The Falcons have lost quarterback Sean Renfree for the season as he suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder in the preseason finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That leaves the potential for the Falcons to bring in a veteran quarterback given some of the struggles that Dominique Davis has had this summer.
Several players were released or waived by their respective teams over the weekend, and I want to look at those that I feel could help the Falcons.
First we should delineate between a player being released and waived. Players with less than four years of experience are waived. Meaning that they have to pass through a waiver period of 24 hours. During that time teams are allowed to put a waiver claim on them. If multiple teams put claims on that player, the priority is determined by the team with the worst record. If a player is claimed, then his previous salary is absorbed by the new team. If a player goes unclaimed, then he is free to sign with any team he wants.
A player is released if he has four or more years of experience, and will not be subject to waivers. He’s essentially an unrestricted free agent, no different than if this was March. He’s free to sign and negotiate a brand new deal with any team in the league immediately.
Several of the quarterbacks cut over the weekend will be forced to go through the waivers system, including Greg McElroy (New York Jets), Thad Lewis (Buffalo Bills), and John Skelton (Cincinnati Bengals). Other players such as Brady Quinn (Seattle Seahawks), Trent Edwards (Chicago Bears), David Carr (New York Giants), and Vince Young (Green Bay Packers) were released. Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Jimmy Clausen was waived/injured, which means that if he goes unclaimed he will go on the Panthers’ injured reserve list. And no one will claim him because he’s terrible.
If looking at those names, the one that stands out is Carr. Carr has been the consummate reserve in New York over the years, playing four of the last five seasons there. Carr’s experience (79 career starts) makes him the ideal candidate for the Falcons. He has a quick release, generally makes good decisions, and will have more talent at the receiver positions in Atlanta than he’s ever played with. He contrasts with Dominique Davis, as Carr is more effective throwing the intermediate passes than Davis and doesn’t have problems going to his second progression quickly. Carr also is a better athlete than most realize and would at least stand a decent chance of avoiding pressure behind the Falcons questionable front five.
McElroy is a smart player but doesn’t have a great arm and has a tendency to take a lot of sacks. He was sacked 11 times in only 42 dropbacks last year when he got late season work with the Jets. He was sacked 3 times in the Jets’ preseason opener against the Lions in 14 dropbacks. It should be noted that in 16 combined dropbacks, neither Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith took a sack. If the Falcons offensive line isn’t up to par this year, that doesn’t make a great recipe for success.
Thad Lewis is a similar player to Davis. Athletic with a good arm. He hails from Duke, having been Sean Renfree’s predecessor at the school. He’s still developing and probably wouldn’t help the Falcons out too much this year. His upside is if you can make it through the season, he could potentially unseat Davis or Renfree for a backup job next summer.
Skelton possesses a big arm which would help the Falcons generate those big plays down the field that Davis has struggled with. But Skelton is also a statue in the pocket and his accuracy is also erratic. If Skelton struggled to connect with Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona, then he certainly is going to struggle to connect with Roddy White and Julio Jones in Atlanta.
Brady Quinn is a smart player, but struggles to make throws down the field. He’s really just a checkdown machine. With weapons around him like he would have in Atlanta, that is not a terrible proposition as Julio Jones could certainly make something out of nothing. But in truth, Quinn is essentially the same player that Joey Harrington was. He is smart enough not to make the big mistakes, but doesn’t have enough cojones to make the big plays. This is why despite his high draft status, very few teams have wanted him as their primary backup over the years.
Edwards could be described in similar terms. The difference is that Edwards knows Dirk Koetter’s system, having played in Jacksonville for a season (2010). But it should be noted that the Falcons have had plenty of opportunities to add Edwards as an extra arm since Koetter’s arrival in Atlanta in 2012. They did not at the outset of the 2012 season, where Edwards signed with the Eagles. He played well enough that summer to earn a contract extension, which of course was negated once Andy Reid was fired. But Edwards was cut this past April, and the Falcons basically had four months to evaluate their own quarterbacks and bring him to camp, which they did not. That coupled with the fact that the Jaguars made minimal effort to re-sign him following the 2010 season is likely indicative of what Koetter thinks of him.
Young is the final name I want to point out. Yes, Vince Young is erratic and inconsistent. He makes bone-headed plays all the time. But here’s the case for Young: he is a very good vertical passer, which is something that is regularly forgotten about him. His mobility and athleticism means he can escape from the pocket behind a weaker offensive line. He never really had the opportunity to work with great receivers while in Tennessee. Over the course of his five-year career there, the top five pass catchers were (in order or receptions): Justin Gage, Brandon Jones, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, and Roydell Williams. I’m at least curious to see what Young could do if he was throwing to White, Gonzalez, and Jones. Particularly Jones, since Young’s ability to throw the deep ball, matched with the explosive Jones could potentially be a recipe for success. In truth, the player I believe the Falcons are optimistic that Davis grows into is Young without all of that other baggage he accumulated in Tennessee.
It’s not a bunch of great options. And the Falcons could easily decide to roll the dice this year with just Davis as Ryan’s lone backup. It would be a gamble, buy arguably a much bigger gamble than picking up players like Skelton, Edwards, Carr, or Young would be for one season as stopgaps.