The Green Bay Packers are wasting no time getting a backup quarterback in place behind Jordan Love ahead of his first NFL start this weekend.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, veteran quarterback Blake Bortles is already on his way to Green Bay with the “expectation he will sign to the Packers’ practice squad and be eligible for the 53-man roster” in time for Week 9’s road game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, November 7. He had previously spent a bulk of the offseason with the Packers but was released when Aaron Rodgers returned to the team in July.
The Packers will be playing without star quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time since 2017 this weekend after NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the 37-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 and will be required to miss a minimum of 10 days due to his status as an unvaccinated player. As a result, the Packers will turn to second-year quarterback Jordan Love — their 2020 first-round pick — for his first career NFL start against the Chiefs early Sunday evening.
Normally, the Packers would have third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert to promote from their practice squad for a backup role behind Love, but Benkert also tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday afternoon after announcing his status on Twitter. It is unclear whether Benkert is vaccinated or if he has a chance of getting activated before Week 9’s game.
The Packers currently have two spots available on their 16-man practice squad following a series of roster moves made on November 2.
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Bortles Gives Packers Experienced Backup
The Packers are moving forward with Love as their starting quarterback for the time that Rodgers is out, but an expected reunion with Bortles should at least give them the comfort of having another veteran in the room in case more issues arise for the team.
Bortles — who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft — started 76 games over his first five seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and helped lead them as far as the AFC Championship Game during the 2017 season. He also spent the majority of his time in Jacksonville working with current Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who served as Bortles’ quarterbacks coach (2015-16) and offensive coordinator (2016-18) before getting fired midway through the 2018 season.
Of course, Bortles comes with plenty of his own playing issues. He threw no fewer than 11 interceptions in each of his five seasons with the Jaguars and was picked off a career-worst 18 times during his first season as a full-time starter in 2015. There are also clearly doubts about his viability as a starter or backup in the league, as he has played just 11 total offensive snaps — in 2019 for the Los Angeles Rams — since Jacksonville moved on from him during the 2019 offseason. He later spent time with the Denver Broncos and the Rams again but did not see the field.
Fortunately, Bortles is the emergency backup plan for the Packers and may only prove useful for the next few weeks if Rodgers returns at his soonest opportunity. Rodgers will be eligible for activation again on November 13 if he is asymptomatic, but it seems likely that Bortles will remain with the Packers through their Week 10 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks on November 14 given the short decision-making window.
Could Packers Add Another QB After Bortles?
The Packers will have a pair of quarterbacks ready to go against the Chiefs between Love and Bortles, but it is possible they will explore adding one more name to the rotation given they have generally liked having three passers available in the past.
One option could be re-signing Dolegala. The third-year undrafted quarterback spent about six weeks with the team during the offseason and was brought back for a week in the preseason when Love injured his shoulder. If the Packers are nervous about only having two quarterbacks available amid a team COVID-19 outbreak, they could sign him away from the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad; though, that would require them signing him directly to their 53-man roster.
Other free-agent quarterbacks who have history with Green Bay and could make sense as a temporarily third-stringer include DeShone Kizer — who lost his backup job to Tim Boyle in 2019 — Jalen Morton (undrafted rookie signing in 2020) and Manny Wilkins (undrafted rookie signing in 2019).