- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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I heard a very interesting and lengthy interview with David Garrard while driving a bit earlier Tuesday on Sirius NFL Radio.
Garrard made it very clear he wants to play again next season after sitting out 2011. Garrard said he had back surgery to repair an injury that was holding him back when the Jaguars released him just before the start of last season. He said he’s almost 100 percent and his agent is making teams aware of his availability.
As you might expect, Garrard said his first preference would be to go to a team where he would at least have a chance to compete for a starting job. I don’t see that scenario as even a remote possibility in the NFC South. But Garrard also said he’d be open to being a backup/mentor.
In those roles, I could see him in the NFC South. Let’s throw out the Saints because they’ve got Drew Brees as their starter (assuming they finally get around to getting a new contract done) and they seem content with Chase Daniel as the backup. If the Saints do anything at quarterback this offseason, it might be using a late-round pick on a project-type quarterback to groom behind Brees.
But I can at least see scenarios where Garrard would make sense for the other three NFC South teams. Let’s start with Tampa Bay. The Bucs have Josh Freeman as their starter and view him as their franchise quarterback.
Backup Josh Johnson can become a free agent and I think he probably will test the market. Johnson’s athletic and the previous coaching staff sometimes used him in the wildcat formation (although not with a great deal of success). But Johnson’s not the kind of guy you want to see playing for an extended period if Freeman is injured. Garrard can be that guy because he’s got plenty of experience as a starter.
There’s also a school of thought that the Bucs might want to surround Freeman with an experienced backup that can help act as a mentor. Garrard or David Carr are guys I think could be possibilities if the Bucs go in that direction. New offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan worked as quarterbacks coach with Carr and the New York Giants the last two seasons. Sullivan also worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002 and ’03. Those were Garrard’s first two seasons in the NFL and Sullivan was a defensive assistant the first year, before switching to offense in 2003. But at least he has some familiarity with Garrard.
Speaking of familiarity with Garrard, that could be more of a factor with the other two NFC South teams.
Carolina quarterbacks coach Mike Shula was quarterbacks coach in Jacksonville from 2007 through 2010. Garrard’s best statistical seasons came in that span and all indications are he and Shula got along well. The Panthers are set with Cam Newton as their starter, but backup Derek Anderson is a free agent and Jimmy Clausen’s future with the team remains unclear. Garrard might be an upgrade over Anderson as a mentor and as a player.
Garrard also has ties to the Atlanta coaching staff. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was Jacksonville’s offensive coordinator from 2007 through the end of last season. I’m not real sure if Garrard and Koetter parted on friendly terms, but I think the decision to dump Garrard was made mainly by former Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio. If nothing else, Garrard should be pretty familiar with the concepts Koetter will try to add to Atlanta’s offense.
Atlanta veteran backup Chris Redman is scheduled to be a free agent and I don’t think the Falcons are ready to elevate John Parker Wilson to the No. 2 role. I think there will be some interest in bringing back Redman because his price tag won’t be high and he’s a good set of eyes and ears for Matt Ryan. But Redman’s not the kind of guy you want to play if Ryan goes down for an extended period of time.
If the Falcons are going to make a play for Garrard, a lot will depend on what Koetter thinks of the quarterback. Heck, even coach Mike Smith could have a weighty opinion on this one. Smith is familiar with Garrard because he was defensive coordinator in Jacksonville before taking over in Atlanta.