Some teams look to a former four-year starter at a power five school. Others to a former Super Bowl champion who has fallen off his thrown. The backup quarterback position is the most important backup position. If the starter goes down, the backup could be the difference between a top-five pick, or Super Bowl. Just look back at Nick Foles stepping in for Carson Wentz and leading the Philadelphia Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl victory. For the 2020 New York Jets, who knows if a healthy team can even contend for either a top-five pick or Super Bowl. One thing for sure is the Jets must add a quality backup to former 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold. That being said, who is going to back up Darnold in 2020?
Who Is Backing Up Sam Darnold in 2020?
Not Going to Happen
A former NFL MVP, three-time Pro Bowl quarterback and now healthy at 30 years old? Cam Newton has only played 16 games in the past two ceilings, but the league does not forget what he can do at full strength with an arsenal of weapons around him. He is a gamechanger and will not come cheap. Not to mention, the Jets are not opening for competition between Newton and the 22-year-old Darnold. This would be a bad idea for both sides.
At 25 years old, Jameis Winston is coming off of a season where he led the league in passing yards, touchdowns… and interceptions. It is understandable why teams are hesitant to give Winston a chance because of his inconsistent play. Like Newton, his talent is there, and he will not be riding the bench in 2020. He will be looking for an opportunity to start in 2020 and that will not be in a Jets uniform.
A proven veteran quarterback, Andy Dalton carries a large contract and will be 33 this season. A three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has experience in the playoffs, the Cincinnati Bengals will not be releasing Dalton. If the Jets wanted him to be Darnold’s backup, they would need to trade significant draft capital to do so. It would be foolish of the Jets to take on Dalton’s contract given all the other needs the team has.
The former Denver Broncos starter in 2016 and 2017, Trevor Siemian signed with the Jets on a one-year deal last offseason. With 24 starts under his belt, a 13-11 record, and only 28 years old, he made a great, experienced option to backup Sam Darnold. Except when Darnold went down with mononucleosis, he soon followed.
A quarter into his start against the Cleveland Browns, Siemian suffered a season-ending ankle injury. For the former seventh-round pick out of Northwestern in 2015, Siemian’s injury was a major blow. His replacement Luke Falk was waived after two starts and Siemian enters his age 29 seasons with only six passes thrown in the past two seasons. With Siemian having played in the system for a season, it could make sense for both sides to bring him back for another season.
In 2012, Joe Flacco led the Baltimore Ravens to their second Super Bowl championship at only 27 years old. Now, Flacco is coming off of back-to-back injury-riddled seasons and is 35 years old. Dating back to his final season in Baltimore, Flacco has 17 starts since 2018 with a 6-11 record to go with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. For the former Super Bowl champion, his best days are clearly behind him.
In all likelihood, if Newton or Winston cannot find starting jobs, neither will Flacco. Any team with a young quarterback or with concerns with a starter’s health should be contacting Flacco. For the Jets, Flacco’s years of experience, specifically playoff experience, would be huge for Darnold’s development.
Despite being the oldest of the three, Matt Moore has only 32 starts in 11 years in the league. After seven seasons for the Miami Dolphins, Moore spent last season backing up Patrick Mahomes for the Kansas City Chiefs. And he certainly proved he can still play as he enters his age 36 season. In six games played (two starts) last season, he threw for four touchdowns and 659 yards with a 1-1 record in his starts. If Moore’s experience is not enticing enough, he knows head coach Adam Gase’s system after playing for him for three seasons from 2016-18.
Could general manager Joe Douglas look to the draft for a backup quarterback? It is not so far fetched. With two six-round picks, Douglas could draft one for cheap and pair him alongside Sam Darnold for the foreseeable future. Here are a few options…
A one-year starter at Washington State, Anthony Gordon stands at 6’3″ and 210lbs. He was the successor to the now Jacksonville Jaguars starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II, and it came with lofty expectations. And he certainly lived up to them. He threw for 5,579 yards passing and 48 touchdowns in 13 games, averaging over 400 yards per game. He is expected to be a fourth-fifth round pick, which would be a bit of a reach for the Jets. Yet his smart play, quick release, and anticipation could interest the Jets on day three of the draft.
At 6’4″ and 229lbs, James Morgan spent two seasons at Bowling Green prior to transferring to Florida International. After an impressive 2018 season with 26 touchdowns at a 65.3% completion rate, his play took a step back with 14 touchdowns at a 58.0% completion rate. He is a tough player with impressive playmaking ability, but he lacks the accuracy and awareness to go along with it. Morgan could be within range in the sixth round and is an intriguing prospect to develop alongside Darnold.
During his time playing for Hawaii, Cole McDonald won fans’ hearts with his long blonde hair and flashy playmaking. A big 6’4″ and 220lbs, he is a fantastic athlete who tore up defenses, with 8,010 yards passing and 69 touchdowns through his sophomore and junior seasons. He knows how to work through his progressions and read defenses. Nevertheless, McDonald comes with limited arm strength and accuracy that lead him to likely being available in the sixth round for Gang Green to pick.
A longtime starter at Iowa, Nathan Stanley is another big 6’4″ and 235lbs quarterback. His draft range, like Gordon, could be a bit higher for the Jets, nonetheless, it could be worth it. He has started 39 games over the last three seasons, with plenty of experience in the pro-style offense. In part due to his size, Stanley does not panic under pressure. He has an NFL arm and can make plays out of the pocket when needed, even with his stiff mobility. At the same time, he never had a completion percentage over 60 and does have accuracy issues. No matter what, with Stanley’s experience in a pro-style offense and NFL arm, he could be a great backup for Sam Darnold going forward.
The Jets could retain Siemian or sign Moore, pairing Darnold with someone who has played under Gase. They could go for a Flacco who has over a decade of starting and playoff experience. Maybe Douglas invests draft capital into a backup to work alongside Darnold going forward. The bottom line is Joe Douglas and Adam Gase are not going to bring in someone to compete with Sam Darnold for the starting job.
Embed from Getty Images