Jeff Driskel is coming off a rookie season as the third string quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals made a surprising transaction last season when they picked up Driskel from the waiver wire and added him to the 53-man roster. The San Francisco 49ers were hoping to sneak him onto their practice squad, but the Bengals prevented that from happening.
The Bengals have rarely kept three quarterbacks on the roster in the last five years, but made an exception for Driskel. Now, the question is whether the Bengals will keep him on the active roster for another year, as backup AJ McCarron is still in Cincinnati and under contract. His spot may be determined by players at other positions showing they are more worthy of sticking around than a third string quarterback.
College: Louisiana Tech (after transferring from Florida)
Hometown: Oviedo, FL
Experience: Second season
When the Bengals claimed Driskel off waivers they inherited the four-year contract he signed with the 49ers. He is going into the second year of the deal, which is worth a total of $2.45 million with the average of $613,135 a year. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in 2020, according to spotrac.com.
Driskel had a roller coaster of a college career. He was a highly recruited quarterback out of high school and ended up going to Florida. He was deemed the successor to the Tim Tebow, and it ended up being an impossible task. By his junior year, the Gators and Driskel were struggling, and he was benched several times. Driskel dealt with several injuries toward the end of his time at Florida, and he even missed most of his junior year.
Driskel graduated from Florida and then transferred to Louisiana Tech where he finished out his college career strong (and didn’t have to sit out a year as he had already graduated). It wasn’t enough to salvage the promise he showed early at Florida, but it was enough to get him drafted.
The 49ers drafted Driskel in the sixth round, and he ended up competing for the third string job, but lost out to veteran journeyman Christian Ponder. He flashed more as a runner than a passer during the preseason and even displayed some special teams ability. Driskel finished the preseason with 132 passing yards, going 15/31 with two interceptions and 0 touchdowns.
The Bengals were attracted to the possibility of tapping the potential Driskel showed so early on in Florida and stashed him on the roster all season. He was inactive for all but one game, and for that one game, the plan was to use him as a backup wide receiver/special teamer. But, he didn’t end up seeing the field at all.
Driskel spent 2016 as the third string quarterback, but just because the Bengals haven’t brought in another quarterback doesn’t mean he should be considered a lock to remain on the roster.
In fact, competition at other positions could mean the Bengals can’t afford the luxury of having a third string quarterback. The Bengals have already said they will do everything possible to keep seven receivers on the final roster. They also have quite the competition along the defensive line in terms of backups. The team could easily look to keep five defensive tackles instead of four like last season, too.
Driskel will have to show during training camp and the preseason that he is worthy of not only remaining on the roster, but that he deserves his spot on the roster over a talented player at another crowded position. Additionally, if he’s going to remain on the roster, it will likely be because the Bengals see him as McCarron’s replacement, once his contract in Cincinnati runs out. McCarron is expected to be a restricted free agent in 2018 and you’d have to assume Driskel was originally brought in as his replacement.
It also may be possible the Bengals try and get him onto the practice squad. He’d have to pass through waivers though, and last time a team tried that, the Bengals claimed him.
Roster odds: 25 percent