With the demise of the AAF, suddenly there were hundreds of available players to be signed to free agent contracts. These free agents, however, have actual playing time stats with success or failure ratios.
The AAF’s leading QB, Garrett Gilbert (6’-4”, 230 pounds), has signed with the Browns according to Adam Schefter of ESPN and then announced on FOX8 news in Cleveland.
Gilbert, age 27, played for the Orlando Apollos which was the best team in the AAF at the time of its closure. He played under the tutelage of QB guru Steve Spurrier and was the league’s leading passer. His stats include 2,152 passing yards with 13 TDs and only three INTs. Orlando also led the league in total offense.
The signing is more geared to provide Baker Mayfield’s backup Drew Stanton a capable competitor for the backup position, and if nothing else allows the club to have three capable QBs in training camp. Usually most teams also bring in a younger player as the fourth man as camp fodder.
Oddly enough, Gilbert and Mayfield went to the same high school in Austin, Texas at Lake Travis HS. Gilbert had competed in ESPN’s Elite 11 competition for high school quarterbacks and a highly-recruited prospect. He also played in the Under Armour All-America Game and was a five-star recruit by Rivals.com. He was named USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year.
After accepting a scholarship at Texas, he came in for an injured Colt McCoy and finished the BCS National Championship Game in 2009, a 37-21 Alabama victory.
Two years later, he transferred to SMU after sharing the starting QB spot and then a successful shoulder surgery after getting hurt in the opening game against Rice in 2011. At Texas, he had 14 starts with 3,301 yards, 13 TDs and 23 INTs. He also rushed for 400 yards and six TDs. While with SMU, he started all 23 games in two seasons. He passed for 6,460 yards, 36 TDs, 22 INTs with a 66.5% completion ratio his final year in 2013.
Gilbert was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth-round of the 2014 NFL draft. He was involved in the final cuts and then signed to the Rams practice squad (PS), but was released again two months later. The New England Patriots signed him to their PS in December and was a part of the Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He was considered the third QB behind Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. The following June, New England waived him. The Detroit Lions claimed him off waivers and participated in training camp, but was cut when the club had to get down to 75 players.
The Oakland Raiders claimed him and was signed to their PS where he spent two years before being cut after the 2016 season. He signed with the Carolina Panthers who placed him on their PS. In October, he was elevated to the 53-man roster as the third QB. In 2018, starting QB Cam Newton had been sidelined with an injury and his backup Taylor Heinicke became injured in the last game of the 2018 season. Gilbert came in and finally made an NFL playing field. He went 2-3 for 40 yards, sacked once and ended the game with a 109.7 rating.
Four days later, he was again cut.
In November of 2018, he was the seventh overall pick of the Apollos in their player draft. In Week Two, a 37-29 victory over the San Antonio Commanders, Gilbert tossed 393 yards with two TDs and was named AAF Offensive Player of the Week.