Everyone's talking about the New York Giants' quarterback controversy. Featuring a trusty veteran and an upstart draft pick, preseason reps may be the best way to figure out who makes the team, and who is let go.
Oh, you thought we were talking about Eli Manning and Daniel Jones? Nope.
The real quarterback competition on the Giants is the one that nobody is talking about -- Alex Tanney vs. Kyle Lauletta. The two quarterbacks are dueling for one spot on the roster as the third-string QB, but that doesn't mean the battle doesn't have high stakes.
Losing either quarterback would involve reneging on a team investment. Of course, most fans know that Lauletta was a fourth-round draft pick just last year, and at one point, the heir apparent to Manning. He even saw a small sample of game action last year, a rarity for a rookie QB on the Giants.
The team has also made a commitment to Tanney, who they re-signed to a two-year contract this offseason. The cap hit for cutting him wouldn't be expensive, but it would seem odd to cut Tanney after signing him to a new deal just five months ago.
On paper, it seems like the Giants should keep Lauletta, a young talent on a team entering an uncertain future at the quarterback position. However, Lauletta didn't do much to impress last year in extremely limited playing time, ran into legal trouble and had offseason knee surgery. There are still a lot of questions around Lauletta, perhaps too many for a third-string QB.
Tanney offers a safer option for Big Blue, who really value what he brings to the table. A 31-year-old veteran, he has a good reputation in the film room and may fit better as a third-string mentor than Lauletta. Don't forget, Tanney beat out ex-Giants prospect (and current Jet) Davis Webb last year for the No. 2 job.
According to the Giants' depth chart, a guide clearly labeled "unofficial" but one still published by the organization, Tanney has the early edge. He was listed as the team's third quarterback, with Lauletta relegated to fourth on the depth chart. There's almost no way the Giants open the season with four quarterbacks, so a decision is coming.
Lauletta would seem to be eligible for the Giants' practice squad this season. A player must have less than one year of accrued NFL experience to be on the practice squad, or be one of four veteran exceptions (four players on the squad can have up to two years' experience). The threshold for one year's experience is being active for nine games or playing in six. Lauletta did neither, playing in two and being active for three.
Of course, the catch here is that players must pass through waivers before going to the practice squad, and there's no guarantee that Lauletta would clear. All 31 other NFL teams would have a chance to claim him for nothing but his sub-$1 million salary, an opportunity that some QB-starved teams might not pass up. Other teams could also poach Lauletta from the practice squad at any time during the season.
Thus, the Giants shouldn't try this approach with Lauletta unless they are totally prepared to move forward without him.
Manning remains the unquestioned starter for the Giants, no matter how his backups perform. He may not even play in the first preseason game because at this point, there's nothing that Manning has to prove in an exhibition game at the risk of getting injured.
Most fans' eyes will be trained on how Jones looks in his first game action in a Giants uniform at MetLife Stadium. While his performance will certainly be heavily analyzed, Jones is making the team no matter what, and will have plenty of time to grow before he takes the reins from Manning. He's the No. 2 QB.
The battle for the third quarterback may seem insignificant, but it is anything but. Should anything happen to Manning, or if Jones was to falter under pressure, the team's No. 3 QB could see playing time. The third-stringer will also be expected to offer insights to Jones on what it takes to be an NFL quarterback. The position's greatest impact could come behind the scenes, rather than on the field.
It may not be the most intriguing quarterback storyline in East Rutherford, but the Giants have another quarterback decision to make. If Lauletta doesn't advance his case with a stellar preseason, the team could end up moving on from a recent draft pick at a position of desperate need, which essentially amounts to a failed draft pick.
And that's not something that any team wants to admit.