The Green Bay Packers are lightening the load of their quarterback room with a little more than a month to go until the start of 2022 training camp.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Packers are releasing third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert from the 90-man offseason roster in a move that was confirmed by Benkert himself in a farewell tweet. The team later officially announced his release on their transactions page, leaving them with an open roster spot.
The Packers had signed Benkert in May during the 2021 offseason while starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers was keeping his distance from the team and contemplating the course of his NFL future. Green Bay had also signed veteran Blake Bortles and Jake Dolegala prior to training camp, but they were both released in favor of Benkert, who impressed in camp and earned a practice-squad spot for the entire season.
While Benkert only played two kneel-down snaps for the Packers, he received an opportunity to serve as Rodgers’ backup during Week 12’s win over the Chicago Bears while primary backup Jordan Love was stuck on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He did, however, play all three 2021 preseason games, completing 33 of his 48 passes (68.8%) for 300 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. They also regularly used one of their weekly practice-squad protections on Benkert to prevent other teams from signing him away to their active roster.
The Packers are back down to three quarterbacks for the start of training camp on July 27 with Danny Etling now serving as their third-stringer/practice-squad candidate.
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Could Benkert Find Real Backup Opportunity?
Benkert is now left searching for his third opportunity in the NFL after spending exactly 13 months with the Packers, but there’s a chance he won’t even clear waivers at 4 p.m. ET on June 18 if another team is looking to improve their competition at quarterback.
Despite having played no competitive regular-season snaps over his four seasons in the league, Benkert has put a good amount of preseason play on tape that helps showcase his development as a quarterback since reaching the NFL level. He started off a little rough as a rookie in 2018 with the Atlanta Falcons, throwing four interceptions over his four exhibition appearances and touting a 43.8 completion percentage (28 completions on 64 passing attempts), but Benkert looked noticeably better during his one preseason start in 2019 when he went 19-of-34 passing for 185 yards and a touchdown.
Benkert has also been able to learn from two of the best modern-day veterans between Matt Ryan in Atlanta and Rodgers in Green Bay. Particularly with Rodgers, the experience of sitting in the same quarterback room and seeing how a four-time MVP breaks down film and discusses certain plays can be invaluable to a developing arm. It remains to be seen how much Benkert has improved after spending a full season with Rodgers and the Packers, but some teams are surely interested in finding out.
Where Could Benkert Land Next?
One option for Benkert could be the Cincinnati Bengals. They have former No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow returning to the helm for his third season after reaching the Super Bowl last season, but neither of the backups behind him — former 2016 sixth-round pick Brandon Allen and second-year Jake Browning — has outright proved worthy of the Bengals’ backup job. There could be a real opportunity for Benkert to compete there.
Another option could be the Denver Broncos, where former Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett — who spoke positively of Benkert in 2021 — is now the head coach. It would give Benkert another opportunity to both learn from one of the game’s best veterans in Russell Wilson and compete for a backup job against Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien, neither of whom is too established to dethrone.
As far as options inside the division, the Bears would make the most sense with no clear-cut backup behind Justin Fields following Nick Foles’ release in early May. Benkert could easily contend to be Fields’ primary backup for the 2022 season and would also have another familiarity advantage given Chicago’s new offensive coordinator is former Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy.