As long as Eli Manning is healthy, he will be the starting quarterback for the New York Giants. Those that suffered through the Dave Brown, Danny Kanell, and Kent Graham eras of Giants football can attest to how fortunate we are to have a franchise quarterback of his caliber who has had sustained success in the most difficult market in sports. That didn’t stop both Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese from heaping praise upon backup quarterback Ryan Nassib when they addressed the media at the NFL Scouting Combine last week. In a year where the free agent market for quarterbacks is particularly sparse, and only two signal callers are considered first round caliber, the Giants could be quietly calling attention to the third year player with an eye towards fielding offers from quarterback needy teams.
Nassib was the Giants surprise fourth round draft pick out of Syracuse University, 110th overall, in the 2013 NFL draft. Considered by some to be first round quality, Nassib slid when his college coach, then Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, passed him over for Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel. The Giants were unable to resist the value he represented when their turn to pick came up in the fourth round.
Although considered the most pro ready quarterback in the 2013 draft, Nassib barely saw the field in the 2013 preseason, attempting just 17 passes, completing 7, for 114 yards and throwing neither a touchdown nor an interception. It was in the 2014 preseason that he showcased his wares for the Giants and the NFL, when he went 44 of 68, a 65% completion rate, for 588 yards, with 5 touchdowns and no interception. He put up these numbers while learning Ben McAdoo’s new offense. The durable Manning prevented Nassib from making more than mop up regular season appearances in 4 games in 2014, where he completed 4 of 5 passes for 60 yards, and knelt down twice, losing 3 yards rushing.
That brings us to last week, where Coughlin first gushed effusively about Nassib’s development, work ethic, and film study, “I see him continuing to improve. He is a guy that works very hard below the surface and behind the scenes. He is in the weight room… pretty much four or five days per week. He studies on his own. He is very, very serious about being an outstanding football player.”
Reese’s comments were less detailed, as he simply said that Nassib has done “A nice job” and could “Win some games” for the Giants if Manning were “Dinged up.” But it’s telling that both men went out of their way to draw attention to and heap praise upon a backup quarterback that was largely a forgotten man for the second half of the season as Manning performed well in the McAdoo offense.
In order to acquire Nassib via trade, the Giants would want at least a third round pick, possibly a second rounder, whether outright or conditional, if he started ten games or more and met certain performance objectives. Why would a team want to surrender such a high pick for an unproven quarterback? Here’s list of the best impending free agent quarterbacks for 2015: Jason Campbell, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Flynn, Blain Gabbert, Shaun Hill, Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett, Josh McCown, Colt McCoy, Matt Moore, Mark Sanchez, Michael Vick. Need I say more?
Nassib’s salary for the next two season’s will be a team friendly $698,400 and $788,400 per overthecap.com. Very palatable numbers for a general manager to sell while trying out Nassib as the team’s quarterback of the future. With only Jameis Winston, who is loaded with equal parts talent and character concerns, and Marcus Mariota, who could be a product of the Oregon offensive scheme, as first round rated quarterbacks in the 2015 draft, another option in the market is timely, and potentially profitable for the Giants. But who would be a willing trade partner?
There are four teams in desperate need:
Buffalo Bills: New head coach Rex Ryan inherited a quarterback situation not much better than the one he left behind with the Jets. The aforementioned Manuel has done little to justify his first round draft status. He was benched in 2014 in favor of now retired (or is he?) journeyman Kyle Orton, who started 12 games for the Bills last season. Nassib would be an upgrade over either of them.
Cleveland Browns: Johnny “Football” Manziel finally supplanted Brian Hoyer as starter in Cleveland after 13 weeks on the bench and promptly fell flat on his face. To make matter worse, Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, has checked himself into rehab for an undisclosed issue. His work ethic is as poor as advertised, he has alienated many a teammate with his off field antics, and now he’s possibly subject to the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Cleveland, already exasperated with him after just one season, has hosted McCown and is hoping to re-sign Hoyer. Nassib could become the savior of the franchise that Manziel was hoped to be.
New York Jets: Geno Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, two rounds ahead of Nassib, and is not even the best quarterback on the roster. That honor goes to Matt Simms, son of Phil. He was given a mulligan his rookie year as the Jets has no weapons on offense, but last season they signed Eric Decker, drafted Jace Amaro, and traded for Percy Harvin mid season. Smith was still benched for an over-the-hill Michael Vick. The real question is if the Giants would trade a quarterback to their cross town rival?
