Going into the offseason, it appeared the Detroit Lions’ quarterback position could be in serious flux. Not only was drafting a quarterback a serious possibility with one of the two first-round picks the Lions have, but both backup quarterbacks were not under contract for the 2022 season. So if they wanted, the Lions could completely revamp a quarterback room that didn’t exactly impress in 2021.
The Lions did not choose to do that.
Though they remain very much in the market for a quarterback in this year’s draft, Detroit opted to run things back with their reserves, re-signing both Tim Boyle and David Blough.
It’s fair to say that many Lions fans felt uninspired by these moves, especially considering how poorly the Lions' offense played when relying on a backup quarterback last year. But let’s look at little deeper into these re-signings, specifically with the team’s primary backup, Tim Boyle.
Previous free agency grades: Josh Reynolds, DJ Chark
Without question, Boyle’s best attribute is his arm strength. He has the power to make any throw in the NFL, and that, alone, has had coaches licking their chops, hoping they can fine-tune the rest of his game and develop him into a backup with starting potential.
That fine-tuning very much remains a work in progress. Things just haven’t worked out that way since Boyle was signed by the Packers in 2018. Though he flashed during the preseason in Green Bay, he never made a game appearance outside of taking snaps from victory formation and remained somewhat of an enigma. Packers beat writers sang Boyle’s praises from his performance in training camp and said the Lions got a steal in free agency when Detroit signed him to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
However, upon his arrival, Boyle didn’t look the part of an up-and-coming quarterback. He failed to significantly separate himself from David Blough in training camp, and when Detroit actually need to rely on Boyle during the season, it didn’t go particularly well:
3 starts: 61-of-94 (64.9% comp), 526 yards, 3 TDs, 6 INTs, 63.5 passer rating
Boyle was inaccurate, hesitant, and seemed to have trouble reading defenses. It all culminated in a rough moment with the game on the line against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16. Facing a first-and-goal with just under a minute left and down four points, Boyle threw an interception right into the hands of a Falcons linebacker.
After the game, Boyle admitted he just completely misread the coverage.
“I was kind of unclear going into the—when we broke the huddle—kind of unclear if it was man or zone-based off the looks that they gave previously,” Boyle said. “Looking back, it was man coverage. I worked the zone-covered side; that was my mistake.”
This is the part where we need to remind ourselves that Boyle had not started a single NFL game until last season. The mistakes Boyle made were very much the kind of mistakes a rookie quarterback would make. And as bad as 2021 was for Boyle, he’s undoubtedly a better quarterback now for having had those on-field experiences. That’s certainly what this coaching staff believes.
“There is something about this guy and I think he’s going to get better,” head coach Dan Campbell said back in January. “I think these reps are invaluable for him.”
Still, it’s hard to shake the fact that for Boyle, the proof may be in the numbers. He threw just one touchdown and 13 interceptions in college, so how much untapped potential really is there after his showing this season?
At 27 years old, Boyle isn’t exactly a developmental quarterback, but it does appear Detroit hopes he can become a solid backup. He’ll compete again with David Blough for the primary backup job—assuming the Lions don’t draft a quarterback—and there’s no reason to believe Boyle won’t win the job outright. The hope is, after a year of some playing time and some comfortability with this coaching staff, he’ll be able to harness some of that arm talent.
The Lions signed Boyle to a one-year, $2 million contract (full breakdown here). Most significantly, Boyle has $1.75 million of that guaranteed. That doesn’t quite guarantee a roster spot, but it does show a level of commitment they didn’t show in Blough, who reportedly signed a one-year, $1.35 million contract.
With a $2 million cap hit in 2022, Blough’s contract matches the likes of Nate Sudfeld and Chase Daniel, but is lower than backups Colt McCoy ($2.5M) and Gardner Minshew ($2.54). In other words, it’s right around where you’d pay a normal backup. If the Lions draft a quarterback, it may be a little pricey for a third-string guy, but overall, this is a completely reasonable contract.
I’m not one to get too upset about a backup quarterback signing. It’s not that I think it’s unimportant, but there aren’t enough good starting quarterbacks to go around this league, let alone enough backups. This year’s free agency pool included the likes of Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Mitchell Trubisky, Teddy Bridgewater, and Josh Rosen. Bridgewater signed a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Trubisky got two years, $14 million. Mariota got one year, $3.5 million, and the other two remain unsigned.
In other words, if the Lions wanted a significant upgrade, they would have had to pay more. For a team not likely to seriously compete in 2022 and with so many needs elsewhere, paying an extra couple million for a backup quarterback just doesn’t seem like a smart investment.
Does Boyle give me a lot of confidence if Jared Goff goes down with another injury? No, not really. But I’m willing to let the Lions have one more year to see if they can pull anything out of him because it’s a low-cost investment at a position of low need.
Overall grade: C
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