The Chicago Bears added to their quarterback depth today by signing free agent QB Connor Shaw, who was recently released by the Cleveland Browns. The Bears now have five QB on their roster (Cutler, Hoyer, Fales, Dalyn Williams, Shaw). It’s doubtful that the Bears will begin training camp with all five QBs on the roster, but they did have an open spot on the 90-man roster so didn’t have to release anyone to take a chance on Shaw.
There was a little more drama with the Shaw signing than their usually is with bottom of the roster transactions. After Shaw was released by the Browns, the New Orleans Saints sent an email to the league making a claim on Shaw. Unfortunately, someone on the Saints staff hit reply all and sent the email to every team in the NFL!
I assume the Bears were going to pick up Shaw anyway, but knowing that the Saints were putting in a waiver claim and having a higher waiver priority may have forced the Bears hand to make the move sooner than planned. It’s a pretty embarrassing move by the Saints, but it may have benefited the Bears. OC Dowell Loggains was the QB coach for the Browns when Shaw was a rookie, so he at least is familiar with what Shaw can do.
Shaw went undrafted after the 2013 draft despite a successful career at South Carolina where he went 27-5 as a starter, threw for 6,074 yards, and had 56 TD passes with just 16 interceptions. His senior year he had an impressive 24-1 TD-INT ratio. Shaw also moves well for a QB with 1,683 rushing yards and 17 more TDs in his time with the Gamecocks.
The scouting report on Shaw coming out of college is that he’s a smart, gritty leader with pinpoint accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws who makes sound decisions. Shaw’s ability to scramble out of trouble and extend plays helps keep the chains moving. He gets high marks for his leadership abilities and doesn’t make many unforced errors. The knocks on Shaw are both his lack of size (6’1, 210) and lack of arm strength. At the 2013 combine Shaw was the only QB in attendance not to break the 50 MPH velocity on his throws.
Shaw is a scrambler, who uses his 4.66 speed to elude defenders and extend plays while having the accuracy to complete 65%+ of his passes as long as he sticks to short and intermediate throws. He’s smart with the ball, doesn’t turn it over often, could excel in a west coast style scheme, and often draws comparisons to former 49ers QB Jeff Garcia.
In his first preseason action as a rookie, Shaw went 8-9 for 123 yards and a TD and made the Browns practice squad. He saw action in the Browns last game of the regular season against the Ravens and held his own, completing 14-28 passes for 177 yards and one interception.
It wasn’t great, but he didn’t look overmatched against a very good defense and drew praise from All-Pro teammate Joe Thomas who said Shaw showed “a lot of poise” and “belongs in the NFL”. Shaw was expected to be in the mix for the Browns backup QB job last season, but tore multiple ligaments in his thumb during the preseason and spent the year on injured reserve before being released yesterday.
Shaw has a lot of competition to earn a spot on the Bears with the top two QB spots already locked up by Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer. His main competition for a roster spot will be from David Fales and Dalyn Williams for the developmental QB spot on either the roster or practice squad. He’s a long-shot, but Shaw’s scrambling ability brings something to the team that his competition doesn’t offer which gives him at least a legitimate shot at sticking around for the 2016 season.