The Detroit Lions surprised many fans on Wednesday when reports surfaced that they will be signing veteran quarterback Matt Cassel. Last year, the Lions promoted youngster Jake Rudock to the backup position after moving on from Dan Orlovsky. While some believe this is just healthy competition for Rudock, other believe this will inhibit Rudock’s development.
Of course, there’s another possibility at play here. If Cassel wins the backup quarterback job in training camp, the Lions could also move Rudock. Teams routinely take chances on young, developmental quarterbacks who spent much of their career behind franchise quarterbacks. The Patriots made a living off of it with Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo and, ironically, Matt Cassel himself.
Of course, Rudock hasn’t yet proven himself to be as valuable as those other quarterbacks, and while Cassel was a seventh-round pick, Garoppolo and Brissett were taken in the first few rounds of the draft. They were always considered to be valuable prospects.
But despite few on-the-field accomplishments in the league, team’s interest in Rudock has already been well documented. In his rookie year, the Lions had to promote Rudock from the practice squad in order to prevent the Chicago Bears from poaching him.
That interest only increased last season after Rudock looked much improved in his second preseason. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh recently said on the “Attack Each Day” podcast that three or four teams NFL teams inquired about Rudock with the intention of adding him.
“To speak to how Jake has played in the preseason games, there was three or four teams that called me toward the end of the preseason,” Harbaugh said. “They were poised, ready to take Jake if he came available. The Lions did the smart thing and kept him.”
While Harbaugh isn’t 100 percent clear in his timeline, he must be speaking about the 2017 preseason, because the Lions waived Rudock in 2016 so they could place him on the practice squad. Teams could have claimed Rudock then, but he cleared waivers.
Since the 2017 preseason, Rudock has likely hurt his stock a bit. In his only NFL appearance, Rudock struggled in a rough debut. After Matthew Stafford was injured, Rudock entered the game against a tough Ravens defense down 17 points with just four minutes remaining. On his fifth and final throw of the game, Rudock threw an ugly pick-six that sealed the game.
But with two instances in which teams were interested in Rudock’s services, there’s a good chance a market is still out there. Considering the Lions officially waived Alek Torgersen on Wednesday, there’s no reason the Lions would move Rudock right now—they’re going to want at least three quarterbacks during offseason workouts. But considering the Lions don’t like to keep three quarterbacks on the active in-season roster, if Cassel wins the backup role in training camp, there’s reason to believe the Lions could pick up a late-round pick for Rudock.