Recent news indicates that Tarvaris Jackson is likely to test the free agent waters this year, in hopes of getting into a situation that either pays him more money and/or gives him a chance to compete for a starting job/puts him behind a quarterback who might be a little more injury-prone than Russell Wilson. Your guess is as good as mine as to what Tarvar has been doing in recent offseasons. This story makes it sound like he’s been settling for being Seattle’s backup because it’s comfortable and familiar. My guess is that Seattle has indeed been giving him the best possible deal, as I can’t imagine the market is too hard-up for a guy who’s proven he’s a backup in this league and nothing more.
Granted, he’s one of the better backups across the league, but a backup he remains.
Still, if you’re Tarvar, you’re looking around at some of these teams in 2015 – struggles in Dallas, Philly, St. Louis, Frisco, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Houston – and you’ve got to be thinking that you’re better than the backups for those teams who were forced into action (Dallas and Baltimore, particularly) and in other cases, better than who they’re running out as starters (Cleveland, Houston, St. Louis and the rest). So, yeah, it makes sense – if you want to give it a go as a real live NFL quarterback (and not just a seat-warmer on the bench) – to put yourself out there as a veteran alternative for some of these teams who don’t land their Quarterback of the Future in the NFL Draft or free agency. At the very least, he’d be likelier to see the field playing behind someone a little less durable than Russell Wilson (boy, am I putting the whammy on our boy with this sentiment).
So, what we’re talking about is, for the first time in years, looking for a non-Tarvar backup.
All else being equal, I’d like to have Tarvar back again. That’s going to mean many multiple teams pass him over for other alternatives, leaving him with a pretty bruised ego, but so be it. If, however, for the sake of argument we’re talking about a Tarvar-less future, then there are two obvious routes you can take: bring in a veteran, or draft/sign a rookie.
Seattle’s in a wonderful position in this regard, because we have Russell Wilson. He’s a solid, franchise quarterback, still in the early-prime of his career. We don’t necessarily NEED to bring in another starting candidate to push him. Which means, obviously, backup quarterback is a position that you can save some money on (which is important, considering how much money Wilson is taking in). Therefore, you won’t see the Seahawks using a high draft pick, and you won’t see them blowing out the bank on free agents like Cousins, Fitzpatrick, Osweiler, or Bradford (who will all be looking for opportunities to start somewhere anyway).
That puts us in the range of a low-round draft pick (maybe 5th or lower), an undrafted rookie, or one of the other veteran options out there on the market.
In looking at those veteran options … woof! What a bunch of dogs! When you think of a backup quarterback in our kind of situation (i.e. someone who is a clear backup and has no chance to be this team’s starter when all players are healthy), your BEST CASE scenario is a guy who will fill in for a few weeks and somehow manage to keep the team in/around .500. A guy like Seneca Wallace back in the day is a perfect example of this. We were lucky to have drafted him to play behind Hasselbeck, so he was cheap for many years. If we can somehow do that again, that’s probably the most realistic ideal situation. Looking at veteran options, someone like … Matt Hasselbeck last year with Indy. He was able to fill in for a few games and led them to some quality wins! Then, as the season dragged on, as Luck was unable to return and the games piled up, Hasselbeck was less and less effective. Old guys getting hit a lot tend to break down, shocking I know.
This post by Field Gulls has a nice little list of free agent quarterbacks. If you remove Tarvar (for the sake of argument), and you remove the four starting candidates (Bradford, Cousins, Fitzpatrick, and Osweiler), you’re left with the crap of the crap (obviously, it’s still really early in the offseason, and a lot of cuts/trades are out there to be made; this post won’t include guys likely to be released/already under contract). Among guys with significant starting experience, you’re talking about:
Cassel is old and grossly over-valued. I have zero confidence in his abilities to guide a team to a .500 record in the absence of this team’s starter (see: his stint in Dallas last year). Clausen is horrible; Gradkowski hasn’t had significant starting experience in half a decade; Lindley & Stanton are who we think they are; Vick is as done as done can be; the best thing Whitehurst has ever done is somehow trick Jewel into going out with him (aside from tricking multiple teams into giving him multiple millions of dollars, including the Seahawks, and now this is making me even more upset); and Yates apparently only has value to the Houston Texans, so that’s a stay-away in my book.
