It will take the Cowboys three more years to be a winning team again. They will suffer the effects of salary-cap overdose until then, and there will be no magic Banks-to-Joey Galloway revitalization of the offense. Banks had plenty of top receivers when he was with the Rams and couldn't produce.
—Wideout James McKnight, picked up in free agency, will give the Dolphins more speed, but thus far he has been strictly an outside receiver. Last season, he caught 52 balls, and only one over the middle. He had five drops.
—If Troy Aikman either can't pass a physical or finds no takers, he's thinking about TV broadcasting. He's a big name and that's what intrigues television. Like Joe Montana, it's not in his makeup to criticize players directly even when they play poorly.
—Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, cut loose by the Redskins, won't be soon forgotten in Washington. The excessive amount of money he was paid to go there three years ago will strap the Redskins with $7.5 million against the salary cap this year. He wasn't even one of owner Dan Snyder's nouveau riche.
—The defection of Kenny Holmes to the Giants left the Titans with a serious defensive end problem, but with the recent addition of Kevin Carter via a trade with the St. Louis Rams should help. They don't have a day-in and day-out run-stopper. Jevon Kearse is developing as an all-purpose end, but he's still essentially a pass rusher. They will dip into the draft, but there aren't many Holmes' out there — a midsize defensive end with enough strength to hold his ground. They don't want to have to move defensive tackle Henry Ford outside.
—This is NFL heaven: The realignment proposal that has the Colts moving out of the AFC East and into a division with the Browns, Steelers and Bengals.
—New Jets coach Herman Edwards is a breath of fresh air, but he's going to have to learn the benefits of brevity. He rambles and preaches but he's got only 12 minutes in the locker room at halftime.
—Will the Bucs finally open up their offense with the signing of Brad Johnson? "I don't think we'll be a lot different than we've been in the past," coach Tony Dungy said. He had better hope his team is a lot different from 2000. The Bucs have the potential to be the least cost-effective offense in the NFL. They have paid a lot for Johnson and receiver Keyshawn Johnson, and they didn't come close to using Johnson properly last season.
—I can't wait until Warren Sapp has his first "conversation" with newly acquired quarterback Ryan Leaf. If Leaf pulls the same locker room stuff in Tampa Bay he pulled in San Diego, Sapp will drop-kick him halfway to St. Petersburg.
—The Rams have a Super Bowl offense and an expansion club defense. Coach Mike Martz has virtually stripped away the defense that doomed the team last season. He's building from the back, forward, and the signing of Ravens safety Kim Herring was a first step. Herring will move from strong to free safety, his more natural spot.