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2023 Detroit Lions free agent profile: Can Nate Sudfeld be QB2?

With just nine offensive snaps in Detroit last season, what do we really know about backup QB Nate Sudfeld?

Chicago Bears v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have 28 players from their 2022 roster set to become free agents in 2023 (18 unrestricted, 10 restricted), and we are covering them all throughout the month of February.

If you missed any of the previous articles, you can check them out here: RB Jamaal Williams, IOL Evan Brown, OL Dan Skipper, NT Isaiah Buggs, EDGE John Cominsky, EDGE Austin Bryant, LB Alex Anzalone, LB Josh Woods, LB Chris Board, CB Will Harris, CB Mike Hughes, CB Amari Oruwariye, SAF DeShon Elliott, SAF C.J. Moore, and K Michael Badgley

Next up:

Nate Sudfeld

Expectations heading into 2022

After a disastrous preseason that saw backup quarterbacks Tim Boyle and David Blough fail to claim a roster spot, the Lions quickly turned to the transaction wire as cut day released more options. It didn’t take long before Nate Sudfeld was signed by the Lions to be their primary backup. Sudfeld, originally drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by Washington, had connections with former Lions’ assistant head coach Duce Staley from their time spent together with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Firmly entrenched behind starting quarterback Jared Goff, Sudfeld was expected to come in and be another stable veteran presence in the room.

Actual role in 2022

Active 17 games, only saw the field in 2 games: 9 offensive snaps

It doesn’t always work out like this, but Sudfeld filled the exact role the Lions’ had in mind when they signed him. Goff had a terrific year where he stayed on the field for all 17 games, and Sudfeld only saw the field to kneel the ball, or hand it off when the Lions were ahead by multiple scores.

This is why people talk about backup quarterbacks being one of the better career paths in sports. Not a lot of pressure, and the money is pretty good. Just ask Super Bowl 57 champion and recent retiree Chad Henne.

Outlook for 2023

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent

Contrary to popular belief, there are not a plethora of serviceable backup quarterbacks out there who can consistently give their team a chance to win if the starter is out for any length of time. Players like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor fall into this category of signal-callers. Beyond that tier of fringe starters and above-average backups, the cliff is steep.

So what do we know about Sudfeld? He never threw a pass during the regular season, in-season practices are limited viewing—restricted to warmups only—, and he wasn’t with the team during training camp. So it’s fair to say, no one outside of Allen Park has actually seen Sudfeld throw a competitive ball in a Lions uniform.

Sudfeld had plenty of success at the University of Indiana, and he has found himself on NFL rosters for a reason, but as far as backups go—he falls into a tier of players behind the aforementioned group. If Goff were to miss time, the Lions' offense would likely have a really difficult time functioning as usual. This isn’t necessarily a knock against Sudfeld, just a fact for most backup quarterbacks around the league.

Would Sudfeld want to come back? Probably. He seemed to have good rapport with Goff, and the Lions are currently trending up. The cost would likely be minimal—somewhere around the veteran minimum. But with a roster that could compete for the NFC North in 2023, should the Lions look to acquire a more stable replacement with possible upside?

How do you think the Lions should approach Nate Sudfeld this offseason?


What should the Lions do with Nate Sudfeld?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Let him test free agency
    (576 votes)
  • 49%
    Sign him to a 1-year vet minimum deal
    (667 votes)
  • 3%
    Sign him to a multi-year deal with incentives
    (44 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (explain in the comments)
    (52 votes)
1339 votes total Vote Now

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.