Of the guys I didn’t list in that paragraph, Hasselbeck is obviously the most interesting. Who knows if he’s even in the market to continue his career after the thrashing he took in Luck’s absence last year? Odds are, since Wilson does a better job of avoiding contact, he probably doesn’t suffer the same lacerated spleen or whatever the hell it was that Luck had. Then again, if you’re Hasselbeck, would you ever expect a tough hoss like Luck to get injured in the first place?
RGIII might be another someone looking to compete for a starting job. In fact, I’m almost sure of it, so I don’t know why I kept him here. Obviously, I worry about injuries with him. I also worry about his mindset. By all accounts, he was a quality teammate last year and didn’t cause any trouble in the lockerroom. But, for a guy drafted as high as he was, who still has a lot of the skills that made him so highly sought after (minus the legs, obviously), he’d make an ideal backup candidate. BUT, maybe not for the Seahawks. I just have my doubts as to his willingness to come in and be the clear #2.
If I’m being honest, I don’t totally hate the idea of Chad Henne as this team’s backup. When he first got a crack to be a team’s starter, it was in Miami in 2009 & 2010. Those weren’t great teams, but they were sort of middle-of-the-road, .500-ish teams, and he led them to .500-ish records accordingly. His career started to go down the shitter when he went to Jacksonville, playing on some truly horrendous teams. On the right team (i.e. on THIS team, the Seahawks), I think Henne could be a .500-ish quarterback again. He’s going to complete upwards of 57-60% of his passes, and if you instruct him to refrain from taking too many chances, you might be able to coax his interception percentage down to reasonable levels. He is getting on in age, though, so he’s probably not all that mobile, which obviously is going to be an issue for most of these veterans we’re looking at.
Luke McCown had 1 start in 2015, and played brilliantly in a losing effort. Against Carolina, he completed 31 of 38 passes for 310 yards and a pick. Before that, he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so I don’t know what you’d expect here. That one start for New Orleans really skews his career numbers, but he could be an interesting buy-low candidate with some semblance of upside as a backup.
Colt McCoy might honestly be the best of the bunch. Drafted by Cleveland, I tend to discount whatever anyone does in Cleveland, as they’ve been a trainwreck ever since the NFL let them back into the league (and for many years before they went to Baltimore to boot). In 2014, McCoy had a string of games with the Redskins that showed everyone why he was thought of so highly coming out of college, as well as why he’s now exclusively a backup. He had two and a half really good games (including an impressive Monday night victory over the eventual division champion Cowboys), and a couple of real stinkers (albeit, I believe that last game he was injured and had to leave the game early). He’s definitely not going to blow anyone away or win any shootouts, but I think he could manage a game effectively well. What more can you ask for?
Matt Moore has been backing up Tannehill these last few years, and honestly I don’t know how he can stand it. Moore, in his starting efforts early in his career, was the epitome of a .500 quarterback. Hovering around 59% completions, with slightly more touchdowns than interceptions. He strikes me as another semi-ideal candidate. Like Henne, he’s getting on in years, so I don’t know how mobile he is, and he hasn’t started a game since 2011, so that’s tough. Maybe he’s like another Whitehurst, who loves being a backup and living in a tropical climate! If that’s the case, I wonder if Seattle is the right spot for him.
Matt Schaub scares me. A lot like Vick, I think he’s done. A lot like Cassel, I think he’s over-valued. He strikes me as a guy who, personality-wise, wouldn’t fit in on a team with this many alpha dogs.
Brandon Weeden is probably the last interesting name on the list. He’s young enough to where you don’t totally worry about his durability (even though, let’s be honest, he’s like a tree back there in the pocket). And, in spite of his Cleveland roots, I think it’s probably set in by this point that he’s going to be a career backup. Last year was interesting for him, as he was the next man up after Romo went down for Dallas. He proved to be underwhelming at best, leading to the Cowboys to over-pay for Matt Cassel (who managed to play even worse). Weeden landed in Houston, where he ran circles around Cassel in his two appearances (though, he ended up relinquishing the job to Brian Hoyer for the playoffs, so make of that what you will).
So, in conclusion, I’ll rank my favorite options for the Seahawks’ backup quarterback:
- Talk Tarvaris Jackson into returning for another year
- Colt McCoy
- Matt Hasselbeck
- Rookie QB (either low round pick, undrafted free agent, or guy already on a futures contract)
- Brandon Weeden
- Henne/Moore (tie)
- Luke McCown
- Fuck it, give the job to Jon Ryan (also, make sure to re-sign Jon Ryan)
- No one/all Wildcat all the time
- Fan (open tryouts every week for a local Seahawks fan)