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Who could the Rams trade for to get a better Matthew Stafford backup?

The L.A. Rams should inquire on Davis Mills, Josh Johnson, and forget Carson Wentz

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

After an offseason of rumors surrounding Matthew Stafford headed in the other direction, the real question after four games is whether or not the Los Angeles Rams should make a trade for a quarterback? Specifically, a player who the Rams can rely on to be Stafford’s backup and not his replacement.

One of our best commenters, oldfartramfan, posted the following in Tuesday’s article about the Rams defense:

“I posted yesterday that if we had a decent back up QB, MS would’ve been sitting out. I’ve been thinking about that.............anyone could look at the winning drive and ask yourself how many starting QB’s could have done that on one leg........not many. Besides winning the coin flip, which was 50/50, we were lucky to have Stafford about ballsy.”

Trading for a backup quarterback is something I had already been thinking about for quite some time, and specifically centering options that had emerged because of the first four games of the season. The name “Carson Wentz” has been brought up to almost any team in the NFL that has a quarterback injury or concerns at the position, but to me that’s like talking about Mark Sanchez about a decade ago.

“Hey there’s this guy, he was an early pick, he has experience, he won some games! And none of the other teams seem to want him so we should go get him!”

Like Wentz, Sanchez had been drafted by a team that was going to be good with or without him, he looked the part, and he ultimately got more chances than he probably deserved based on name recognition. Fittingly, Sanchez was exiting the Philadelphia Eagles just as they drafted Wentz in 2016, and both may end up having played their last game with the Washington team.

Yes, Carson Wentz had a better career than Mark Sanchez. But if we’re just talking about how their careers played out at the end, bouncing from job to job (Sanchez had forgotten backup jobs on the Broncos, Cowboys, and Bears prior to Washington making him a November signing in 2018 due to a rash of injuries), I don’t see Wentz has a dramatically more enticing option now than Sanchez was five or six years ago.

And here’s the part that really matters more than anything else: If Carson Wentz wanted to be an NFL backup, Carson Wentz would be an NFL backup already.

Wentz has been open about the fact that he wants to continue playing, yet the only real action we know of is that he reached out to the Jets after Aaron Rodgers went down. And the Jets said “No”, by the way. Is that because Wentz wants a guarantee that he will play or because the Jets are afraid that he will play? Wentz has 31 interceptions and 24 fumbles over his last 37 games.

Amid rumors that the Patriots would love to find someone who isn’t Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe, New England reportedly has no interest in Wentz.

If a team wouldn’t want Wentz over Mac Jones or Zach Wilson, then why would a team want Wentz as their emergency fallback option?

So for anyone who’s first reaction to the Rams needing a backup quarterback, and even if Wentz wanted the job (which we don’t know that he wants to be anywhere that has a solid starter who would need to get injured before he gets a chance), would you still feel this way if Carson Wentz had been a seventh round pick instead of a “former franchise quarterback”?

People make fun of the Jets for signing Trevor Siemian, but I think there’s one simple reason for it: The NFL sees Siemian as a BETTER quarterback than Wentz.

At this stage of their careers, Siemian and Wentz don’t have a ceiling, they only have a floor. Siemian probably has a higher floor than Wentz, for that reason I think he’s seen as the better backup, the better presence in the quarterbacks room, and the better play to come in the game in an emergency situation.

Maybe Wentz somehow still winds up in L.A.—a crazier thing happened with Baker Mayfield in 2022—but I would bank on the premise that players who are actually on NFL teams right now are more desirable than someone who isn’t.

Therefore, here are some potential QB options that could be out there if the Rams really had the means and desire to find a backup who isn’t Brett Rypien or Stetson Bennett (wherever you are). No, you won’t be as excited by these names as you would by a former top-5 pick, but that’s totally missing the point of what a backup quarterback upgrade should look like:

QB Cooper Rush, Cowboys

Not a probable trade option for several reasons, including the fact that the Cowboys very well may need Rush at some point, just as they did in 2022 when he went 4-1 as a starter. However, I put him on here just in case Dallas was actually starting to feel good about Trey Lance as a backup to Dak Prescott.

