In the weeks leading up to Detroit Lions training camp, we’re going to do a position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. Our series begins with the Lions quarterbacks.
(The final year of each player’s contract is listed in parentheses.)
Starters: Matthew Stafford (2017)
Backups: Jake Rudock (2019)
On the bubble: Brad Kaaya (2021)
As the roster currently stands, Jake Rudock has a pretty strong hold on the backup job. However, a positional battle is coming during training camp. Sixth-round rookie Brad Kaaya has a long ways to go to win the backup job by Week 1, but perhaps that shouldn’t be his goal in his rookie year. In 2016, the Lions decided that they weren’t willing to carry Jake Rudock on as a rookie backup. Instead, Detroit opted with the veteran presence of Dan Orlovsky, whose best days were clearly behind him.
But the Lions said goodbye to Orlovsky this offseason. The Lions are taking a modest risk by allowing Jake Rudock to carry on as the team’s backup, despite being on the practice squad for the majority of his rookie season. Rudock has been getting some serious praise during OTAs and minicamp, but the public has yet to see any significant progress.
Since it doesn’t seem likely that Kaaya will win the backup job, his goal should be trying to make the 53-man roster as a third string. Last year, Detroit went the practice squad route with their third-string quarterback, but there are a few different factors this year. First, the Lions no longer have a fullback on the roster. That leaves an extra roster spot for a third quarterback. Also, the Lions no longer have that veteran guy on the depth chart beyond Matthew Stafford. Kaaya could stick around just in case Rudock doesn’t work out.
Need going forward?
The first need going forward is a Matthew Stafford contract extension. The Lions are clearly working on that, and with Derek Carr’s deal signed and delivered, an extension could be finalized at any time now.
Beyond that, the Lions will find out if they need an additional quarterback during training camp and preseason. Right now they have two very young, promising prospects, but their ability to play backup is still very much in question. If both have a rough preseason, the Lions may find themselves in the market for a veteran backup, especially if (god forbid) anything happens to Stafford.