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NFL free agency 2020: Veteran QB options to back up Daniel Jones with Giants

We’re talking backups, baby!

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

With Eli Manning easing into retirement, and Daniel Jones easing into his first NFL offseason as an incumbent starting quarterback, the New York Giants can look to improve the roster outside of the starting QB spot. Holding the fourth overall selection in the draft and sporting in excess of $61 million dollars in cap space, this could be a fruitful offseason for Dave Gettleman and company.

Yet do not think the quarterback position is set in stone. With Manning’s retirement there is room for a backup behind Jones, and given the incredible quarterback free agency market upon us, there are some veteran options the Giants could consider, either via free agency or trade.

Andy Dalton

The name Andy Dalton has perhaps become synonymous with the thought of “quarterback purgatory.” A QB who is good enough to be a starting quarterback in the league, but perhaps not the guy who is going to bring you to the promised land. With the Cincinnati Bengals all but guaranteed to select Joe Burrow with their first overall selection, and Dalton due over $17 million this season, he would be a wise cap move should the Bengals move in a different direction. According to, the Bengals would suffer no dead money and free up $17.7 million in cap space should they cut Dalton prior to June 1.

But would Dalton be a fit behind Jones?

Scheme fit is obviously a big factor in any quarterback situation, and the idea of bringing Dalton in behind Jones makes a great deal of sense. Consider that during most of his time in Cincinnati, Ken Zampese was either his quarterback coach or his offensive coordinator. Zampese is heavily influenced by “Air Coryell” thinking, given that his father, Ernie, was one of the architects of that offensive system when Ernie was coaching the San Diego Chargers with Don Coryell

We know that under Jason Garrett, the offense might take on more of a Coryell feel given Garrett’s offensive philosophy. Dalton’s experience in such a system, with Zampese, makes this perhaps an ideal fit. He can help mentor the young quarterback, and will not need a ton of time to prepare himself should he be tasked with stepping into the lineup.

Marcus Mariota

At first blush, this pairing might not make a ton of sense. Mariota is not exactly a “veteran” who can serve as a mentor for Jones, and despite losing his starting gig to Ryan Tannehill this season, he might believe he can still be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

But when you dig a little deeper, the scheme fit makes this a very intriguing option.

Mariota’s best season in the NFL was arguably his sophomore campaign, back in 2016. Mariota started 15 games that season, and completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 3,426 yards (a career high), 26 touchdowns (a career high) and 157 first downs (also a career high). That year Mariota posted an Adjusted Yards per Attempt of 7.9 (a career high), a QBR of 59.4 (a career high), a quarterback rating of 95.6 (a career high) and an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of 7.14 (stop me if you’ve heard this before, but a career high).

His offensive coordinator that season? Terry Robiskie. A name familiar to fans of NFC East teams, given his time in Washington under Norv Turner ... a known disciple of the Air Coryell offensive system.

Mariota might want to earn a starting job next season, and given how in flux this NFL offseason may be at the quarterback position he could have that chance. But if things do not shake out that way for him, New York might be a solid backup spot for him ... pun intended.

Nate Sudfeld

The Giants are not the only NFC East team with some decisions to make regarding their quarterback room. Just down I-95 the Philadelphia Eagles face another offseason with questions about the backup spot behind Carson Wentz. Josh McCown performed admirably replacing an injured Wentz in the Wild Card round, but after having retired a season ago - and having suffered a torn hamstring in that game - McCown might be looking to return to the analyst’s chair. Behind McCown is Sudfeld, a strong-armed passer with a penchant for taking the deep shot when available.

(Seriously, watch his preseason game against the New England Patriots a few seasons ago. Any time he saw man coverage, he was throwing a 9-ball).

It might be tough to pry Sudfeld away from Philadelphia, given both the current state of play among their backups and the fact that the Eagles do seem to like him. A season ago Sudfeld was a Restricted Free Agent, and the organization placed a second-round tender on him, showing the value they see in the former Hoosier. Furthermore, Sudfeld does not exactly fit the “veteran mentor” part of the equation. But from a play-style perspective, his traits fit with what we expect the Giants’ offense to look like next season.

Tom Brady

Honestly I’m just checking to see if you’ve made it this far.

But since you have …

Nah, it isn’t going to happen.

But it could, right? I mean, we’re hearing Brady is holed up in New York City …

It won’t.

Now I’m just trying to calm myself.

Let’s move on.

Blake Bortles

Perhaps another name that has become synonymous with “quarterback purgatory,” Bortles has reached the end of his contract with the Los Angeles Rams, and after spending some time behind Jared Goff as a backup, it is unlikely a team is going to give him a shot to earn their starting spot this offseason.

But Bortles could serve as that veteran mentor behind Jones, given his time in Jacksonville and his experience leading a team to the conference championship game. Let’s remember, Bortles and the Jaguars were really, really close to upsetting the Patriots in New England a few seasons ago. Furthermore, Bortles was known to rely on his athleticism and play-making ability with his legs, and that could be something that Jones could use more of in his own play-style.

Brett Hundley

This might be a name out of left field, but similar to the Sudfeld option, Hundley makes sense from a trait-based analysis. Coming out of UCLA, his calling cards were his arm strength and his ability to push the ball downfield in the vertical passing game.

So schematically, the fit makes sense. Again, this does not fill the role of “veteran mentor” for Jones as some other options, but the play-style and scheme fit could make sense for Hundley.

Regardless of which path the Giants take, there are a number of potential options for the organization behind Jones. Given the volatility of the quarterback carousel, this could be a very interesting offseason indeed at the position.