Packers Release Quarterback, Activate Another From Reserve List

Bortles Cut, Benkert Back

Getty Kurt Benkert #7 of the Green Bay Packers scrambles with the ball against the New York Jets in the first half of a NFL preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 21, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

After a few weeks of COVID-19 troubles, the Green Bay Packers are returning to their original setup at quarterback.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced a pair of quarterback moves on Monday, November 15, releasing veteran Blake Bortles from the practice squad and activating third-stringer Kurt Benkert from the practice squad’s reserve/COVID-19 list.

Bortles re-signed to the Packers’ practice squad on November 4 after both Benkert and starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19, spending one game on the active roster as a backup option behind Love; although, Bortles ended up not playing a snap and reverted back to the practice squad after Week 9’s loss in Kansas City. His release seemed inevitable once Benkert was cleared to return.

Now, the Packers are back at full strength in the quarterback room and likely hoping they will have no further reason to shift away from Rodgers for the remainder of the 2021 campaign. They can at least count on COVID-19 not impacting his availability for the foreseeable future. According to the NFL/NFLPA’s COVID-19 protocols, Rodgers is exempt from daily testing for the virus for a 90-day period that will end two days after the NFC Championship Game is scheduled to be played. He will also not be subject to missing time as a high-risk close contact if another outbreak should occur before then.

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Assessing Benkert’s Long-Term Value

The return of a third-string quarterback on the practice squad might seem negligible for a Packers team that is now 8-2 and several games ahead of the NFC North division, but getting Benkert back on his developmental track could be important for the team’s long-term picture at the position in 2022.

The Packers are expected to have a decision to make about their starting quarterback in the upcoming offseason. Whether they choose to sign Rodgers to a new contract or trade him and let Love take the reins of their offense, it seems unlikely that both first-round quarterbacks will still be on their roster when the 2022 season opens. Regardless of which choice they make, they will need a backup with experience in their system.

Right now, the logical choice to serve as the Packers’ backup quarterback next season appears to be Benkert. He is young enough to still build upon his skill set but has spent several years learning two distinct offensive systems, including the one in Atlanta during his past three seasons as a member of their practice squad. He also showed promise during his three games of preseason action, completing 33 of his 48 passes (68.8%) for 300 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Benkert might not be given an actual chance to compete for a starting role with either Rodgers or Love, but he would still be leveling up into a primary backup role if he managed to stick around with the team into next year. And if anything was learned through the Packers’ recent bout with COVID-19 issues, it is that a team may be forced to call upon its backup plan at quarterback at any moment.

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