There is a giant wave of momentum behind the reports/rumors of Daunte Culpepper making Jacksonville his next workplace. We speculated on Culpepper's possible arrival in Jacksonville over a week ago, and interest by the team was confirmed yesterday. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter informed both Byron Leftwich and David Garrard that the team is indeed a player in the Culpepper sweepstakes. There are still contract issues with Culpepper in Miami, but it's likely that those will be resolved sooner than later. In the meantime, Daunte is still not allowed to practice with the Dolphins.
So how does this potential move affect the quarterback depth chart? Byron Leftwich is heading into camp as the starting quarterback. If Culpepper is acquired by the team, Leftwich will still be the starting quarterback assuming he stays healthy. Leftwich says that he understands the teams interest in Culpepper, and he has no problem with it. He went on to say that "It's smart to look into it, especially with me having only one year on my contract, I understand it. I'm in the last year of my contract and nobody knows which way this is going to go."
What gets interesting is how this acquisition will affect the other two quarterbacks on the roster, Quinn Gray and David Garrard. Last week I wrote that I believed that the Jaguars should jettison Quinn Gray if Culpepper is signed, due to his failure to evolve from third-string status, his inexperience, and ultimately his contract status (Gray will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year). David Garrard doesn't have the ability of a full-time NFL starter, but he's a perfectly serviceable backup, and he'd easily be the best third string quarterback in the league.
The biggest issue with keeping David Garrard is the potential attitude problem. Thus far, Garrard has handled the entire quarterback controversy/situation with extreme professionalism and class. Although he puts on a great front, there must be some kind of damage to his ego, as it would anyone's. First of all, Garrard is not able to compete for the starting quarterback job, and when you combine that with him potentially losing his backup quarterback job, how much longer can he be a good soldier? I want to reiterate that Garrard has been a complete professional about everything up to this point, but this may be the final straw that breaks the camel's back. When asked about the situation, Garrard responded with "Yeah, they talked to me, [Offensive coordinator] Dirk [Koetter] did. He said it doesn't have anything to do with my status. He just wanted to make sure we knew it was true. They don't have to tell you what they're thinking. It was cool. Garrard then went on to say "If my [practice] snaps are diminished [with Culpepper around], then I have to make some business moves myself, It's not like ... if they released me, I would just wither away."
What will the Jaguars do? This game of musical chairs may be one of the biggest in recent team history, but I believe that when it is all done that it will be just a footnote. If Byron Leftwich leaves in free agency after the '07 season, everyone on the quarterback depth chart will likely move up one position, at least for the '08 season, while the Jaguars try and groom a rookie. If Leftwich stays, whichever quarterback they keep would likely battle it out with Culpepper for the backup job in '08. Neither Garrard nor Gray are likely to become NFL starters. Both have looked great in spots, but neither is very consistent. Whichever quarterback the team decides to retain, if indeed the Jaguars make the deal for Culpepper, they will likely not be back for the '08 season.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Jagnation.com, and a regular contributor to FoxSports.com and Sportsillustated.com. Feel free to e-mail Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org
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