Kurt Benkert has officially found his next team.
According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the San Francisco 49ers are signing the former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback to their practice squad after losing first-round starter Trey Lance to a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. Benkert will slot into a familiar role as the No. 3 quarterback behind veteran Jimmy Garoppolo and newly promoted backup Brock Purdy.
Benkert spent the entire 2021 season with the Packers as the third-stringer behind Aaron Rodgers and first-round backup Jordan Love, winning a place on their practice squad over Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala during the offseason. He was released before the start of 2022 training camp, though, to give him the chance to find an opportunity elsewhere where he could compete for a true backup job.
Now, Benkert might just have that opportunity. The 49ers are set to trust Purdy, their seventh-round rookie, as the backup to Garoppolo moving forward after he showed potential for them in the preseason, but they may test him against Benkert, who has been around much longer in the NFL. The 27-year-old spent three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons learning behind Matt Ryan before moving to Green Bay last year.
Can Benkert Push Purdy for Backup Spot?
The 49ers are likely counting their blessings that Garoppolo wasn’t traded this offseason in light of Lance’s season-ending injury, but that doesn’t exactly leave them on the sturdiest ground as far as the quarterback position goes. Garoppolo has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his NFL career and is coming off an offseason shoulder surgery that kept him out for the majority of the summer. That alone should motivate them to put together a quality backup plan in case the worst happens.
For now, though, the backup plan in San Francisco is Purdy, a four-year starter at Iowa State who showed some good things on tape during the preseason. While Purdy took a backseat to Lance as the 49ers prepared the latter for his new role, he took advantage of his reps and completed 30 of his 49 passes for 347 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Even against backups, it was enough for head coach Kyle Shanahan to feel confident about him stepping up as their QB2.
“If Jimmy wasn’t available [this offseason], we were going to with Brock as our No. 2,” Shanahan said on September 19 about why the 49ers would not be looking to trade for a proven backup following Lance’s injury. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, and obviously we’ve got to get another guy in this building. Whether it’s a third or whether it’s on the practice squad, but we need a third guy.”
Shanahan’s vote of confidence for Purdy sure doesn’t sound like he is going to be giving Benkert a chance to push for the backup role, but there are certainly worse places for the former Packers quarterback to try earning his stripes.
Benkert Holds No Resentment About Packers Release
When the Packers released Benkert earlier this year, there were some fans — mostly those who aren’t sold on Love’s potential — who were livid over the decision. They were highly critical of general manager Brian Gutekunst for moving on from Benkert and felt he was making a mistake to develop a quality talent, even as a No. 3 quarterback.
Benkert, however, felt the opposite way about the situation and actually admitted he respected “the s*** out of” Gutekunst’s decision to waive him getting to camp.
“I saw a lot of bashing of Gute on social media and I did not love it, but I know it was really not my place to tweet about it,” Benkert said on June 18 during a live stream on his Twitch channel. “But I want you guys to know, the way that he did it and went about it, mad respect for him and for the window that he cut me in to give me an opportunity to actually go somewhere and compete for another job to make the 53, knowing that there was no chance for me to make the 53 here. Like, (I) respect the s*** out of that.”