Backup quarterbacks in the NFL carry legitimate value on a roster if they are able to develop properly, and thus spending a low-round pick on a quarterback is generally seen as a good gamble. It’s interesting to see the amount of criticism a few people have leveled at the Seattle Seahawks front office for their move to acquire Terrelle Pryor from the Oakland Raiders for a seventh-round pick. One criticism is that the Seahawks could have snatched him up for free, but I highly doubt that would have happened. Although the Raiders were prepared to release Pryor, there were rumblings that the rival San Francisco 49ers also had some trade interest. That may have been a move to scare the Seahawks (the 49ers already traded for Blaine Gabbert this offseason), but that’s not the most important reason why the Seahawks wouldn’t have been able to pick up Pryor for free. Because they won the Super Bowl, they are the last team on waivers and thus would not have had a chance to scoop up Pryor.
The price of a seventh-round pick for Pryor actually makes sense when you take a look at the value of that pick. Like drafting a quarterback, trading for Pryor is an investment on the Seahawks part. The type of quarterback a team would get in the seventh round would be equivalent to a Logan Thomas or Stephen Morris in this year’s draft class, and it’s clear to me that Pryor is a better option than those two. Thomas and Morris have very good physical tools, but so does Pryor. He also had more success back when he was in college, and he has NFL experience. While he is 24 and older, he still has potential, and he flashed plenty of potential in his first four starts for the Raiders last season before falling back down to earth in his final four.
There’s a clear trend in the NFL today when it comes to backup quarterbacks, and that’s the emphasis on finding a QB to develop behind an established starter. Take a look at the other elite organizations in the NFL. The Denver Broncos have Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert behind Peyton Manning, the New England Patriots have Ryan Mallett behind Tom Brady and are actively looking for a QB in this year’s draft to replace Mallett when he hits free agency in 2015, the San Francisco 49ers traded for Gabbert, and the Green Bay Packers are looking for another young QB to develop behind Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, and Scott Tolzien. Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Rodgers are old, so even teams with established veteran insurance or a young QB have interest in or have acquired a project at QB (project meaning a young QB to develop like Dysert or a reclamation project on a bust like Gabbert).
A quarterback doesn’t have to start to receive interest on the trading block, and that hasn’t been more clear when looking at the trade whispers regarding Mallett over the past couple of seasons. Those whispers were actually loud rumblings around this time last year, and even the Houston Texans have been linked to Mallett this offseason. He has a strong arm and has worked under Brady and Bill Belichick in New England with a quality draft pedigree to his name, but Mallett has never started an NFL game nor has he performed well in the preseason. And yet, he’s received significant trade interest before, even if it’s probably been a bit exaggerated.
The Seahawks have just as much organizational clout as the Patriots do now, but even teams without much organizational clout can generate trade interest out of a young quarterback. I mean, there are actually trade rumors involving Robert Griffin III’s backup with the Washington Redskins, even though Kirk Cousins has been at least as much of a mixed back through his earlier NFL career as Terrelle Pryor.
I think the Seahawks are making a calculated maneuver here, because they basically have nothing to lose. A seventh-round pick is a small price to pay for a contender, and they figure that Pryor is better than any quarterback they would net with that pick. I would agree with that line of thinking, and I think it makes sense to add him on as the No. 3 QB. A three-man QB roster will soon have the following hierarchy as the norm: franchise quarterback, veteran backup as insurance, and then developmental prospect. The Seahawks depth chart at quarterback now resembles this, and I think it’s worth seeing what Pryor can do. He’s cheap, young, has dual-threat ability, and he has excellent arm strength. Basically he has as much physical tools as a draft prospect like Thomas but has more polish (despite his own rawness) and actually comes at a cheaper price when looking at draft pick value. Ideally, the Seahawks would have signed him for free, but there was just no way they were going to get him on waivers, as I’m sure there would have been a few teams interested in bringing him aboard.