The Backup QB Market …

Last week, a friend made a request for a rant.  He reminded me that I had previously said that NFL GMs needed to pay more than passing attention to the “backup QB position” when they did roster construction; my friend said he had been skeptical about the importance of my assertion until last season when “backup QBs” were making significant contributions to playoff teams.  So, his request was for me to present the free agents who might be available to GMs as they did their roster construction for 2024.

I said that I would try to fulfill the request but as soon as I started digging, I realized that there had to be constraints put on my search lest I not get it done before the season started in August.  Here is what I did NOT do:

  • I did not research the contract status for any QBs in the CFL or the UFL who might be considered for backup positions in the NFL this year.
  • I did not consider any QBs who have only played in college and may make their way to training camps this year as late round picks or undrafted free agents.
  • I did not consider free agent QBs who are seeking starting jobs in the NFL such as Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson et al.

Here is an alphabetical list of QBs who are in the job market.  I will have a short comment about some of them.  If you want a deeper dive into their qualifications let me recommend that you visit and enter the name of the player you are interested in.

Before I get to the listing, let me define the qualities of a backup QB in terms that no coach or GM would ever use in public.  A backup QB is an insurance policy; like an insurance policy, the preferred course of business is never having to use the QB or the insurance.  Backup QBs, therefore, need to be ”good locker room guys” who stay out of the “news/limelight” unless they need to be called upon in an emergency.  It is that last condition that keeps players such as Colin Kaepernick, Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton off my listing here.

  • Brandon Allen:  Five years in the NFL but did not appear in a game in 2023.
  • Kyle Allen:  Meh!
  • Matt Barkley:  In 10 seasons, he has appeared in 20 games and started 7 times.  He must be a great locker room guy …
  • Jacoby Brisset:  A proven backup QB on the field and supposedly in the locker room.
  • Sam Darnold:  Once a highly regarded QB prospect.
  • Josh Dobbs:  Been in the NFL 4 years and has been on 5 teams; clearly, he is a “quick study”.
  • Jeff Driskell:  Career backup.
  • Blaine Gabbert:  Twelve years in the NFL; appeared in 69 games; 51 TDs and 50 INTs.
  • Will Grier:  Started 2 games for the Panthers in 2019; 0 TDs and 4 INTs.  That is the extent of his NFL career so far.
  • Tyler Huntley:  His style of play makes him a perfect backup to Lamar Jackson.
  • Drew Lock:  A second round pick in 2019.
  • Joe Flacco:  Maybe too old for a team to sign as its starter, but his performance in 2023 says he can be a valuable backup.
  • Nick Foles:  Has not filed his “retirement papers” and is a former MVP of the Super Bowl.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo:  Rumors say he will be released by the Raiders.  He must serve a two-game suspension for PEDs.  Good enough for a backup role somewhere.
  • Marcus Mariota:  Good guy to fill in for a game or three if needed.
  • Gardner Minshew:  He might be hoping for a starting job, but I think he is a prime candidate for a backup position.
  • Nate Peterman:  Career stat here – – 4 TDs and 13 INTs …
  • Brett Rypien:  Meh!
  • Mason Rudolph:  He might compete for the starting job in several places, because he has shown well in the backup role.
  • Trevor Siemian:  Meh!
  • Easton Stick:  A late round pick in 2019; started 4 games in 2023 and the Chargers lost them all.
  • Nate Sudfeld:  Meh!
  • Ryan Tannehill:  Loads of NFL experience; could step in and start if needed.
  • Tyrod Taylor:  Not good enough to be a starter but has played well as a backup for 5 teams since 2011.
  • Mitchell Trubisky:  Once a highly regarded prospect.
  • PJ Walker:  Meh!
  • Carson Wentz:  Showed great promise early in his career.
  • Zach Wilson:  Rumors say he will be released by the Jets.  He was the #2 overall pick in 2021.
  • Jameis Winston:  He can throw a team out of a game and/or back into a game – – often in the same game.
  • John Wolford:  Three years in the NFL, he did not appear in any game in 2023.

There is a potential for at least one and possibly two QBs to be added to this list in the next month or so.  In 2023, the Falcons alternated starting QBs with Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder.  Frankly, neither is any great shakes as a starter and both can be perfectly useful as backups.  Rumors have it that the Falcons – – with a new head coach – – will be in the market for a starter; some rumors have them trading with the Bears for Justin Fields; other rumors have them trading up in the Draft for one of the prime QB candidates in this year’s Draft.  If the Falcons acquire a starter, one or both of Heinicke/Ridder could easily be inserted onto this listing.

The NFL free agency season begins – legally – on March 11th; nothing official can happen until then.  However, with the convocation of agents and scouts and coaches and GMs at the NFL Combine that begins today, there will be lots of sub rosa negotiating and posturing among the attendees.

So, if your favorite NFL team needs to dip into the backup QB market, I believe that this is the universe of candidates for your GM to consider signing – – with the caveats listed above.

Finally, I began above by drawing the analogy of an NFL backup QB to an insurance policy.  So let me close with these observations about insurance policies:

“Both terrorism and insurance sell fear – – and business is business.”  Liam McCurry

And …

“If you look at how the federal government spends our money, it’s an insurance conglomerate protected by a large standing army.”  Ezra Klein

And …

Fun is like life insurance; the older you get, the more it costs.”  Kin Hubbard

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……..



2 thoughts on “The Backup QB Market …”

  1. Your interminable list of backup NFL quarterbacks has me searching for my Paxel in the medicine cabinet.
    When you speak of Carson Wentz’s “early” career, do you mean high school?

    1. TenaciousP:

      Carson Wentz was in the running for NFL MVP until he got a season-ending injury in Game 13 of the 2017 NFL season. Even missing the final games of the season, he finished third in the MVP voting that year and he made the second team All-Pro. That year was the second year of his NFL career and I think that qualifies as “early”.

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