With the demotion of Paxton Lynch to the third string and questions about his ability to perform even minimally competently as an NFL quarterback, there has been many questions raised about the back-up quarterback position for the 2018 Denver Broncos.
Here are the three biggest in my opinion:
- Are the coaches willing to go into the season with only two QBs on the 53-man roster? So this would mean that the team trades or releases Paxton Lynch. While it is uncommon, it is not strange to do so. There were 13 of 32 NFL teams last season that begun the year with only two QBs on the 53-man active roster: MIA, NE, BAL, CIN, HOU, TEN, PHI, WAS, DET, GNB, ATL, TB and SEA. If the Broncos enter the season with Chad Kelly is the only other QB on the team besides Case Keenum, that would be putting a lot of faith in a QB that has never taken an NFL snap as the #2 QB. Did any team do this last year? The answer is NO, with two limited exceptions. In almost every situation last season where a team started the season with only two QBs on the active roster, the backup was a guy with at least some NFL game experience: MIA - Matt Moore; NE - Jimmy Garappolo; BAL - Ryan Mallett; CIN - A.J. McCarron; HOU - Tom Savage; TEN - Matt Cassel; WAS - Colt McCoy; PHI - Nick Foles; ATL - Matt Schaub; TB - Ryan Fitzpatrick; SEA - Austin Davis. All of those second stringers had at least some starting experience. The only two teams that rolled with guys similar to Chad Kelly as the #2 QB were DET with Jake Rudock and GNB with Brett Hundley (who had thrown 10 NFL passes in career prior to 2017).
- Do we just keep Paxton Lynch as the #3 QB? Generally you want your #2 to be the veteran who could be minimally competent if you are forced, by injury, to start him. That is why you see so many journeyman vets hanging around the league. The are at least known quantities who have started NFL games and maybe even “won” a few of them. Paxton Lynch has yet to show that he is even a minimally competent NFL QB, so keeping as the #3 option, given his complete lack of development, would be a waste of a very valuable roster spot.
- Who is available and who might be available as a veteran to bring in? There are currently 118 NFL QBs on 90-man rosters. There were only 83 at the start of the 2017 season (not counting QBs on practice squads), so there are about to be roughly 35 QBs who are unemployed. There are also veterans who are not currently on 90-man rosters like Ryan Mallett, Matt Moore, Scott Tolzein, Mark Sanchez, Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates and Josh Johnson. All of those QBs have started NFL games; some have even “won” playoff games.
In case you are interested here is the current QB depth chart for every NFL team:
|BUF||McCarron, AJ U/Cin||Peterman, Nathan 17/5||Allen, Josh 18/1|
|MIA||TANNEHILL, RYAN 12/1||Osweiler, Brock U/Den||Fales, David SF17||Petty, Bryce W/NYJ|
|NE||BRADY, TOM 00/6||HOYER, BRIAN CF09||Etling, Danny 18/7|
|NYJ||MCCOWN, JOSH SF17||Bridgewater, Teddy U/Min||Darnold, Sam 18/1|
|BAL||FLACCO, JOE 08/1||Griffin III, Robert SF18||Jackson, Lamar 18/1||Woodrum, Josh SF17|
|CIN||DALTON, ANDY 11/2||Barkley, Matt U/Arz||Driskel, Jeff W/SF||Woodside, Logan 18/7|
|CLE||Taylor, Tyrod T/Buf||Mayfield, Baker 18/1||STANTON, DREW U/Arz||Roback, Brogan CF18|
|PIT||ROETHLISBERGER, BEN 04/1||Jones, Landry 13/4||Dobbs, Joshua 17/4||Rudolph, Mason 18/3|
|HOU||Watson, Deshaun 17/1||WEEDEN, BRANDON U/Ten||WEBB, JOE U/Buf||Morris, Stephen W/Sea|
|IND||Luck, Andrew 12/1||Brissett, Jacoby T/NE||Walker, Phillip CF17||Kaaya, Brad P/Det|
|JAX||Bortles, Blake 14/1||Kessler, Cody T/Cle||Lee, Tanner 18/6|
|TEN||Mariota, Marcus 15/1||Gabbert, Blaine U/Arz||Falk, Luke 18/6|
|DEN||KEENUM, CASE U/Min||Kelly, Chad 17/7||Lynch, Paxton 16/1|
|KC||Mahomes II, Patrick 17/1||HENNE, CHAD U/Jax||McGloin, Matt SF18||Litton, Chase CF18|
|LAC||RIVERS, PHILIP T/NYG||Smith, Geno U/NYG||Jones, Cardale T/Buf||Shimonek, Nic CF18|
|OAK||Carr, Derek 14/2||Cook, Connor 16/4||Manuel, EJ U/Buf|
|DAL||Prescott, Dak 16/4||Rush, Cooper CF17||White, Mike 18/5||Sturm, Dalton CF18|
|NYG||MANNING, ELI T/SD||Webb, Davis 17/3||Lauletta, Kyle 18/4||TANNEY, ALEX SF18|
|PHI||Wentz, Carson 16/1||Foles, Nick U/KC||Sudfeld, Nate SF17||Callahan, Joe SF18||Hackenberg, Christian SF18|
|WAS||SMITH, ALEX T/KC||MCCOY, COLT U/SF||Hogan, Kevin T/Cle|
|CHI||Trubisky, Mitch 17/1||DANIEL, CHASE U/NO||Bray, Tyler U/KC|
|DET||STAFFORD, MATTHEW 09/1||CASSEL, MATT CC/Ten||Rudock, Jake 16/6|
|GNB||RODGERS, AARON 05/1||Hundley, Brett 15/5||Kizer, DeShone T/Cle||Boyle, Tim CF18|
|MIN||COUSINS, KIRK U/Was||Siemian, Trevor T/Den||Sloter, Kyle CF17||Pujals, Peter CF18|
|ATL||RYAN, MATT 08/1||SCHAUB, MATT U/Bal||Benkert, Kurt CF18||Grayson, Garrett SF17|
|CAR||Newton, Cam 11/1||Gilbert, Garrett SF17||Heinicke, Taylor W/Hou||Allen, Kyle CF18|
|NOR||BREES, DREW U/SD||Savage, Tom U/Hou||Hill, Taysom W/GB||Barrett, JT CF18|
|TAM||Winston, Jameis SUS/3||FITZPATRICK, RYAN SF17||Griffin, Ryan W/NO||Allen, Austin CF18|
|ARI||BRADFORD, SAM U/Min||Rosen, Josh 18/1||Glennon, Mike CC/Chi||Kanoff, Chad CF18|
|LAR||Goff, Jared 16/1||Mannion, Sean 15/3||Allen, Brandon W/Jax||Perez, Luis CF18|
|SF||Garoppolo, Jimmy T/NE||Beathard, CJ 17/3||Mullens, Nick CF17||Heneghan, Jack CF18|
|SEA||Wilson, Russell 12/3||Davis, Austin SF17||McGough, Alex 18/7|
So how do you see this playing out? For what it’s worth, Case Keenum is listed as a medium injury risk.
He had a ligament problem in the thumb of his throwing hand in 2013 and he got concussed in 2015 (but remained in the game).