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Falcons free agency deep dive: The backup quarterback market

If the Falcons want to continue to plug veteran stopgaps behind Matt Ryan, they’ll have options.

Kansas City Chiefs v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The most straightforward, cost-effective thing the Falcons could do with their backup quarterback situation would be to just hand the reins to Kurt Benkert. If he’s at all ready to hold the clipboard and be the break-in-case-of-emergency option, Benkert would be the affordable choice and would give the Falcons a young QB who could hopefully be a long-term backup option.

Of course, there’s no guarantee they’ll do that. Dan Quinn has already talked about re-signing Matt Schaub, potentially, and this is a fairly deep market for backup quarterbacks, as those markets go.

Available Options

  • Tyrod Taylor, 30, $15.2 million 2018 salary
  • Josh McCown, 40, $10 million
  • Teddy Bridgewater, 27, $6 million
  • Matt Schaub, 38, $4.5 million
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, 36, $3.3 million
  • Ryan Griffin, 29, $1.125 million
  • Matt Cassel, 37, $1.1 million
  • Robert Griffin III, 29, $1.1 million
  • Geno Smith, 28, $1 million
  • Joe Webb, 32, $915,000
  • Mark Sanchez, 32, $915,000
  • Josh Johnson, 33, $915,000
  • Brock Osweiler, 28, $880,000
  • Brandon Weeden, 35, $880,000
  • David Fales, 28, $880,000
  • Sean Mannion, 27, $812,724
  • Tom Savage, 29, $790,000
  • Austin Davis, 30, $790,000
  • Taylor Heinicke, 26, $660,000
  • Brett Hundley, 26, $625,908
  • Trevor Siemian, 27, $583,196
  • Garrett Gilbert, 28, $510,000

The actual options

You can eliminate a lot of these guys out of hands, either because they are unimaginably bad or they’ll cost too much on the open market. Taylor, Bridgewater, and potentially Fitzpatrick and McCown will be looked at as potential starters, and the first two in particular will therefore be expensive. Osweiler, Cassel, Weeden, and so forth are so bad and/or old as to not warrant real consideration.

So who does that leave?

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Price will be a sticking point, one imagines, but Fitzpatrick would unquestionably be an upgrade on Schaub and Benkert as a quarterback. Fitzmagic throws too many risky passes but would give Atlanta puncher’s chance of winning if Matt Ryan ever got hurt, which can’t be said for many of the options on this list.

Ryan Griffin

Griffin was the third quarterback in Tampa Bay under Dirk Koetter, which makes him a beyond obvious candidate to come in and compete for a backup job. Griffin has spent time as a Saint and a Buccaneer and has worked with Koetter for four years (more than half of one of them spent on injured reserve). The biggest issue is that we have no idea if he’s any good, as he’s still never thrown an NFL regular season pass.

Colin Kaepernick

He’s not listed above because while he’s technically a free agent, he hasn’t played in the league in multiple years. Even throwing his name into an article is sure to stir up some manner of hornet’s nest, but Kaepernick is much better (and still younger!) than several names on this list and would be a genuine upgrade as Matt Ryan’s backup. Is it a bit pie in the sky given the team’s habit of shying away from any sort of controversy? Yes.

Matt Schaub

He would have to cost less than $4.5 million to come back, I suspect, as the Falcons are cutting costs with an eye on locking up key players. Schaub has been praised up and down the Falcons organization for his veteran leadership and locker room presence, and if Matt Ryan is perfectly healthy and he’s not expensive, he’s a fine addition. At 38, though, Schaub would be a poor bet to actually fill in for #2 if called upon.

Geno Smith

Smith isn’t an inspiring choice, but he’s gotten a bum rap partly because of the awful start to his career as a starter with the Jets. If you’re looking for a backup who can play, albeit not at the highest positive level, and won’t take up a ton of cap space, Smith is a legitimate option.

I see now that I’ve made a mistake writing about backup quarterback candidates.

Trevor Siemian

If Griffin, Fitzpatrick and Schaub are crossed off the list, Siemian’s the logical choice. He’s had a half-decent run as a starter in the NFL and despite his lackluster arm has put together solid results everywhere he’s gone. He’s fairly young and fairly cheap, making him a real candidate for a team that suddenly seems cost-conscious at non-essential positions.

Ultimately, though, I hope they stick with Benkert.