By Ashley Anderson
Throughout this offseason, one of Baltimore’s most closely contested position battles was for the backup quarterback role. Lamar Jackson is locked into the starting slot, and the Ravens released Robert Griffin III in favor of younger, cheaper options. Since drafting Jackson, Baltimore kept three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. This year, with more crucial roles to fill, they may opt to keep just two.
If you have been living under a rock, the backup QB competition has been neck-and-neck between Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley. McSorley is a third-year pro from Penn State who has the edge when it comes to in-game experience. The Ravens added Huntley last offseason as an undrafted free agent from Utah. Without the benefit of a normal offseason, he was at a disadvantage last year. However, at this point, Tyler Huntley looks like the man to beat.
Huntley has not outright won the job, but he is putting together some impressive performances. During training camp, he has frequently received praise for throwing an excellent deep ball. He also has an edge when it comes to mobility, more closely resembling what Jackson can do on the field. Given the complexities of Baltimore’s playbook, those similar abilities are priceless.
Against the New Orleans Saints, both Huntley and McSorley played a half while Jackson got the night off. Despite a red zone fumble, Huntley rallied to lead the Ravens on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. He finished the night going 12 of 16 passing for 78 yards. On the ground, he gained 43 yards and scored the winning touchdown.
McSorley also played fairly well, especially considering he was behind a patchwork offensive line. Against the Saints’ starters, his night ended after the first half. Although he did not score a touchdown, McSorley led the Ravens to nine points. He completed 11 of 18 pass attempts for 86 yards and an interception. Displaying some rushing prowess, he added 25 yards with his legs.
A curveball for the Baltimore Ravens positional battle:
However, Head Coach John Harbaugh announced Monday that McSorley will likely miss several weeks due to a back injury. McSorley played through the injury on Saturday, but it worsened, leading Baltimore to shut him down. The Ravens wasted no time re-signing Kenji Bahar to provide a camp arm and relief for Huntley in the next two preseason contests. With that, the door is wide open for Huntley to “win” the backup quarterback job.
There are a number of things that may happen with McSorley at this point. Baltimore may choose to place him on the short-term injured reserve list, which would allow them to activate him in as few as three weeks. Doing so could protect him from being scooped up by another team. Down the line, however, the Ravens would have to cut someone to make room for McSorley on the 53-man roster.
The Ravens could also opt to cut McSorley and hope he clears waivers. After that, they could put him on their practice squad in case something happens that forces both Jackson and Huntley out of action. That would potentially leave Baltimore vulnerable to another team signing McSorley to their 53-man roster.
Luckily, if he makes the practice squad, there was a new rule put in place last year that allows teams to protect up to four players per week. General Manager Eric DeCosta may roll the dice knowing there are other quarterbacks on the market who could ultimately fill the QB3 role.
Baring an unforeseen meltdown, Tyler Huntley should see his name just below Lamar Jackson on the depth chart. Ultimately, the Ravens would likely prefer to retain both Huntley and McSorley, but it may not be possible. Fortunately, they have utilized Kenji Bahar multiple times this offseason, and he is familiar with their playbook. He could be the guy who lands on the practice squad as an emergency quarterback if the worst-case scenario happens.