Depth at every position is important on the field. If you lack the proper amount of experience at that position, the likelihood of it being exploited by the opposition should be expected - especially at the quarterback position, which the Bengals struggled with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. Prior to this season, he had only two starts in his career before starting 12 games this season because of Carson Palmers' injured elbow.
So now the Bengals are looking for another backup QB after Fitzpatrick signed with the Buffalo Bills leaving Jordan Palmer as the current back up whose playing experience equates to mop-up duty in three games this past season. His stats in those appearances do not reflect an effective backup QB, a necessity in order for the Bengals to contend in a playoff race. An experienced starter would give the team a better chance to stay in the playoff battle if Carson should suddenly sustain yet another injury.
Several experienced starting QB's are available for the Bengals to consider as Carson's backup. Of those with experience, who might be the best fit? And would they be willing to be the backup instead of a starter? Let's review.
Of the free agents available, Brad Johnson has the most experience with 17 years in the NFL. He spent last season with the Dallas Cowboys struggling to keep them in the playoff hunt. He finished the season with a 50.5 rating losing 2 of the 3 games he started. He threw 5 interceptions to only 2 TD's and was sacked 8 times. When pressured, Johnson appeared to lack the mobility needed to reduce potential sacks. Not such a hot prospect.
Trent Green, 15 years of NFL experience, was released by the St. Louis Rams after playing in only three games last season, starting one of them. His passer rating was a low 41.7, threw no TD's and had 6 passes intercepted. Green has experienced a number of concussions in the past few seasons which could seriously impact his performance.
Then there is former Bengal Gus Frerotte, also with 15 years experience, just recently available after having been released by the Minnesota Vikings in favor of the recently acquired Sage Rosenfelds. Frerotte started 11 games last season for an ineffective Tarvaris Jackson finishing with a 73.7 passer rating, throwing 12 TD's and 15 INT's. His record for those 11 games was a respectable 8-3, keeping the Vikings in the playoff hunt while they figure out how to make Jackson a more effective QB. Do the Bengals really want this retread?
And then there is venerable Kurt Warner with 11 years NFL experience, three Super Bowl appearances, and would be doubtful to fulfill the backup QB roll for the Bengals as he is looking to be a starter. Let's count him out of contention.
These are the QB's with the most experience, only one of whom had the most starts last season - Kurt Warner, who started every game for the Cardinals. Unless Mike Brown shows his loyalty to a former Bengal (Frerotte), don't look for one of these players on the roster.
However, there are several other former starting QB's who were backups last season and may be a better fit while providing the experience needed.
Byron Leftwich, who stated for the Jacksonville Jaguars for 4 seasons, became an effective backup to Ben Roethlisberger last season. Leftwich played in six games last season including a playoff appearance against San Diego, finishing with a 104.3 rating, 2 TD's and sacked only three times. He is a strong QB that seemed to put a spark in the sluggish Steelers offense when on the field and can be difficult to bring down because of his size and strength.
Rex Grossman, who started for the Chicago Bears recent Super Bowl appearance, served as backup to Kyle Orton last season. Grossman appeared in four games starting one, finishing the season with a 59.7 rating, 2 TD's and 2 INTs, but sacked only once. The knock on Grossman is streakiness; he will tear up a team on one series, and then become unable to find an open receiver the next. Since the Super Bowl season, Grossman has been unable to find the consistency he showed for the first part of that season.
J.T. O'Sullivan had been in the league 6 seasons before getting his first NFL passing attempt with the Detroit Lions in 2007. When Mike Martz moved to San Francisco for the 2008 season, O'Sullivan became the starter for the first 8 games. He finished the season with a passer rating of 73.6, 8 TD's and 11 INTs. His 32 sacks for the first half of the season put him on a pace of 64, which I am sure would have set some kind of record.
Then there is Patrick Ramsey, who entered the league in 2002 as a Steve Spurrier's 1st round draft pick for the Washington Redskins. Ramsey made only one appearance last season in the last game of the year. He finished with a passer rating of 84, completing 2 of 3 passes for 19 yards. I'll pass.
I would not expect the Bengals to entertain some of the more experienced QB's, mainly because of their age. But the need for a consistent and stable backup can't be emphasized enough. Ryan Fitzpatrick, despite his inexperience as a starter, eventually grew into the position reducing mistakes and showing confidence as the season progressed. Even thou Palmer didn't need surgery for his elbow, the possibility exists that it could inflame once again. Thus the Bengals must sign a reliable former starter who is willing to accept the role of becoming a backup and with no desire to cause controversy.