St. Louis Rams: The Rams have former first overall pick Sam Bradford on their roster, but he is coming off two consecutive seasons lost to torn left ACLs and the team is said to be shopping him around. The other quarterback on the roster is second year player Austin Davis, who was impressive as a rookie starter, but ultimately benched in favor of Shaun Hill and look to be no more than a career backup. The Rams, thanks to their three years of extra first round picks from the Robert Griffin III
fleecing trade have a team ready to compete for a championship, but need one key component – a quarterback.
There are six additional teams might consider adding Nassib depending on how their off season program progresses:
Arizona Cardinals: Injuries to Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton derailed what started as an extremely promising season for the Cardinals. Palmer “shredded” his left ACL for the second time in his career and recovery from such a severe injury at 35 years old is anything but a sure thing. Stanton’s knee injury was less severe, but he’s also a lesser quarterback. After decades of struggling, Arizona appears to finally be on the right track as a franchise and adding Nassib to their quarterback mix would be insurance against Palmer’s slow recovery and provide a foundation for future success.
Houston Texans: One of the surprise contenders at the end of last season were the Texans, who started the well traveled Ryan Fitzpatrick for 12 games went through injuries to Ryan Mallett, Case Keenum, and rookie Tom Savage on their way to a 9-7 record. Mallett is a free agent, and Houston is interested in bringing him back after they sent a conditional late round pick to New England for him last September. A pectoral injury cut his audition short, and will also limit what Houston is willing to pay. If negotiations break down, Nassib would be an alternative for a team ready to take the next step and compete at a high level.
Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker is a free agent and a failed 2011 first round draft pick. The Titans are said to be locked in on starting second year quarterback Zack Mettenberger, their 2014 6th round pick, who started 6 late season games before suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season. NFL Films executive producer and film watching junkie Greg Cosell raved about Mettenberger during the preseason, however, if he doesn’t develop as the Titans hope this off season, they might look to add Nassib for the future.
Chicago Bears: Part of former general manager Phil Emery’s undoing was the 7 year, $126 million dollar contract he gave to Jay Cutler in 2013. Cutler is inconsistent, viewed as a poor teammate, a locker room cancer, and doesn’t win in the NFL on a consistent basis. New Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox may want to absorb the enormous cap hit that would come with divesting themselves of Cutler and start over with a more reasonably priced alternative, like Nassib. Rather than release Cutler, they could look to recoup something of the investment by trading him to another quarterback needy team for a third day pick.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It seems a foregone conclusion that the Buccaneers are going to draft Jameis Winston first overall this coming April. However, upon completing their due diligence, if the team concludes that his questionable history that includes: a rape allegation, supposedly helping himself to a fountain soda without paying, reportedly taking off with $33 worth of crab legs from a Tallahassee supermarket, and jumping up on a table in a crowded cafeteria and shouting a sexually charged statement, are incidents that will not cease with the conclusion of his college experience, they may pass on him. Next up would be Marcus Mariota. There are many that believe his skill set does not translate well to the NFL. If Tampa Bay is among he Mariota skeptics, they could use their first overall pick to bolster their defense and trade for Nassib to solve their quarterback problem.
Washington Redskins: Head coach Jay Gruden was reportedly ready to move on from Robert Griffin last season, but backpedaled from that position, likely because owner Daniel Snyder is so smitten with the fourth year quarterback. After his rookie season, where he burst onto the scene in a big way, Griffin has struggled mightily with both injury and on field play. Fellow 2012 draftee Kirk Cousins has also fallen after he had several bad games last season, leaving free agent Colt McCoy as the Redskins best quarterback in 2014. But, would the Giants trade a quarterback to a division rival?
As free agency progresses and teams begin to fill out their rosters, keep an eye on where the “top” free agent quarterbacks land. Barring a big move to jump up in the draft, only the Jets are in good position to land Mariota if the Buccaneers draft Winston, as widely speculated. If a trade for Nassib is executed, it will be in the days immediately preceding or during the 2015 draft. The Giants would then use a late round pick to take another developmental quarterback to replace him and sign a veteran to back up Manning. It would be worth it to pick up an additional second or third round pick and justify the selection of Nassib that baffled so many two years ago.