Most NFL teams only keep two quarterbacks on the roster each season. No head coach wants to see their starter go down, and then hope that they got it right as far as their backup.
But keep three signal callers on the final roster? That is just pure luxury.
Most clubs will attempt to stash a young guy on the practice squad as their emergency option. And quite a few future NFL starting quarterbacks got the opportunity to become bumped up to the active roster by running the scout team week-in and week-out on some practice squad.
Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters on Tuesday that he is in favor of keeping three quarterbacks on this year’s active roster, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“I am probably not the best person to ask that because I was in Arizona when we carried two quarterbacks, and we lost one and then we lost one in the game – the most nightmarish situation that you can have. Two weeks in a row, we signed a quarterback on Wednesday or Tuesday and played with him on Sunday. I do not want to be in that situation.”
Currently on the Browns roster there are a few position battles especially at defensive line, wide receiver and offensive line. How does Kitchens justify cutting a bubble player such as wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, tight end Stephen Carlson, defensive end Chad Thomas or defensive back Phillip Gaines, to keep a third quarterback who may never play a single down all season?
Quarterback Drew Stanton is a capable NFL backup. He knows the system utilized in Cleveland and although he is no Baker Mayfield, he would have just as many weapons as Mayfield will have each Sunday. This will mark Stanton’s 12th NFL season, so he is a seasoned veteran who has thrown for 4,059 yards with 20 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in 17 starts across his 12 seasons
Behind him are two young bucks: Garrett Gilbert and David Blough.
Gilbert’s claim to fame was as the starting quarterback for the Orlando Apollos of the now-defunct AAF. He led that league in almost every quarterback category and was mentioned in the league MVP conversation. Orlando had the best record and his coach was quarteback guru Steve Spurrier.
However, the AAF was a league built on players that were not currently playing in any league, or in any country. Around 80 percent of the AAF’s players had signed an NFL contract at some point, but many were subsequently waived and remain unsigned.
As to whether or not Garrett can claim a roster spot remains to be seen, Kitchens said, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“We like Garrett. I like Garrett on what he has done up to this point. We have not even started playing preseason yet. I do not know about the final [roster]. I do not want to crown him just yet.”
Garrett has been associated with five NFL teams and spent time on four practice squads. He has played in one NFL game with zero starts, completing two-of-thee passes for 40 yards and was sacked once. With Orlando, he threw for 2,152 yards with 13 touchdowns, only three interceptions, and a 60.6 completion percentage. He was the number one ranked quarterback in the AAF.
Blough was signed as an undrafted free agent on May 3. At Purdue, he had 871 completions on 1,429 attempts for 9,734 yards with 69 touchdowns and 43 interceptions in 44 career games. His career passing percentage was 61.0.
Of course, if Kitchens does indeed decide to keep three quarterbacks, this does not mean that one - or even two - of the three are even on the roster right now. As soon as each NFL club cuts their rosters down from 90 players to the 53-man final roster, there will become a slew of able-bodied arms that may be better athletes than the players the Browns currently have in camp.
Of the 32 NFL rosters last year, 17 franchises carried three quarterbacks - including the Browns. The club already had Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler on the roster, then traded for Tyrod Taylor, Stanton signed as a free agent on a two-year deal away from the Arizona Cardinals, and finally Mayfield was taken with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Hogan was subsequently traded to the Washington Redskins and Kessler was traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of course this year there is another wild card in play with the re-invention of the XFL to begin play in February of 2020. It is likely that any quarterback that is cut and then misses being picked up off the waiver wire is assured of being offered a job in the new league. So if the time does come where the second or even third string guy is needed, they may already be gone and the pickings are very thin.
Unless Kitchens, a former quarterback, can activate himself.