As of May 22nd, reports began to circulate that the New York Jets had agreed to terms with former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Joe Flacco. The deal was made official when the Jets confirmed Flacco had signed a 1-year, $1.5 million base salary deal, with incentives worth up to $3 million.
A smart acquisition by Gang Green, they were lacking a true veteran presence behind Sam Darnold.
It’s easy to forget that Darnold is still just 22 years young as he enters his third year in the NFL. A guy who once confessed on the sideline that he was seeing ghosts on the field; 35-year old Flacco is one of the better veterans around to provide the tutelage and knowledge that Darnold needs to succeed in being a multi-year NFL starting QB.
This deal made Joe Flacco the 25th quarterback to either change teams or enter the league in 2020. Whilst some teams of course added their hopeful new franchise QB, others turned their attention to adding a strong albeit steady backup, just like the Jets.
The second most important player
As Charley Casserly once famously said: “the second most important person on the team is the backup quarterback”. Some franchises have taken this advice fully on board by adding someone new for 2020. This list includes the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Cowboys, the Detroit Lions, the Denver Broncos, the Green Bay Packers and so on. A total of 20 teams have in fact added a perceived backup quarterback.
Based on this evidence it would suggest a lot of teams are increasing their investment in the backup QB department. Other notable veteran deals include Andy Dalton to the Cowboys, Jameis Winston to the New Orleans Saints and Kyle Allen to the Washington Redskins. All of the deals have been widely praised across the league.
Whether it’s spending a bit more on one of the better available backups (Dalton to Dallas) or picking up a cheap option (Winston to New Orleans), these are acquisitions of smart franchises.
Drafting the future
With this in mind, it’s comparably perplexing when a team spends a relatively high draft pick on a backup QB it’s often criticised. Two perfect scenarios of this came in the 2020 NFL draft. The examples of course being the Packers trading up to take Jordan Love in the 1st round and the Philadelphia Eagles selecting Jalen Hurts in the 2nd round.
As discussed on the recent episode of Talk Football, it almost seems like the case is if a team drafts a quarterback in the opening rounds of the draft who is highly unlikely to start week 1, it’s immediately classed as a reach or a mistake.
With the vocal unease made clear with the Love and Hurts picks, it rather begs the question, when is the right time to draft the future of the most important position in the team?
The whole backup quarterback argument comes across rather unbalanced when you consider the selections made by the Colts and Bills who took Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm in the 4th and 5th rounds respectively. These picks have passed with little critique. But what is clear at this stage, the Packers and Eagles have come away from the draft with a better situation in their QB rooms.
Armed with this information, it seems there is no perfect solution to the backup quarterback equation. Ultimately there are two ways to go: the draft or sign a veteran. Almost all of the 32 teams in the NFL have made their respective decision with the position. However, one name remains out there that will not seem to go away. No prizes given for guessing the name.
The Cam Newton question
A former MVP quarterback rarely lasts this long on the open market. Cam Newton is facing a unique situation. With his potential landing spots being filled week by week, the prospect draws nearer and nearer that Newton will in fact still be a free agent by the time the season rolls around. Nonetheless, a handful of feasible situations are still out there, albeit backup roles.
Anointed starter Matt Ryan will enter his 13th year in the NFL with the Falcons. Despite a down year in 2019, his desire to play and make a playoff run will be greater than ever. He himself a former MVP, it would make for an incredibly strong QB room.
Newton will certainly welcome a return to the NFC South with the potential of a revenge game with the Carolina Panthers. What may throw a spanner in the works of this fantasy is the Falcons have been relatively settled with their backup QB for a few years now.
Matt Schaub was originally drafted by Atlanta back in 2004, his second stint with the team will enter its fifth year for 2020. He is certainly a name that will not upset the apple cart.
The backup situation on the Rams side of LA is perhaps the weakest in the league. Following the departure of Blake Bortles, behind Jared Goff currently is John Wolford, Bryce Perkins and Josh Love. Not exactly household names. Both Perkins and Love are undrafted rookies, so this would suggest they are rolls of dice rather than surefire successor plans.
Newton to the Rams makes a lot of sense. Despite the Rams handing Goff a mega contract extension recently, they still need a strong plan B in place.
Perhaps a 1-year deal would be best, to allow for the development of Perkins and Love, should they prove to be dependable backups.
A similar situation with the Rams is also happening over in Tennessee. Of course Ryan Tannehill‘s heroics in 2020 are much documented, but the situation behind him is decidedly bleak.
Currently backing up Tannehill are Logan Woodside and 7th round pick Cole McDonald. Woodside himself was a 7th round pick back in 2018 and has yet to thrown a competitive pass in the NFL.
Tannehill is of course a well established veteran of the game but the two guys behind him do not exactly have a proven track record. The addition of Newton would provide stability and an excellent alternative. Back in August 2017, Tannehill had season ending surgery to repair a torn ACL, the durability concern will remain.
There is no such thing as over investing in a backup quarterback.