When Matt Blanchard fractured a knuckle on his non-throwing hand in the Bears' exhibition game against the Chargers on Thursday, it was clear the Bears would have to add another quarterback to complete the preseason.
The question was whether they would bring in another young developmental player to take third team snaps and possibly earn himself a spot on the practice squad or go for a veteran who might pick things up more quickly and hope to strike lightning in a bottle and force the Bears to carry a third QB.
That assumes of course the Bears weren't already planning on carrying three QBs. When they quickly moved to sign veteran Jordan Palmer it was fair to assume they wanted someone with the experience to grasp at least parts of their offense more quickly and give all of the other players on offense battling for roster spots the best chance to show what they could do.
While it seemed unlikely Palmer would come to Chicago without some assurance he'd be given a reasonable chance to make the club – NFL players receive a small per diem during training camp and only begin to earn their salary if they make the regular-season roster – it is possible Palmer was happy for the chance to get some more tape and let the other 31 clubs know he's ready and available, as well.
But when the Bears moved Sunday to add a fourth veteran quarterback in Trent Edwards, it became difficult to believe the Bears won't carry three into the regular season. More NFL clubs than not carry three and even before Blanchard's injury, many analysts and insiders wondered whether the Bears could afford to go to camp without a better backup plan for Jay Cutler than Josh McCown.
We do not know yet how long the Bears expect Blanchard to be out, but it seems unlikely they'd carry him on the final 53-man roster. They can place him on injured reserve and protect their rights to him for another season, or they could work out an injury settlement with him and release him. They might even make an injury settlement and then when he is ready to play again re-sign him to the practice squad.
Neither Palmer nor Edwards is eligible for the practice squad. Cutler and McCown are likely to play almost all of the important third exhibition game, and McCown should see some action in the final exhibition. The Bears were fine with three quarterbacks before the Blanchard injury, so they clearly don't need four now to get through the preseason.
What have we seen of McCown so far? He was the least effective of the three quarterbacks in the preseason opener in Carolina, and the offense was nonexistent with him at quarterback against the Chargers.
"Once Matt (Blanchard) went down , we really limited what we were going to do offensively," coach Marc Trestman said. "We were going to run the football, try to use as much clock as we could, try to keep Josh (McCown) as safe as we could through the second half."
That's true, but before the Blanchard injury McCown was 2 of 5 for 12 yards. In two games he is 8 of 16 for 55 yards, no TDs, no interceptions and a sack. The Bears worked out Palmer and Edwards, as well as JaMarcus Russell in the spring before electing to go to camp with Cutler, McCown and Blanchard.
Could it be the Bears have decided to take advantage of the Blanchard injury by bolstering themselves behind Cutler? It's difficult to believe McCown won't be No. 2 when the Bengals come to town for the regular-season opener Sept. 8.
But it's more than reasonable to assume either Palmer or Edwards will be No. 3, as it seems unlikely both came to town for two weeks of per diem and a chance to practice and put a few second-half exhibition snaps on tape. Do you remember how McCown got his job? Caleb Hanie does.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at [email protected]