Jeff Driskel’s preseason Week 1 performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was impressive.
Eight completions on nine attempts for 97 yards and a touchdown, good for a quarterback rating of 148.6, played a big role in the Bengals’ second half comeback victory. After a performance like that, you can see why, according to Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com, the Bengals are looking for a way to make some room for him as the third quarterback on the roster.
The drumbeat is already in place to keep three. Look, they’re not going to give McCarron away in a trade. They’ll lose him in free agency before that. And let’s see some more snaps from Driskel. So far, so good. But could you turn to him in December to clinch a division and win a postseason game? McCarron has shown he can, and maybe Driskel can show them eventually. Until then, three’s company. You got to love Driskel, though. Very athletic and heady.
It is impossible to deny Driskel has potential, especially after his performance Friday. Especially considering the looming possibility of AJ McCarron not being around much longer, it makes sense to have a reliable backup ready to take over.
The best-case scenario seems to be the Bengals are able to retain McCarron through 2018 as a restricted free agent, due to being inactive for his whole rookie season. But, if the right team comes along with the right trade offer, or the right team offers him a contract after this season the Bengals aren’t willing to match, they will need to fill his spot.
That said, rostering three quarterbacks is not the right way to go about insuring against McCarron’s inevitable departure. The Bengals have already discussed their intentions to take up an extra roster spot by rostering seven wide receivers.
Yes, security at the quarterback position is very important. But, there are a perfectly good number of practice squad spots available if the Bengals really need a reserve third-string quarterback that badly.
Granted, there is a strong possibility more performances like Driskel had Friday could result in him being swept up by another team if the Bengals relegate him to the practice squad. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee he will be with the team long enough to insure against McCarron’s departure if the Bengals elect to take the practice squad route.
Then again, is it really worth taking an extra roster spot that could go to another linebacker or a fourth running back, a position the Bengals have liked keeping around in recent years? If the Bengals do retain McCarron through 2018, that’s two entire draft classes to find an ample replacement. Not to mention, there is the entire free agent quarterback market the Bengals’ could scour if Driskel does not stick around on the practice squad and a quarterback emergency were to occur.
Third-string quarterbacks rarely, if ever, see playing time. There is a reason teams regularly opt to keep only two quarterbacks on the roster, at least since 2011 when the emergency third quarterback rule was abolished. For the most part, using an extra roster spot on such an inconsequential player is seen as pointless.
Yes, Driskel proved he is a very talented player with plenty of potential on Friday. But, even if he continues to play at that level through the rest of the preseason, the Bengals would be better off waving him when it is time for final cuts, hoping he clears waivers, and adding him to the practice squad.
Unless the Bengals start running counter to virtually every move they have made with McCarron’s contract status thus far, there simply isn’t any sound reason to keep a third quarterback. Perhaps, down the line, Driskel will be a solid option as the Bengals’ backup quarterback.
For now, it is simply too high of a price to pay for a player who is unlikely to see a single regular-season snap in 2017.