The Jaguars finished the '06 season with one of the most unstable quarterback groups in the entire NFL. Opening day starter Byron Leftwich played in just six games before being benched due to his injured ankle, the same ankle which would eventually cause him to miss 16 of the teams' last 22 regular season games. Backup quarterback David Garrard was the definition of inconsistent, looking like Donovan McNabb one week, scrambling and throwing the ball on the run, and then looking like Chris Rix the next week, making inexplicable mental mistakes which would have one wondering about his IQ. These inconsistencies eventually got Garrard pulled from the final game of the season. Third string quarterback Quinn Gray has shown some great flashes in limited playing time, but continues to be turnover prone in practice and couldn't win the backup job from Garrard. Many people thought that at least one or two of the quarterbacks wouldn't be in camp for '07, and possibly even all three.
With the breaking news of the Dolphins finally completing the deal for Kansas City veteran quarterback Trent Green, Miami is left with four quarterbacks on their roster, and someone likely has to go. That someone will almost undoubtedly be Daunte Culpepper. Daunte Culpepper is coming off a nasty knee injury that sidelined him for the '05 season, and the Dolphins tried rushing him back too soon in '06, which caused him not to play to his fullest potential and thus caused the team to give up on him.
Before we give up on him here in Jacksonville, lets look at some of Daunte's statistics. Culpepper has a career quarterback rating of 90.8, he's made three Pro Bowls, and had one of the best seasons (statistically) in the history of the league in '04, when he passed for 4717 yards, 39 touchdowns, and just 11 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 110.9. That wasn't that long ago.
When signing any free agent, you're not paying for the past, you're paying for the present and the future. It is fairly uncertain to everyone how far along Daunte's recovery is from the knee surgery. It is normally a two-year injury, and this October will be two years. Obviously, Daunte will not have as much mobility as he had prior to the injury, but we're not talking about Michael Vick here. Culpepper is an accomplished pocket passer in this league. Daunte is 30 years old, and should have some good football ahead of him, provided he can stay healthy. Although he will want to be a starter this year, no team in the league is going to guarantee him that opportunity, so he will likely have to be a backup.
At the end of the '07 season, the Jaguars will have not one, but two quarterbacks with expiring contracts, both Leftwich and Gray. We know Leftwich's future is up in the air, as he could bolt a town that's given him a lot of scrutiny, or the team could not even offer him a contract. If either happens, can any knowledgeable Jaguars fan tell me that they would feel confident with David Garrard or Quinn Gray leading their team in the '08 season? Probably not.
Daunte Culpepper is a great unknown, but most veteran free agents are. If Culpepper will sign for a moderate amount of money (and there's no reason to believe otherwise), isn't it worth the risk for the Jaguars? The team has plenty of cap room to make a deal happen, and they just may uncover the franchise quarterback that they've been looking for ever since the glory days of Brunell.
So what is the downside of putting a deal together for Culpepper? The team would have to give up on one of their young(er) quarterbacks. Most conventional wisdom would say that the team would likely cut or try and trade David Garrard. I would go in a different direction. I would try to move Quinn Gray. As I stated earlier, Gray has shown flashes in limited opportunities, but if he was so good, why hasn't he been able to supplant Garrard as the #2 guy? Gray is playing on a restricted free agent tender, and will likely try and leave after the season. If the team can recoup a fourth or fifth round pick (which is possible), move on and make the deal. It's more than likely that the Jaguars brass doesn't feel that Quinn Gray is the quarterback of the future, why not cut your ties now if you have an opportunity to get a guy who could be the answer at quarterback?
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