Following Tuesday’s blockbuster trade in which the Redskins acquired quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs, now seems like the perfect time to discuss free agent quarterbacks for 2018. Kirk Cousins’ time in Washington is over and there will plenty of bidders for his average play-making. The Packers don’t need to pay a guy like Cousins- Aaron Rodgers type money. However, there needs to be a better plan in place if Rodgers gets hurt again because Brett Hundley won’t cut it. There are plenty of options GM Brian Gutekunst can explore, including the draft, but he needs to start his search in free agency.
Last year’s plan B was Hundley. Instead of picking up a veteran free agent, Ted Thompson honored Mike McCarthy’s wishes in sticking with the former UCLA quarterback he had been developing for three years. In hindsight, this should have been plan C. Hundley’s record as a starter in 2017 was 3-6 as he threw 12 interceptions and only nine touchdowns. Other teams saw immediate success despite having to resort to their backup. The Minnesota Vikings lost in the NFC Championship while another in the Philadelphia Eagles is preparing for the Super Bowl. Of course, these teams have dominant defenses, but the stability maintained under center is what got them over the hump.
It would be foolish not to recognize that the drop off from Carson Wentz to Nick Foles is incomparable to that of Rodgers to Hundley. What the Packers need to do before training camp is shrink the gap from QB1 to QB2 as much as possible. This can be done in the next few months when a number of options hit the open market.
Ryan Fitzpatrick 2017 stats- 6 games (3 starts), 1,103 yards, 7 touchdowns, 3 interceptions
The 35-year-old Harvard alum said earlier this week that he isn’t ready to retire quite yet. Fitzpatrick spent the 2017 season backing up Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston and got the chance to start three games after Winston suffered a shoulder injury. He won two of those games, including an away game vs the Dolphins where he threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick is a true NFL journeyman, having played for seven different teams throughout his 12-year career. The closest he came to making the playoffs was in 2015 when he led the New York Jets to a 10-6 record. Entering his thirteenth season, Fitzpatrick’s experience is unmatched as far as free agent quarterbacks go. The next start he gets will be his 120th.
Blaine Gabbert 2017 stats- 5 starts (2 wins), 1,086 yards, 6 touchdowns, 6 interceptions
A former top-10 pick, Gabbert has been apart of some of the worst NFL rosters of the last decade. Jacksonville could only stick with Gabbert for three seasons after taking him with their first pick in 2011. Since then he has started games for the 49ers and Cardinals. His record as a starter is a tainted 11 wins to 34 losses, but there was little success to be had in the situations he was thrust into. The best team he played for was last year’s Arizona Cardinals who finished 8-8. Gabbert was the next man up after Carson Palmer was lost for the season and second stringer, Drew Stanton, sprained his knee. Desperately trying to keep the playoffs within reach, Gabbert failed to produce and lost his starting spot to Stanton. Before he retired, Gabbert’s former head coach, Bruce Arians, said he could see him starting in the near future. That likely won’t happen in 2018, so Gabbert should consider taking a year to understudy Aaron Rodgers.
Austin Davis 2017 stats- 3 games, 1 rush, no pass attempts
Davis broke all of Brett Favre’s notable records starting for the University of Southern Mississippi from 2008 to 2011. Coming out of college, he was ranked the 13th best quarterback in the 2012 draft by nfldraftscout.com. As an undrafted free agent, Davis was picked up by the St. Louis Rams but got cut before the 2013 season began. Davis would not get his chance to start an NFL game until week two of the 2014 season. It was his second stint with the Rams who were down to their third-string quarterback. Davis ended up starting eight games finishing with a 3-5 record. His 2,001 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and 63.4% completion percentage were good enough to get a 2-year deal with the Cleveland Browns. He went on to start in only two games before being cut in 2016. Last year he was the lone backup to Russell Wilson in Seattle. Davis is riskier than the two guys mentioned above, but he is more predictable than what the Packers will get from Hundley.
Any of these guys can be signed to cheap short-term deals. Hundley will be a free agent next offseason, therefore a two-year deal for a veteran QB would be a nice safety net. If the Packers enter the 2018 season with Hundley as the sole backup, it will not only put Rodgers but the entire team in a delicate situation.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.