Every quarterback on here is on a team with three quarterbacks, as I can’t foresee a team trading a QB when they only have two on the roster, for obvious reasons. In the case of a unique situation like the one in Arizona, in which Kyler Murray could eventually return, well the Cardinals aren’t going to trade a QB within the division.

But otherwise, the Rams would need to see if by any chance any team has found themselves a rare QB surplus, which is what happened when the Cardinals acquired Josh Dobbs from the Browns just before the season. (And it turns out now that Cleveland should have kept Dobbs as Deshaun Watson’s backup.)

Rush, who is shockingly almost 30 already, was an adequate player in 2022. He only completed 58% of his passes in five games, but Dallas was able to win with him. For that reason, and because Lance is not likely to be ready for action again, I don’t see the Cowboys trading Rush.

QB Skyler Thompson, Dolphins

A seventh round pick in 2022 out of Kansas State, Thompson has already had more playoff experience than....Carson Wentz.

Thompson was thrust into the starting role last year when both Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater got hurt. He was bad in the playoff loss to the Bills but Buffalo has a great defense and Miami still almost won the game. Now Thompson is the Dolphins third string QB again, this time behind backup Mike White, so would they consider making him available now that Tua is healthy and they’re confident in the backup? Not likely!

But had to put it out there as an option.

QB Josh Johnson, Ravens

At this point, Josh Johnson has been in the league longer than most of the teams that he’s played for. A sixth round pick in 2008, Johnson was actually in the same class as third round pick Kevin O’Connell, now the head coach of the Vikings. He has outlasted Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. Even if Johnson never earned a full-time starting role, that’s impressive.

He even got into the NFC Championship game with the 49ers last season, his postseason debut at age 36. If not for getting hurt, he could have even led San Francisco to a win.

I think the Ravens would be too nervous to let Johnson go, but he is the third string option behind Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley. He is perhaps the most realistic option so far.

QB Case Keenum or Davis Mills, Texans

C.J. Stroud is playing lights out and both Mills and Keenum are good enough to be backups. It would of course be a Rams reunion for Keenum, who started for both St. Louis and Los Angeles between 2015-2016, and he’s consistently quite solid when he is forced into action.

Mills knows he has no future in Houston after starting the last two seasons, it could be a favor to send him to a team like the Rams to be Stafford’s backup. Just as it was for Mayfield. I don’t hate the idea of the Texans and Rams finding a trade here, it seems to make sense for everyone: Houston, L.A., Stroud, Keenum, and Mills.

QB Marcus Mariota, Eagles

Not my favorite choice because to me Mariota is as useful as Wentz. I think it was all said and seen in “Quarterback”. But the fact that Mariota has accepted backup roles in Las Vegas and now Philadelphia at least shows his willingness, unlike Wentz, to wait for an opportunity while actually being on a team instead of thinking that you can just waltz into a situation cold and take over because of an injury.

Whether or not the Eagles would even entertain such a move depends on how much they like sixth round rookie Tanner McKee. He impressed at times in the preseason, so this is all about how soon Philadelphia would like to promote him to being the backup, which of course would motivate Mariota to request his release or trade.

The fact is that teams have really challenged Jalen Hurts this season and he’s not having the same success that he had in 2022. The team isn’t going to make a change, but any dual threat quarterback who takes a few more running hits like that is going to need a dependable backup. For that reason, Mariota will remain in Philadelphia.

Not on here: QB Malik Willis, Titans

The reason I would not like Willis as an option even though the Titans just picked Will Levis as a potential heir apparent to Ryan Tannehill is that Willis is still that “I want a CEILING guy!” instead of “We need a FLOOR guy”.

You might as well just put Rypien into the game if you’re going to go get Malik Willis. He is not the player you seek when you need a backup and he’s probably best suited for his role as one of two options behind Tannehill instead of one of one.

Final Call: Davis Mills

Could the Rams entice the Houston Texans with a day three pick for a player who they just replaced and who wasn’t the choice of the current regime? Mills may be too cheap to trade—why not solidify the position as best as possible if you can afford it?—but when an exit is that inevitable, and when a team makes as many head scratching moves as Houston, maybe it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

The Rams could use a better backup than Rypien or Bennett. Mills, Keenum, or even Josh Johnson may be those options.