Finally, in his fourth season in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones was finally credited with a win as a starter. He had previously won in relief of Michael Vick last year, and had started in last year’s victory over the Cleveland Browns – but only lasted a series. Week 17 represented Jones’ first start to finish victory as a Steeler.
It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Jones is a free agent at the end of this season. If everything goes well for Pittsburgh in the playoffs, he won’t get another snap before his contract is up (unless the Steelers are blowing out anyone).
But has Jones done enough in his four starts for Pittsburgh to re-sign him? Can they afford not to?
Jones has shown enough to suggest that he can be a decent back-up quarterback. He’s been in Pittsburgh now to know enough of the system, but he is limited in his arm throwing talent, and his ability to read defenses. He won’t be threatening Ben Roethlisberger for the starting gig anytime soon, and that’s ok.
Jones is set for a big raise no matter where he plays his football next year. He currently costs Pittsburgh $784k against the cap, and back-up quarterbacks tend to make closer to $2-6 million. So a decision needs to be made by the Steelers as to whether they can afford him, and value him as much as other quarterback-needy teams might.
But, this article isn’t about whether or not the Steelers should give Jones that raise.
No, it’s about what options they would have if they chose not to re-sign Jones to another deal. There are only three options:
Option 1: Zach Mettenberger
Also known as, the guy that’s already on the roster.
Zach Mettenberger was the Tennessee Titans sixth round pick in 2014. He started 10 games for the Titans in his career, before they drafted Marcus Mariota – and he was deemed surplus to requirements.
Mettenberger didn’t look bad whilst playing in Tennessee. He threw for 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with a completion rate of 60.3%. He wasn’t exactly playing with the same Tennessee team that Mariota is thriving with now either.
Those stats represent better numbers than Jones put up before this season. After a year in the system, Mettenberger could be ready to play. He’s still young, and does have room to develop as well.
Option 2: Free Agency
If you let Jones go, and don’t fancy Mettenberger, then you have to get someone else in.
That means either drafting someone or looking on the free agent market. Here’s a sample of some of the quarterbacks that could hit free agency:
Colin Kaepernick, E.J. Manuel, Dan Orlovsky, Brian Hoyer, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum, Geno Smith, and Ryan Mallett among many, many other average names.
While the Steelers will have some room against the salary cap, that should disappear rapidly with the pending new contracts for Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Stephon Tuitt, Lawrence Timmons and a number of other deserving back-ups.
What that should mean is that spending big on a back-up quarterback like Hoyer or Keenum isn’t really an option.
Option 3: The Draft
The only other option left is to draft a quarterback.
But is there one to draft?
This draft is already shaping up to be one of the worst quarterback classes. So much so that some draftniks think that a quarterback shouldn’t go in the first round. We all know that they will eventually with so many quarterback needy teams.
That’s also part of the problem. All the prospects worth drafting seem to be developmental prospects, but there is a huge need for quarterbacks from needy teams.
A team like the Steelers, with a closing Super Bowl window, can’t afford to miss too many opportunities to capitalize on Roethlisberger’s final years.
There are more pressing needs on defense, in a talented defensive class – that should mean the likes of Mitch Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, and DeShone Kizer will be long drafted before the Steelers even look at a quarterback.
It’s also highly likely that the next tier of Brad Kaaya, Patrick Mahomes, and Davis Webb may also be gone before the Steelers would be prepared to pull the trigger.
According to CBS Sports, there is only one other quarterback worth a pick before the end of round 5, and that’s Jim Kelly‘s nephew Chad. To say that Chad Kelly has some red flags would be an understatement. Possibly the most talented senior quarterback in the draft, Kelly has been involved in a brawl at his brother’s high school game, has been arrested for fighting with police officers, and was caught DM’ing pornstars twice – even after they publicly shamed him for doing so. Oh, and he tore his ACL in early November.
If we’re throwing darts at quarterbacks after round five, are we really sure that letting Jones go is the best idea?