Player: Bruce Gradkowski
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $1,833,334
2015 Season Breakdown: It may seem a bit odd to see two articles about Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski back to back, one day after the other, and I admit, it is a bit odd. But I took a look at the remaining list of free agents left to cover, and, quite frankly, the rest of the players left to cover are more important, and more interesting, and it would be best to save them for the end of the series. So pardon me for the number of articles about a quarterback who played 10 snaps in three years.
Because that is what he is, after all, a quarterback who has played 10 snaps during his three-year tenure in Pittsburgh, which is ironic considering the fact that the year he got injured is the year that the team had not two but three quarterbacks play well in excess of that.
And were an injury away from playing a college quarterback turned wide receiver back under center.
Feeling the need to finally move away from the veteran Charlie Batch, the Steelers signed Gradkowski in free agency in 2013 to serve as Ben Roethlisberger’s new backup, inking him to a three-year contract.
The plan was for Gradkowski to serve in that capacity for as long as was necessary until the quarterback that they also drafted later that year, Landry Jones, was ready to take over the backup quarterback spot. Well, he did take over that role midway through the 2015 season, but not necessarily because he was ready.
2013 and 2014 were the two healthiest of Roethlisberger’s career, during which he missed zero regular season snaps due to injury. He sat out the final seven plays in a blowout victory in 2014, and he also missed three snaps due to injury during the playoff game, but that is a full accounting of Gradkowski’s career body of work with the Steelers.
Over the course of the 2015 season, including the playoffs, the Steelers received 291 snaps of play from quarterbacks other than Roethlisberger. The majority came from Mike Vick, whom the Steelers brought in to replace Gradkowski, not yet confident enough to give Jones that opportunity.
Vick started the first three games but exited in the third with a hamstring injury, with Jones coming in and playing well and ultimately taking over the backup role. Gradkowski, meanwhile, watched from the sidelines with shoulder and finger injuries that had to be surgically repaired.
Free Agency Outlook: The market for the 33-year-old backup quarterback coming off of multiple injuries and three meaningful snaps since 2012 is likely not that strong, and the list of teams interested in Gradkowski, as I wrote yesterday, may not include the Steelers.
That is an interesting proposition considering that they don’t seem confident yet in going into a season with Jones as their backup either. So would they re-sign Gradkowski and let the two compete for the backup spot? Or might they sign another quarterback altogether and let him compete with Jones?