Backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is the latest player in our countdown of the Seahawks pending unrestricted free agents, with the signing period beginning March 9.
As we continue our countdown of Seahawks who can become unrestricted free agents on March 9, we’ll look next at a player who has barely seen the field the last three years, yet in the blink of an eye could have become one of the most important members of the team — backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
And therein lies the conundrum for teams like the Seahawks, who have a really stable starting quarterback situation — what is the best approach to take for the backup job?
First, let’s look at Jackson’s particulars:
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
2015 salary: $1.25 million base and $250,000 signing bonus.
Role with Seahawks in 2015: For the third straight year, Jackson worked on a one-year contract as Seattle’s backup quarterback behind the amazingly durable Russell Wilson. That meant that for the third straight year, and fourth overall, Jackson did not take a competitive snap in a game. He had just 30 snaps for the season coming in mop-up duty in four late-season blowouts of Minnesota, Baltimore, Cleveland and Arizona.
Free agent outlook: A recent 710 ESPN Seattle report that Jackson wouldn’t sign with the Seahawks before the free agent signing period should have been no surprise. Jackson didn’t sign with the Seahawks last year until June as he also tested the market then, saying later he was exploring all options (specifically, looking for a place where he’d have a chance to start) before returning.
Jackson knows that coming back to Seattle means being resigned to being a backup. It’s a role he says he has come to grips with, and he’s been a good fit with the Seahawks due in large part to the respect he has among the veteran players who remember his gutty performance playing through injuries as a starter in 2011.
But Jackson turns 33 in April and undoubtedly is hoping for at least one more shot at playing somewhere, if he can find it.
At the NFL scouting combine last week coach Pete Carroll indicated the team would like to again have a veteran backing up Wilson.
“We’d love to have it in that format,’’ Carroll said. “It’s worked out great. We’ll see what happens.’’
There are some pretty familiar names on the list of free agent QBs should Seattle decide to go a different direction, or if forced to if Jackson decides not to return. Matt Cassel stands out as someone Carroll is obviously familiar with and also has said he respects greatly for the way he handled his situation backing up Matt Leinart at USC. (Matt Hasselbeck is also obviously on that list, but indications are that’s not something the team would seriously consider).
So the Seahawks will have some other options should it not work out with Jackson.
A more intriguing question could be if the Seahawks simply decide this is the year to go with a younger quarterback who could be groomed as a long-term backup instead of going through a yearly quest to find a veteran (the Seahawks also had B.J.Daniels on the roster for most of the last three years, but the move of Daniels to receiver last spring indicated the team did not see him as a long-term option as a backup QB, and he was then signed away to Houston’s active roster late in the season. Daniels is under contract with Houston through 2016).
Seattle recently signed free agent Phillip Sims, who played at Alabama before transferring to Winston-Salem State and then was with Arizona in camp last year. Sims is the only other QB on Seattle’s roster right now aside from Wilson. Sims had a decent performance in Arizona’s final pre-season game last year but it’s obviously way too early to know how serious of a threat he’d be to make the roster.
The Seahawks obviously wouldn’t spend a high pick on a quarterback, and would seem more likely to maybe go the undrafted free agent route. But with likely at least nine picks in the 2016 draft, maybe this becomes the year the Seahawks take a flyer on a late-round QB (Vernon Adams, anyone?), which would be their first pick of a quarterback since taking Wilson in 2012.
Jackson, interestingly, has made progressively higher salaries with Seattle the last few years. He was re-signed for $840,000 in June, 2013 after being released by Buffalo (and then almost immediately supplanting Brady Quinn as the backup). Jackson got $1.25 million in 2014 and then $1.5 million in 2015.
Since backup quarterback is far from the most pressing need for most teams, whether Jackson will be back with the Seahawks in 2016 could be a question that isn’t answered for a while.