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If the Bengals Sign A Veteran QB, Who Becomes the 3rd-Stringer?

Will the presence of a veteran QB drop Jordan Palmer back to 3rd-string next season?  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Will the presence of a veteran QB drop Jordan Palmer back to 3rd-string next season? (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Although I was pleased with the Bengals' selection of QB Andy Dalton with the 35th overall pick in the draft, I have to admit that when I saw Arkansas's Ryan Mallett still available when the team was on the clock at the top of the third round I thought to myself, "heck, draft him too and let's have us a good ol' fashioned quarterback competition." Greedy? Yes. Irrational? Sure. But boy, wouldn't it have been fun? At the very least, it would have made for an interesting backup scenario.

The more sensible route for the Bengals to take, of course, is to provide insurance against Dalton's inexperience by signing a veteran QB (whenever it is free agency opens) who could push for a starting spot, but more likely serve as a primary backup and mentor. Coach Marvin Lewis is the the process of determining if signing a veteran is necessary, although he is throwing his support behind Dalton by suggesting it isn't an "exact need [...] If he ends up being the starter as a rookie, I think he can do that." Despite that endorsement, signing a veteran is a need for the team, unless it's willing to gamble by entering the season with Dalton (0 NFL passes), Jordan Palmer (15 NFL passes), and Dan LeFevour (0 NFL passes).

And assuming the team doesn't keep four QBs on the roster, the presence of a veteran will put the roster spot of one of those two players not named Dalton at risk. So while we continue to mull who the starter might be next season, this lazy Sunday seems like a good time to ask the really important question: Who's the best option for 3rd in line -- J. Palmer or LeFevour?

The ostensibly reasonable choice is Jordan Palmer, who I'll now nickname "JPalm," a nice moniker for a backup because he might come out of nowhere one day to set the place on fire, simply lay dormant, or burn all the team's best laid plans to the ground (like napalm, see). He's been a backup on the team for three years now. Originally a sixth round pick of the Redskins in 2007 out of UTEP, JPalm was signed by the Bengals in 2008. After two years as the team's third-stringer, he was promoted to primary backup last season after the departure of J. T. O'Sullivan. But in those three years he's seen little game action, attempting 12 passes in 2008, none in 2009, and only three last season (though he completed all of them). His small-sample negative career statistics increase exponentially: 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 4 sacks.

That's clearly not much to go on, but after years in Carson's shadow JPalm has lately started to show some important intangibles. Since his brother Lord Voldemort's demand for a trade, JPalm has shown a desire to move beyond his backup role. He's taken the initiative to round up some Bengal receivers for workouts in Cali, and after the Dalton pick he expressed a desire to audition as a starter. At the very least, he's training like one:

"I’m going to prepare like I’m the starter until somebody tells me I’m not," Jordan Palmer said. "If you’re the backup and the starter gets hurt or is traded or retires, you’re next in line. That’s the natural progression."

There are also the more entertaining intangibles, like Palmer's RunPee enterprise and comments like these:

When asked if he would like to be traded to the same team as Carson, Jordan said:

"Nope, I just want to support Carson in his quest to leave. I will do whatever the team wants me to do. I promise to throw interceptions for touchdowns just as good as he did, and I can pretend to eat a John Morrell hot dog just as well too."

That might be enough to reason to keep him around right there. On the other hand, there's the nepotism theory, which suggests that JPalm has only been on the team as an organizational move to placate big brother. With Carson no longer around to keep up the Smothers Brothers routine, does Jordan's value plummet?

The other question mark here is Dan LeFevour, who lends himself to much nicknamery. Beyond that, it's less clear what LeFevour brings to the table. Back in March, Joe Goodberry wrote up an excellent summation of the impressions LeFevour has left on scouts and analysts. Joe's conclusion was that the Bengals shouldn't seriously consider LeFevour for a starting role in 2011 (and thankfully the team hasn't), but does he have enough potential to warrant a spot on the roster over JPalm?

Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, LeFevour was cut by in the preseason and quickly snatched up by the Bengals. He has yet to see any game action beyond preseason exhibitions with the Bears, where he was so-so, going 19 of 41 (46.3%) for 204 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception, and 38 rush yards. I'll leave you to peruse Joe's write-up, but the consensus seems to be that LeFevour was a great college quarterback with good legs, but lacks accuracy and needs some work on his passing mechanics. Mel Kiper gives the most positive assessment when he claims that LeFevour has a little Chad Pennington in him in terms of size, smarts, and athleticism, but still needs a few year to develop.

Before the draft, we speculated here on the possibility of LeFevour becoming the starer. Fortunately, we don't have to worry about that anymore, but does LeFevour have the potential Kiper sees, or is he a guy the team can easily give up on right now, at best cutting and then trying to sign him to the practice squad?

Or is there a scenario where the team lets both JPalm and LeFevour go and signs an undrafted college free agent to develop? The most interesting name here would be Delaware's Patrick Devlin, who didn't make our list of undrafted FAs to target but who's Pro Day the Bengals attended. Devlin has the size (6' 3'', 225) and arm strength to be an NFL QB, but lacks accuracy and consistency. He's a project, but a very attractive one, especially for a team with so many question marks at the position.

So go ask your mother what she thinks, cast your vote, and then cross your fingers that we never have to see any of these guys.