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O'HARA: Why adding a young quarterback makes sense for Lions

PHOENIX – General manager Bob Quinn's comments that the Detroit Lions will consider drafting a quarterback with the eighth pick on April 25 have been met with heavy doses of skepticism, but the possibility of drafting a quarterback at some point should not be taken lightly.

As Quinn has said in previous seasons, adding young quarterbacks makes good business sense.

This could be a year when it makes sense to do business in the quarterback market, but most likely not with the eighth pick overall. The deep pool of defensive playmakers gives the Lions a chance to add a playmaker to a unit that became their strength in the second half of last season.

The Lions have only two quarterbacks on the roster – Matthew Stafford, who's going into his 11th season as the starter, and Connor Cook, who was signed to a futures contract in January after three seasons with the Raiders.

It's a stretch to consider Cook a lock to be the backup. A 2016 fourth-round draft pick by the Raiders out of Michigan State, Cook played in one regular season game and one playoff game in his first two seasons with the Raiders. He spent 2018 on the practice squad.

With contracts skyrocketing for quality free-agent backups this year, the Lions did not try to sign a proven No. 2.

"You guys understand our salary situation at the quarterback position is up there," Quinn said Monday in an interview with media members covering the NFL's annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. "There's only so much you can do in terms of signing a top-end backup with the salary that comes with that.

"There are other avenues to get quarterbacks, and we're going to look at all of them."

One of those obvious avenues is the draft, which is a little more than four weeks away.

This is not considered a vintage year for quarterbacks. Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State are generally regarded as the top prospects in a class not rated on par with the best of the 2018 draft.

There could be a value pick deeper in the draft, starting with the second and third rounds on Day 2.

Drafting quarterbacks is a chancy proposition in any round. But the lower the round, the lower the risk. And the payoff on hitting on the right player – especially in one of the lower rounds that comes with a correspondingly lower salary – adds equity to the most important position in North American team sports.

"It's a position that's important," Quinn said. "I think it goes to trying to make sure that when the draft comes, and free agency, you're trying to add the best players at each position."

Stafford, who turned 31 this year, has been one of the NFL's most durable quarterbacks. He has started every game since opening day of 2011 – 128 in the regular season, and three in the playoffs.

The equity for the Lions in developing a young quarterback behind Stafford can be on a number of levels -- from promising rookie with obvious skills, to developing into a top-end backup, to eventually being the successor to the starting job.

There's a long road ahead with decisions to make before any of that happens.

In his first three years as GM, Quinn twice has drafted quarterbacks in the sixth round – Jake Rudock of Iowa and then Michigan in 2016, and Brad Kaaya of Miami (Fla.) in 2017. Nether panned out.

Rudock spent most of 2016 and all of 2018 on the practice squad. He played sparingly in three games, all in 2017, completing three of five passes, with one interception that was returned for a TD.

Kaaya has never appeared in a regular season game and is currently on the Bengals' roster.

The third try – if there is one – could be the charm.

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