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Six NFL teams with quietly concerning backup QB situations, plus proposed moves for 2024 season

Quarterbacks are the NFL’s most recognized difference-makers. But injuries are inevitable in football, even at the almighty position. That’s what makes backup signal-callers so important.

Some teams are well-equipped for emergency under center, approaching the 2024 season with premium insurance. Think the Kansas City Chiefs, who have former starter Carson Wentz behind Patrick Mahomes; or the Minnesota Vikings, who have a top-10 draft pick in J.J. McCarthy waiting behind Sam Darnold.

Other clubs aren’t so fortunate. Here, we’ve identified six teams with quietly concerning backup situations, plus some potential short-term fixes for the No. 2 spots:

Current backup: Josh JohnsonProposal: Trade for Trey Lance

Trey Lance

Johnson deserves props for his stamina, entering Year 17 with his record 14th different team, but at 38, with only two passes thrown in the last two seasons, he’s not exactly a high-upside insurance plan for the reigning NFL MVP in Lamar Jackson. Lance, meanwhile, is a relative unknown due to his injury-stricken start with the San Francisco 49ers, but his youth (24) and rushing ability are pluses, and the Dallas Cowboys have yet to use him behind Dak Prescott, likely lowering his price tag.

Current backup: Hendon HookerProposal: Trade for Taylor Heinicke

Taylor Heinicke

Hooker has a third-round pedigree, but he’s 26 and still in the learning stages of the No. 2 role, fresh off a “redshirt” season spent recovering from a torn ACL. Heinicke is a different animal, starting 28 games the last three years and showcasing enough spunk as a gutsy passer to win over multiple fan bases. He’d be sure to get the Dan Campbell stamp of approval for his never-say-die mentality, and his role is fuzzier with the Atlanta Falcons after the dual addition of Kirk Cousins and Michael Penix Jr.

Current backup: Sean CliffordProposal: Trade for C.J. Beathard

C.J. Beathard USATSI

Clifford has some competition for the No. 2 spot from rookie Michael Pratt, but neither offers any meaningful NFL experience behind young starter Jordan Love. Beathard, meanwhile, is a favorite of Doug Pederson with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but after the Jags’ trade for Mac Jones, he may be expendable. A scrappy former 49ers prospect, Beathard also has ties to the Packers staff, as offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich previously worked under Kyle Shanahan in the Bay Area.

Current backup: Mike White | Proposal: Sign Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill

When the Dolphins get done negotiating Tua Tagovailoa’s inevitable contract extension, they might want to think twice about their backup plan, as White has gone just 2-5, with nearly as many picks (13) as games played (14), in his career. Tannehill, the ex-Dolphins and Tennessee Titans No. 1, has 144 more games of starting experience, plus a play-action resume that could translate to Mike McDaniel’s timing-based system. General manager Chris Grier has defended Tannehill’s Miami run in the past.

Current backup: Jake HaenerProposal: Sign AJ McCarron

A.J. McCarron USATSI

Rookie Spencer Rattler could challenge Haener, the 2023 fourth-rounder, for the No. 2 gig behind Derek Carr, but after a physically daunting New Orleans debut by the latter, even more experience should be welcome on the depth chart. McCarron, 33, is coming off an ankle injury of his own in the United Football League, but he’s shown lots of crunch-time spirit as a face of both the revived XFL and UFL. New Orleans is also within two hours of his hometown Mobile, Alabama.

Current backup: Kyle Trask | Proposal: Sign Blaine Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert USATSI

Trask technically competed with Baker Mayfield for the starting job ahead of 2023, but three years after he arrived as a second-round pick, the Florida product has thrown all of 10 NFL passes. And Mayfield leaves it all on the field, making the backup spot especially important. Gabbert has been hit or miss as a career reserve, but he at least has 49 starts under his belt, plus a firm connection to the area and organization, spending 2019-2022 with the Bucs as Tom Brady’s top backup.

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Author: Cody Benjamin
June 13, 2024 | 8:10 am

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