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2015 Falcons Roster Review: Sean Renfree, backup of choice

The former seventh rounder spent the entire season backing up Matt Ryan, but will he return in 2016?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Being the backup quarterback carries certain expectations. Over time, fans may come to think of you as the best option for the team, or at least someone deserving of a shot, simply by dint of your not playing while the starter struggles. That was the case briefly for Sean Renfree in 2015, before his performance quieted that noise down again.

Renfree just capped an important year, and his 2016 outlook could go one of two ways. Let's take a closer look.

A Quiet Year

2015 stat line: 2 games played, 0 starts, 3/7 for 11 yards, 1.6 YPA, 1 interception, 2 sacks, 10.7 passer rating

Renfree only got into the game twice in 2015. The first time was the 48-21 drubbing of the Texans, where his only significant contribution was a few handoffs and one scramble that went for negative four yards. He got more action against the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 during that unmitigated 38-0 disaster, at a time where calls for Matt Ryan's head were at a fever pitch. Renfree got into the game, put up the stat line you see above, and promptly quieted everyone who was arguing that he deserved a chance to start with Ryan scuffling so mightily.

As a weak-armed passer with a cerebral reputation, Renfree can't be making the kind of disastrous throws he did against Carolina, even if that was obviously a pressure-packed, no-win situation to walk into. Nothing we saw from him in 2015 indicates the team should feel confident in his ability to start should Ryan miss significant time, and that's a little disconcerting given that Renfree has now been in the NFL for three years, even if his 2013 rookie season was wiped out by injury.


Renfree is entering the last year of his very affordable rookie deal, which will pay him $686,474 if he suits up for the Falcons this year. If Atlanta decides he's not their backup quarterback this year, they can cut ties with just $11,474 in dead money.

2016 Outlook

I was pretty bullish on Renfree coming out of college, figuring he could develop into the kind of competent backup quarterback we haven't seen in Atlanta since the days of Chris Redman, but we simply haven't seen anything in game action that indicates he's getting there. I'd like to see him stay—I'm a big fan of stability and cheap contracts when it comes to backup QBs—but he hasn't made a very effective case to this point.

There are two ways Renfree's 2016 could go: He could take a developmental step forward, impress the coaching staff, and hang on easily as someone with experience and affordability to recommend him as the backup, and perhaps make a case for a long-term deal as Ryan's clipboard caddy going forward. If the team likes the development they see from practice squad quarterback Matt Simms, or they elect to spend a draft pick on a long-term developmental option behind Ryan, Renfree is almost assuredly gone. I'm betting on the latter.

How about you?