Who Will Join Jared Goff In Detroit?
By Rod Villagomez
The Detroit Lions locked up who they believe will be their quarterback for the next several years when they acquired Jared Goff from the Rams. It seems now, they are willing to allow their current backup to also suit up elsewhere next season. The word is out that Chase Daniel may be dealt away soon. So who will serve as the second on the position depth chart if Daniel departs?
Looking at the salary cap situation in Detroit makes this situation a little more complicated that it should be otherwise. Currently, the Lions are coming into the 2021 season just under $5 million over the cap. This makes signing a more expensive veteran arm difficult. Of course, there is always the draft to find a suitable backup. Although, given how young Goff still is, spending anything more than a sixth round pick seems too expensive.
Where then, does this leave Detroit as far as options? The most feasible way to solve the problem is to look for a signal caller who has a decent amount of experience, or nearing the end of his career. Over the years, it’s been proven that a solid second quarterback can do wonders should their starter go down. One need only look at San Francisco for proof of that. They were lost when Jimmy Garoppolo fell to injury. The Nick Mullins/C.J. Bethard combo was not up to the tall task of keeping the 49ers in the mix in the NFC West. Ryan Fitzpatrick almost sparked a revolution in Miami as the man behind rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
Here are arguments to be made for two possible candidates as Goff’s second in command. We’ll start with the pros, move on to the cons, and make a final conclusion as to whether they make a good fit.
The Lions could runite these two former first round draft picks should they pluck Blake Bortles off the free agent market. Once the Jacksonville Jaguars greatest hope, Bortles fell from grace in 2018, one year removed from a playoff appearance. Although, to be fair to the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, he wasn’t dealt the greatest of hands in Duval.
The fallout from his failures left Bortles bobbing out in the Atlantic Ocean without so much as an inflatable raft. It may not have been fair though considering his situation and how, statistically speaking anyway, he managed to perform in spite of it.
Despite finishing with a record of 5-11 in the 2015 season, Bortles still passed for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only 11 interceptions. Each of these fell inside the top-10 of their respective categories. The next season was not so kind even though he still threw for almost 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. Then, in 2017, he took the Jags to within a game of the Super Bowl, only to get bounced by the New England Patriots. He made the best of a bad situation, but ultimately it seems, the situation, brought the worst out of him.
Whatever managed to flip Bortles from a rising star to a sinking ship came on without apology in the 2018 season. Fresh off a contract extension and a deep playoff run, one would think he would be primed for a stellar year. Sadly, this was not the case. Suddenly, he became more turnover prone. His passing accuracy and overall numbers plummeted. It was as if his heart just wasn’t in it anymore. As if that wasn’t enough, he lost his starting job to Cody Kessler.
If the Lions decide to take a risk on Bortles, they will take on more than his luggage. They’ll also inherit the baggage he’s carrying with him from his disappointing departure from Jacksonville. Not to mention, even if he lands in Detroit, there is no telling which version of Blake Bortles will walk into that locker room.
Life is full of situations in which there are a wide range of outcomes. Obviously, predictions are made by trying to anticipate and minimize these ranges. With Bortles, you know at his best, you will be getting a competent arm with starting potential. We’ve seen him lead a team to the playoffs with it. At worst, you’ll get the last version of him the Jaguars endured before letting him go. By giving him another shot to back up Goff though, you may be setting him up for a successful (third) chance.
Goff is not known to miss much time due to injuries, so the pressure won’t necessarily be on to carry the team as often. Granted, he’ll find himself attached to another struggling franchise, but at least this time, he’s not the one who has to turn it around. He would do just fine as the first round backup of the first round starter.
When it comes to backing up quarterbacks that refuse to ride the bench no matter their condition, look no farther than Geno Smith. After literally getting knocked out of the Jets 2015 season, he found himself riding behind Ryan Fitzpatrick. From there he went on to backup such injury free quarterbacks as Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and finally Russell Wilson. If there is a role Smith is meant to fill, it’s as the understudy to an Ironman.
Smith will come at a gigantic discount to Daniel should the current backup find himself sent packing. If the Lions stand pat, they’ll owe Daniel almost $6 million. At most, Smith would cost less than a third of that price, even factoring in the $750,000 dead cap hit Daniel will incur if he’s cut. It’s more likely Detroit will try to trade him though to get more value. In the end, it might not be much, but something is better than nothing. Which is why Smith would make a suitable filler of this vacated position.
Let’s face it, there are actually more reasons not to bring Smith on board than there are to sign him. In six seasons, he’s been involved in only 10 games. Most of them, he’s spent either inactive, or on injured reserve. Not to mention the issues surrounding his eventual loss of his starting job in New York. Although, you could chalk those up to youth and inexperience, both of which are no longer the case. So there’s that. Even still, the fact that he may or not come through when called upon is a major red flag. It may be one that isn’t worth the risk.
This all comes down to two things: the price tag on Smith, and the durability of Goff. Any team would stand to benefit from signing a seasoned backup at a huge discount. It’s especially true considering the man he’s backing up has yet to miss any considerable time due to major injuries. Can Detroit do better? Probably. Can they do worse? That can be debated. There does exist enough evidence to put this offer on the table and see where the chips fall.