Question About The Cincinnati Bengals Backup Quarterback

Rob Carr

The Cincinnati Bengals enter the offseason with questions at backup quarterback that will need to be answered.

We argued on twitter earlier this week that the Cincinnati Bengals should look at developing a young quarterback as an eventual backup. The opinion was split. Some were happy with Bruce Gradkowski, who will become an unrestricted free agent. Others went so far as to suggest a young backup quarterback generating forced motivation behind Andy Dalton.

We're mostly disagreeable with the former, the latter simply won't happen.

And unless they use a selection on a quarterback by Friday's third round, you're projecting a developing passer on the practice squad. Do you want a development project replacing Dalton during midseason, who, in this violent game, may suffer a lengthy injury? No.

Since veteran quarterback Jon Kitna left for free agency after the 2005 season, the Bengals backup solution hasn't always been ideal.

YEAR ATT CMP YDS TD INT RATING
Bruce Gradkowski '11-'12 29 13 174 1 1 61.6
Jordan Palmer '08, '10 15 10 59 0 2 34.4
J.T. O'Sullivan '09 11 4 40 0 0 47.5
Ryan Fitzpatrick '07-'08 372 221 1,905 8 9 70.0
Anthony Wright '06 3 3 31 0 0 109.7
430 251 2,209 9 12 67.5

Fitzpatrick started 12 of 16 games in 2008, where the Bengals only won four games. In fairness that was just a bad season for everyone, not just the quarterback. Beyond that the Bengals haven't had someone backing up the most important position during most of Marvin Lewis' tenure capable of taking over and giving the Bengals a chance to win.

Gradkowski will obviously have his defenders and that's fine. He helped Cincinnati win the regular season opener in 2011 and the season finale in 2012. Then again. When the opposing defense is caught off-guard with a quick-snap leaving A.J. Green wide open or when Baltimore plays their second and third team defenses to rest for the postseason, it offers debatable excuses for those performances. Yet they still won and that's the point.

We're mostly accepting of a veteran quarterback capable enough to replace Andy Dalton in case the starting quarterback were to sustain a long-term injury. But at some point the Bengals will want to upgrade the position from scratch, maybe developing a young passer with acceptable talent to develop on the practice squad, with short-term veteran solution, unless they're willing to use a spot as high as the second round.

Geoff Hobson speculates the same thing while reviewing the upcoming Senior Bowl.

With backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski a free agent, the Bengals also may be in the market to develop a young one and three of Kiper's top five quarterbacks are going to be in the house. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib and North Carolina State's Mike Glennon are pitching for the North, and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas is lining up for the South.

One could argue Zac Robinson, who has spent each of the past two seasons on the practice squad. According to NFL rules, he may not be eligible for a third. During eight preseason games with the Bengals dating back to 2011, Robinson has completed 67.3 percent of his passes (35/52) for 327 yards passing and a passer rating of 84.4.

Either way backup quarterback is a question that will be answered this offseason. Our immediate prediction is that Gradkowski returns in late March or early April, once he realizes that starting jobs are unavailable to him. Gradkowski earned $1.8 million in base salary in 2013 with a $200,000 bonus. Look for the cost to be relatively the same if he returns as the backup quarterback.

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