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Detroit Lions 2018 free agency preview: Veteran quarterbacks available if Lions want sound backup

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If the Lions aren’t sold on Rudock, they could get seasoned help in free agency.

NFL: New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next week, we will be running down the Detroit Lions roster position-by-position and listing some possible free agent targets that could fit their need. We kick off the series with quarterbacks, a relatively low need for the team. However, the team hasn’t shown it’s completely sold on backup Jake Rudock, so there is certainly a chance the Lions add a quarterback, either through free agency or the draft.

Quarterbacks

Under contract (Final year of contract in parentheses)

  • Matthew Stafford (2022)
  • Alek Torgersen (2019)

The Lions obviously have their starting quarterback for the next five years in Matthew Stafford. His 2018 cap hit of $26.5 million ranks second among all quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo is first at $37 million), but he’s likely to see his ranking plummet as other veteran quarterbacks get new deals this offseason.

Detroit also signed Alek Torgersen to a futures contract after placing him on the practice squad in the final week of the regular season. Last year, Torgersen went undrafted and bounced between a few teams before landing in Detroit. At this point, Torgersen is still an unknown commodity, but the fact that the Lions threw a futures deal his way is a good sign he’ll at least compete for a roster spot and/or a practice squad spot in 2018.

Lions free agents

  • Jake Rudock (ERFA)

The Lions have yet to give Rudock an ERFA tender, but there are no indications that they would pass on it. An exclusive rights free agent can be given a minimum deal and it would prevent any other teams from negotiating with the quarterback—hence “exclusive rights.”

Rudock looked bad in replacement for Stafford during the 2017 season, but he was put into a poor situation. His improvement during the last preseason is probably enough for him to earn the backup job in 2018, but he’ll still have to compete for it.

Free agents available

With two very untested, untrained backups in town, general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia may be interested in bringing a veteran in to compete. The Patriots never really seemed to roll that way, but if they’re not sold on Rudock, there are options available.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (age 35)

Fitzpatrick is probably the most experienced quarterback on the market that isn’t Kirk Cousins or Drew Brees. Fitzpatrick has been around, starting games for the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans, Texans Jets and Buccaneers in his 13-year career. In other words, he knows a heck of a lot about the game. He’s a guy you wouldn’t mind holding a clipboard on your sidelines, and he’s even seen a modicum of success at times. His career passer rating of 79.9 won’t knock you out of your seat, but it’s certainly not horrible for a backup.

Drew Stanton (age 33)

It’s been 11 years since the Lions drafted Drew Stanton in the second round, but is it finally time for a reunion? Stanton has spent the last four years playing backup for Carson Palmer with the Cardinals. And when he wasn’t being wacky on the sidelines, he was performing as an adequate emergency option in the huddle.

His stats aren’t exactly world-beating, with a career completion percentage of just 52.4 and a 20:24 touchdown-to-interceptions ratio, but he has some experience working with Matthew Stafford and he’s a local guy.

Chad Henne (age 32)

Speaking of local guys, the Lions could turn to an alum from Stanton’s rival school to fill their backup quarterback needs. Henne never made it as a starter in Miami nor Jacksonville, but he’s carved out a role for himself as a backup in the past few years. Again, his stats aren’t exactly awe-inspiring. He’s thrown more interceptions (63) than touchdowns (58) and he’s averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt. Still, he’s got decent arm strength, adequate starting experience and enough NFL smarts to still have a backup job in the league.

Mark Sanchez (age 31)

J/K.

But while we’re on the topic of Sanchez, check out this back and forth Stafford and Sanchez had at the 2009 NFL Combine, as transcribed by DraftScout.com:

(Mark Sanchez poses as media member with a video camera, asks what he thinks of the other quarterback in the draft, what he weighed in at today)

Stafford: 225. Thank you, Mark. (laughs) Get out of here, dude. I’m getting you back.

(You guys have a good relationship?)

Stafford: Yeah, we’re great friends. We met, I think, this summer at Elite 11 Camp. We were counselors there. We’re good friends. He’s a great guy, a great player. He’s definitely going to help an organization out wherever he goes. Outstanding football player, outstanding guy.

(Any bets on who goes first?)

Stafford: We don’t. We’re just having fun with this whole thing, to tell you the truth. We’re joking out here, having a lot of fun, trying to keep it as lighthearted as possible.

I think Stafford eventually “got him back.”