To be frank, Jake Locker did not top the list of free agent quarterbacks to be highlighted in this series. But after listening to a recent segment on WGR 550 with Buffalo Bills beat reporter Joe Buscaglia, I took a longer look at Locker's play with the Tennessee Titans, and the possibility of him joining the Bills.
As stated earlier in this series, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Bills will look to sign a veteran free agent quarterback this off-season. Below, we will take a look at the former Top 10 pick, and see if he can provide competition for EJ Manuel this year.
Locker is a talented athlete who was once regarded as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. He has always been known for his extremely strong arm and an ability to extend plays in the pocket. We have seen similar traits demonstrated by Colin Kaepernick, who has experienced varying degrees of success in Roman's offense in San Francisco. Locker's athleticism and arm strength could make him an option to play a similar role for the Bills.
While this will sound like a bit of a reach, we have seen glimpses of what looks like an NFL starting quarterback from Locker over the last two seasons. A 266-yard, and two-touchdown performance to open the season at Kansas City is an example of the potential possessed by Locker. There was also the last-minute victory over San Diego in 2013, and a 378-yard explosion in a 44-41 win over Detroit in 2012. Despite some inconsistencies during his career in Tennessee, Locker has shown glimpses that could appeal to a team like the Bills in need of quarterback competition.
Locker gets hurt. A lot. Issues with his wrist, hand, hip, knee, shoulder, and foot have caused Locker to miss multiple games over the past three seasons. He has not been able to play in more than 11 games in an NFL season, and understandably has the label of being injury-prone. Locker's inability to remain healthy has led to a very inconsistent professional career, which would be expected from a young quarterback that cannot stay on the field.
Even before the injuries started to mount for Locker, he had a reputation of being an inaccurate passer. It was a label that followed him through the draft process in 2011, and has still plagued him in Tennessee. While some of his better performances were highlighted above, Locker has more than enough poor performances that will have fans questioning his abilities. Too much inconsistency from the former starting quarterback could be enough to force the Bills to look at other options.
Locker is a young and athletic quarterback. He has the ability to make plays with his feet, and has a canon of an arm. He is also injured regularly, lacks accuracy as a passer, and is an inconsistent performer on a weekly basis.
In a weird way, I feel like I am describing a quarterback combination of Manuel and Ryan Fitzpatrick. While that isn't exactly high praise for Locker, Bills fans should understand that the free agent that may be signed is not going to be a franchise quarterback. Anyone that is available this offseason has a number of question marks, and Locker is no exception. What Locker does provide is a combination of upside and athleticism that could work in what many perceive will be a run-heavy offense under new head coach Rex Ryan.