Allen Park — A year after moving on from a veteran backup quarterback and essentially handing the role to Jake Rudock, the Detroit Lions reversed course this offseason and brought in a different veteran to compete for the job.
But the Lions insist they’re not unhappy with anything Rudock did in his one year in the role. Talking to the media earlier this week, starter Matthew Stafford said he didn’t feel anything was lacking in the quarterback room last year, the first of his career without a veteran with extensive experience.
So why did the organization feel the need to sign Matt Cassel this offseason? Well, there’s the familiarity with new coach Matt Patricia. The two were together in New England four seasons, from 2005-08. But more than anything, general manager Bob Quinn said each and every signing is about elevating competition and putting the team in the best position to succeed.
“We’re trying to add competition at every roster spot, every position group on the team,” Quinn said. “There’s nothing, since I’ve gotten here, nothing’s been given to any player. … If I can add competition into any position meeting room down the hall there, that’s my job. You know, Jake’s played in I think how many NFL games? One? Jake’s good. I like Jake, but my job is to add competition across the roster.”
While nothing was guaranteed, the optics were certainly different last year when the Lions opted to move on from long-term backup Dan Orlovsky. Rudock, a sixth-round choice in 2016 who spent much of his first season on the practice squad, only had to fend off the challenge of rookie Brad Kaaya. The conclusion was never really in doubt throughout the offseason.
Looking at the Cassel addition through a league-wide scope, the backup quarterback position was one of the most important in the NFL last year.
Case Keenum filled in, and eventually took over for an injured Sam Bradford in Minnesota, leading the Vikings to a division title and the NFC championship game. There, they fell short the Philadelphia Eagles, who rode the arm of backup quarterback Nick Foles to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship.
Quinn said those success stories did not factor into the Cassel signing.
“No, just our thought of what we wanted to add to the room and add to the competition,” Quinn said. “So, nothing that another team did really forced us to make that call.”
Rudock and Cassel are both operating on one-year deals. Rudock is playing on a non-guaranteed exclusive-rights tender that would pay him $630,000 this season. Cassel’s contract carries $350,000 in guaranteed money, which is not enough to weigh into a roster decision.