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Free Agent Frenzy: Quarterback

This offseason the Chargers have the unenviable task of replacing free agent Philip Rivers... just kidding. The Chargers are perfectly set at QB with their face of the franchise locked for the foreseeable future. Instead they are left with voids at the rest of the quarterback spots. Last year, they went through 3 non-Rivers QBs. Billy Volek was on his last year of his contract as the #2 QB in San Diego. The Bolts drafted a QB, Jonathan Crompton, with a later round pick, but decided roster space was too valuable to use a spot on a developmental QB that they would never trust to play in a 2010 NFL game. So, they cut him and used that roster spot for other purposes. Eventually, they decided to bring in an emergency plan veteran and signed journeyman and former NFL starter J.T. O'Sullivan to be the #3. It didn't really matter that much since Rivers had another healthy season, Volek only played in garbage time and O'Sullivan ended up getting cut when the Chargers needed a replacement kicker for Nate Kaeding.

In the NFL it's important to go into training camp with a good answer to the question: Who is your QB? Thankfully .the Chargers are one of the lucky team to have that question easily answered. Instead, they face themselves with 2 other questions. Both, are not nearly as fundamentally important, but still need good answers.

1. Who is your backup QB?

The easiest answer to this question is Billy Volek. I haven't done an approval rating post for Billy, but I assume he'd rate high. If you watch him in preseason you know why he's not a starter in the NFL, but he's proven in the past that he can capably fill in for Rivers and he's started in the NFL (albeit now 7 years since he last did it regularly). He's now 35 and not worth signing for more than 1 or 2 years, but his familiarity with the offense is probably enough (especially in this shortened offseason) to compensate for any effects age would have on this decision.

It's been brought up that Volek could go to the Panthers to help ease the Panthers (and new head coach Ron Rivera who should be familiar with Volek) into the Cam Newton QB era. I think that's less likely in this lockout shortened offseason, but it's worth considering as a possibility. You have to think that if Volek sees an opportunity where he could start (even on a limited basis) he'd have to consider it. If that were to happen the Chargers would be forced to scour the FA QB list and find a suitable backup.

That FA QB list is a bit scary. Volek ranks really high on it. Others ranking pretty high like Bruce Gradkowski and Marc Bulger don't inspire a lot of confidence, although I suppose I'd take either one. A lot of them just don't seem like they'd fit the Chargers system, like the Tarvaris Jacksons and Troy Smiths. I guess I wouldn't freak out too badly if Drew Stanton, Jim Sorgi or J.P. Losman donned Chargers blue and gold, but it would make my nightmares that involve a Philip Rivers injury get even worse.


2. Do we carry a 3rd QB?

Obviously, the 2010 season did not turn out the way Chargers fans had hoped. Because of that it's probably best to carefully analyze any of the decisions from last year. One of the decisions was to go the majority of the season without a 3rd string QB. In theory, this should have given the Chargers an extra roster spot to help with special teams. In reality, the special teams still sucked. However, there doesn't seem to be any obvious reason why those facts are connected and the Chargers came nowhere close to being burned at the QB position because of that decision. So, overall you could say that there would be nothing wrong with doing it again.

However, the Chargers at some point will need a new #2 QB behind Rivers. And preferably that would be someone they could lock for a few years. That could either be an experienced QB that has to learn the Chargers system or someone the Chargers have groomed for the position. If the latter possibility is the way to go then it's best that Chargers get that grooming underway. At this point there are two options for doing that. Either bring in an undrafted free agent or sign a young(ish) free agent QB that wore out his welcome elsewhere. This ends up bringing up names like: Brodie Croyle, Kellen Clemens, John Parker Wilson, Tyler Thigpen, Trent Edwards, Matt Moore and Nate Davis from the NFL ranks. Then newbies like Pat Devlin (Deleware), Scott Tolzien (Wisconsin), Taylor Potts (Texas Tech), Ben Chappell (Indiana), Ryan Colburn (Fresno State) and Jerrod Johnson (Texas A&M) from the college ranks. I suppose I could get behind Clemens, maybe Moore, possibly Davis and then Devlin as the best UDFA.