Let’s start with the fact that the Green Bay Packers don’t have enough cap space to go after virtually any free agent who commands $10 million or more per season. That narrows down the team’s options immensely.
Then factor in the idea that if the Packers want to plug a big hole in 2018, it needs to be done via free agency, because draft choices other than, say, first-round picks or for certain positions, such as running back, are unlikely to be able to contribute meaningfully in their first year.
Okay, what is arguably the spot that most needs plugging and can be plugged by a reasonably-priced NFL veteran? I’d say backup quarterback.
As prerequisites, we should be looking at someone with a fair amount of NFL game time, and one we would expect to turn in a passer rating (RTG) of around 80 or above. Put another way, we want someone who can improve considerably on Brett Hundley’s 2017 stats: 60.8 percent completion rate, nine touchdowns, 12 interceptions, a terrible 5.8 yards per attempt, and a 70.6 passer rating. Hundley’s career RTG is 67.9.
We start with a current list of 29 free agent QBs. We can quickly eliminate six of them, who will attract a team willing to pay lots for a starting QB: Drew Brees, sought-after A.J. McCarron and Josh McCown, and all three Vikings quarterbacks.
Some quarterbacks who are too spendy to be backups, as they still aspire to be starters: Geno Smith (Giants), Matt Moore (Dolphins); Mark Sanchez (Bears), and Jay Cutler ($10 million last year, lifetime 85.3 RTG, but is thinking of becoming a broadcaster).
Eliminate QBs who’ve had very little success despite sufficient chances: Scott Tolzien (61.6 RTG), Joe Webb (63.1), Ryan Mallett (66.8), Kellen Clemmons (68.9), Drew Stanton (66.3), Blaine Gabbert (71.5)
Bypass players we’ve never heard of, or who have little NFL film to even review: David Fales (Dolphins), Tyler Bray (Chiefs), Taylor Heinicke (Texans), and Ryan Griffin (Bucs).
Here are the survivors, in order of RTG: (age, current team, years in NFL, starts, teams, 2017 cap hit, RTG)
[table id=17 /]
Daniels only has two starts, but was included because he has seven years in the league and a (comparatively) good rating.
Davis is an outlier, undrafted in 2012, only three years in the league, he did well in eight starts in 2014 with a poor St. Louis Rams team (85.1 RTG, three wins).
Weedon hasn’t thrown a pass since 2015.
Chad Henne is a known and consistent quantity – but consistently mediocre.
Derek Anderson has had very little playing time in the last seven years at Carolina.
I’m not sure that age matters much, as the Packers aren’t grooming Rodgers’ successor, but any of the three 28-year-olds could pleasantly surprise. The rest are mostly journeymen backups and accustomed to that role.
The cost for a one-year contract would likely be in a range of $1-3 million dollars.
Since I don’t have a thorough knowledge of these players, I won’t attempt to winnow the list down any further.
One has to wonder whether any of these choices can be relied upon to be a significant upgrade from Hundley.