The Green Bay Packers made a bit of an unexpected move last week when they released backup quarterback Kurt Benkert from their 90-man offseason roster, striking a chord with fans who had grown attached to the personable fifth-year pro over his 13 months with the team.
Benkert, however, wants them to know the Packers — and specifically general manager Brian Gutekunst — did things the right way when moving on from him.
“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.”
While Benkert said he was “truly surprised” when the Packers decided to release him, he understood his situation in a quarterback room with four-time MVP Aaron Rodgers and 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love. Neither of those quarterbacks is in danger of losing his spot on the 53-man roster, and there isn’t much justification for keeping three. Even with a good preseason, Benkert was going to be the odd man out during cutdowns.
“Thankful they did me a solid and didn’t waste any time,” Benkert said. “I knew at the end of the preseason I was going to get cut. There’s no room for me on that roster for an extra quarterback on the 53.”
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No Risk of Love Getting Traded
Ever since Rodgers signed his new extension with the Packers, people have been speculating about whether the team would be entertaining trade offers for Love this offseason given his path to meaningful reps is more ambiguous than ever. It would be surprising to see them move on from the 2020 first-rounder after how much stress their decision to draft him caused, but there’s a chance they won’t be picking up Love’s fifth-year option next spring if Rodgers stays locked in for the 2023 season, leaving them with either a quarterback on an expiring rookie contract or a potential trade chip.
Love, however, now seems secure for at least the 2022 season. With Benkert, the Packers had another backup candidate with experience in the system who could feasibly take over as Rodgers’ backup if the right trade offer came in for Love, but Benkert’s release leaves Love as the only reasonable option as QB2. Danny Etling is also on the roster as their third quarterback, but the 2018 seventh-round pick has been with eight teams since coming into the league and still hasn’t played a regular-season snap.
Again, the Packers were likely not going to trade Love in the first place in 2022, but now the chances of it happening have essentially fallen to zero.
Where Could Benkert Land Next?
According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for Tuesday, June 21, Benkert cleared the waiver wire without another team claiming him for their 90-man roster. That means he is now an unrestricted free agent — with two accrued seasons — and can sign with whichever team presents him with the best opportunity. But which options are on the table?
A reunion with the Atlanta Falcons is not out of the question. They have former No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota as their new starter and drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft, but there is no guarantee that Ridder will be ready to roll in Week 1. Benkert could give them another arm with experience in their system to serve as backup while they are bringing Ridder up to speed, similar to how the Packers kept Tim Boyle as a backup in 2020 after drafting Love in the first round.
Other teams who could use more competition for their backup quarterback role include the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. The San Francisco 49ers could also have an opening if they trade Jimmy Garoppolo.
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