NFL Free Agency: 8 Potential Backups for Peyton Manning in Denver

Jason Muckley@@jamuckleySenior Analyst IIMarch 20, 2012

NFL Free Agency: 8 Potential Backups for Peyton Manning in Denver

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    As ink dries on Peyton Manning's monster contract, there is now time to debate who would take over for the Denver Broncos if the unthinkable happens and Peyton is injured.

    As of now, the Broncos have two other quarterbacks under contract, one they are shopping around trying to ship out of Denver (Tim Tebow), while the other spent all of 2011 on the practice squad (Adam Weber).

    Despite the doctors' confirmations that Manning's neck is fully healed and that he has the same likelihood to be injured as any other quarterback, the truth is that the QB takes lots of hits in a game, let alone an entire season.

    John Elway and company must prepare for the worst, or else they will end up like last year's last-place Indianapolis Colts, whose lack of a plan for a season without Manning landed them this year's No. 1 draft pick. The coveted pick came at the cost of head coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian.

    Let's look at a few available options for Denver.

Adam Weber, Denver Broncos (Practice Squad)

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    When the dust settles and the 2012 Broncos training camp starts, Adam Weber might be the only quarterback remaining from the 2011 roster.

    Weber played with the Denver Broncos' No. 2 wide receiver Eric Decker at the University of Minnesota

    The only splash he made during his rookie season was when rumors swirled that he was above Tim Tebow on the depth chart during training camp. Those rumors were proven untrue when Tebow started in Week 7 against the Miami Dolphins, leading the team to a heroic comeback win after supplanted the anemic Kyle Orton.

    His only playing time last year was in the preseason. Weber fired a short pass to Eron Riley, who sprinted down the sideline 89 yards for a touchdown near the end of the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (Barring a Trade)

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    Tim Tebow may or may not be a Denver Bronco in 2012.

    There have been conflicting reports as to what the market is for Tim Tebow as far as trade value. Most project Tebow to have third- or fourth-round draft pick value to become a backup on an interested team.

    Possible candidates to trade the Broncos for Tebow include the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns and others.

    Some fans in Denver are hopeful that Tebow stays in Denver, even though his contract would end much earlier than Manning's contract ends, making his value zero if he leaves in free agency after the 2013 season.

Billy Volek, San Diego Chargers

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    Billy Volek is a veteran backup quarterback.

    He has been backing up San Diego Chargers' Philip Rivers for the past five seasons. However, Rivers hasn't missed a start in that span.

    Volek has been in the league for 12 seasons, primarily as a backup.

    Despite his backup role, he has averaged a 60.1 percent completion rate in 561 passing attempts and has passed for 27 touchdowns to 15 interceptions.

    His veteran leadership would be an asset to the Broncos from behind the clipboard.

Matt Leinart, Houston Texans

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    Matt Leinart, the former Houston Texans quarterback is still looking for a team in 2012.

    The Broncos could bring in the big and tall Leinart as insurance for a Manning injury, as he has declined into the role of career backup with his recent stints in the NFL.

    Some reports have Leinart signing with Oakland because of his USC connection with Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer.

Jake Delhomme, Houston Texans

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    The Broncos would have to call Jake Delhomme out of retirement, but he would be an adequate backup for the Broncos, as he could complete high-percentage passes and manage games.

    He is now 37 years old, but last season in Week 17, in relief of T.J. Yates, Delhomme had a respectable game at quarterback. He completed 18-of-28 for 211 yards and one touchdown against the Tennessee Titans.

    Delhomme and the Broncos head coach John Fox have a long history dating back to their time in Carolina.

    He would probably come at a low cost and would be another veteran to help groom Adam Weber or any new rookies who the Broncos acquire. Some believe he has a future in coaching, which would further increase his allure.

Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State

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    If free agency doesn't spark their interest, it is very likely that the Broncos backup at quarterback in 2012 could come from the NFL draft in April.

    A top candidate to learn and groom would be Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden. The biggest drawback for Weeden is his age (28 years old). If Manning were to play out his entire five-year contract, Weeden would be 33 before he was given a role to start for the Broncos.

    A lot could happen with quarterbacks for the Broncos in just five years. Just ask Tim Tebow, Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler.

    If Weeden were six or seven years younger, he could easily be a first-round pick.

    In 2011, Weeden completed 72 percent of his passes for 4,727 yards for 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He displayed a strong, accurate arm and good pocket-passing skills in his senior year at OSU. 

    Weeden is projected to go as early as the second round and as late as the fourth round in the draft. If he is there in the third or fourth round when the Broncos choose, he would be a likely candidate to be Manning's backup.

Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

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    Kirk Cousins displayed good potential last season, but was ultimately held back by an offense that kept the ball on the ground. Against a good defense like Nebraska, he struggled.

    However, Cousins came up clutch in Michigan State's two games against Wisconsin. He threw three touchdowns in each of his games against the Badgers.

    Cousins completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,016 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. 

    He is projected to be drafted during the second to fourth rounds of the NFL draft in April.

Nick Foles, Arizona

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    Nick Foles is a quarterback that the Broncos have spent some time with and feel like he has the physical tools but lacks the accuracy and athleticism.

    He is a big-armed pocket passer who had to win a lot of games in his college career in shootouts. His defense at Arizona was awful and he had to carry his team in most of the games he played.

    He threw 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in his senior year at Arizona.

    One area he has struggled in has been his inclination to lock on to one receiver and not make progressions through his different reads. His field vision needs some work and remains the biggest detriment to his game.

    Experts say he will likely go in the later rounds (maybe as late as the fifth round).

Someone Else: Low Draft Pick or Undrafted Rookie Free Agent

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    Another prospect for backing up Manning would be to sign another undrafted rookie free agent at quarterback. Every year, there are a couple QBs who never get a look from teams that could wind up to be the next Kurt Warner.

    John Elway is a Hall of Fame quarterback and a great evaluator of QB talent. He may be able to find a top player who everyone else overlooked. 

    Whoever the Broncos bring in, they will need to be a game manager and make easy throws to running backs over the middle or tight ends up the seam.