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Searching for the Next Chargers Backup QB

The San Diego Chargers could be looking for a new backup QB with Kellen Clemens about to hit free agency. What options are out there that they should be targeting?

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Let's start by getting my own thoughts out of the way.

Like many of you, I think the San Diego Chargers should draft or sign a young project QB to be the team's backup. It's not like they're going to win without Philip Rivers, the El Capitan never gets hurt anyway. I also think said backup should be a bit more mobile to provide another look in practice, but that's splitting hairs.

That being said, the Chargers do not believe this. It's obvious by how they've treated the backup QB spot for well over a decade that they think it's necessary to have a veteran QB there, with starting experience, to fill in for Rivers if an injury were to ever occur.

This is one way that the Chargers can sometimes screw up their own salary cap, because they end up paying a premium for a position that most teams save money on. The likes of Billy Volek and Kellen Clemens have been among the highest paid QBs in the entire league while never being asked to take a single meaningful snap during the regular season.

But I digress....

Replacing Kellen Clemens

Because Clemens never gets on the field during the regular season, and we're not watching him in practice, I'm forced to keep my analysis of Clemens to what he does in the preseason. In those showings, Clemens has been routinely terrible. It is obvious that he would be a trainwreck if he were ever asked to fill in for Philip Rivers in a meaningful game.

The good news is that Clemens' contract is about to expire! He'll be a free agent and, if the team were smart, they'd let him leave.

If it's super important for them to find a veteran with starting experience to replace him (for roughly the same money), who could they go after in free agency?

The Real Candidates

I'm going to try to keep this list to guys that I wouldn't be horrified to see trotting out onto the field in the 4th Quarter of a close game (sorry, Charlie Whitehurst!) and keep in mind that signing a guy that's older that Rivers is would probably be a bad policy.

  • Matt Flynn
  • Case Keenum
  • Matt McGloin
  • Matt Cassel
  • Chase Daniel
  • Drew Stanton

Cassel is the one that stands out on this list because he's the one I'd most want filling in for Rivers but he's also only a year younger than Rivers. Probably not worth it.

Flynn has a bit of a bad reputation after being beat out by McGloin and Terrelle Pryor (who doesn't even play QB anymore) for the starting job in Oakland, one season after being beat out by rookie Russell Wilson for the starting job in Seattle. He'd make a fine backup.

This list isn't very exciting, but I think all or most of these guys can run an offense better than Kellen Clemens, and that's what we're going for.


The Other Guys

These are the guys that couldn't make the list above and are probably terrible candidates for actual on-the-field reasons, but they bring tons of off-the-field intangibles and are tied to San Diego somehow.

  • Ryan Lindley
  • Josh Johnson
  • Charlie Whitehurst
  • Scott Tolzien

Lindley is a former SDSU "star" and has started games for Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona. He's from San Diego, was a member of the Chargers practice squad for part of the 2014 season,  and would undoubtedly like to return to the team.

Josh Johnson was so impressive as Jim Harbaugh's QB at USD that he has gotten work at the NFL level. He's bounced around to three different teams in the last three seasons after spending his first three years with Tampa Bay. He'd add the "mobile QB" factor that this team could benefit from in practice and he's well-liked locally.

Charlie Whitehurst. Enough said.

Scott Tolzien spent his rookie camp with the Chargers and looked very impressive during the preseason. So impressive that the team was unable to sneak him onto the practice squad. He was a backup for Harbaugh's 49ers before heading to Green Bay to backup Aaron Rodgers.

All of these candidates have a few starts under their belt, most have been on playoff teams, and Whitehurst might have more experience under Ken Whisenhunt than any other QB in the league, having played in his offense for the last three seasons.