When a new crop of rookie quarterbacks enters the league, many veteran and third-string quarterbacks’ jobs are left in limbo. There is no better example of this than the Detroit Lions and starting quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Selected first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Lions invested tens of millions of dollars in the now 22-year old gunslinger. The Lions starting quarterback at the time, 32-year old Daunte Culpepper, reported to the Lions in what many said was the best shape of his life.
However, the young gun beat out the old vet in training camp and preseason play. Stafford became the first rookie quarterback to start Week 1 for the Lions since Greg Landry did in 1968. Injuries cut Stafford’s season short as he finished with 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in 10 starts.
Entering his second season, Stafford is the clear-cut starter and potential “franchise quarterback”.
And the Lions two other quarterbacks from last season? Well, Culpepper failed to sign with an NFL team this offseason, instead settling for the United Football League, reuniting with former Vikings and current Sacramento Mountain Lions coach Dennis Green.
Third-string quarterback Drew Stanton is in the final year of his rookie contract, after being drafted in the second round by the Lions in 2007. And with the Lions adding quarterback Shaun Hill in a trade from the 49ers this offseason, it is unlikely Stanton will see the field – outside of the preseason and barring injuries to both Stafford and Hill.
This is a common occurrence in the NFL. Every season, an influx of young quarterbacks pushes over-the-hill veterans to the brink of retirement and less-talented third stringers to the practice squad or the unemployment list.
14 quarterbacks were taken in the 2010 NFL Draft – headlined by Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow in the first round. In 2009, 10 quarterbacks were selected in the draft including Stafford, Mark Sanchez (Jets), and Josh Freeman (Buccaneers) in the opening round.
Suppose the 32 teams in the NFL each carried three quarterbacks on their roster. That equals 96 quarterback jobs in the NFL and obviously the number is higher because of injuries and teams keeping quarterbacks on their practice squad. But as with any business, teams will jump at a chance to replace an old, overpaid veteran with a younger and less-expensive alternative to man the third-string quarterback spot.
In past years, players who were cut from the 53-man roster could continue to play football in the now defunct NFL Europe or the Arena Football League, which collapsed in 2009. Though the AFL has new life, former NFL players would have little interest in playing in the league with a whopping $400 per game salary.
The best options for ex-NFL players are now the Canadian Football League and the UFL. The arrival of this year’s rookie class left Culpepper (among others) without a job in the NFL.
And if Drew Stanton hopes to be anything better than No. 3 on the depth chart, he could be next.