Earlier this offseason, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst mentioned that adding a veteran backup quarterback to the mix could be on the team’s radar. ollowing thFe 2023 NFL draft, however, the Packers will hold off on doing so for the time being.
With Aaron Rodgers now on the New York Jets, adding at least one quarterback was a must for Green Bay, with only Jordan Love and Danny Etling on the roster before the draft. Even if they only plan to carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, competition is still important at that backup spot, and teams simply need three or four quarterbacks just to get through OTAs and training camp when rosters are at max capacity with 90 players.
The value that a veteran could add to the Packers is with his experience, whether that be on the practice field, in the film room, or on the sidelines during games as Love navigates his first season as a starting quarterback. Although Love has been in the Packers organization for three years, he has just 91 career dropbacks. Etling, meanwhile, has bounced around since 2018 but has no career NFL snaps.
However, at least for now, the Packers plan to roll with their current trio of Love, Etling, and rookie Sean Clifford.
“We will see how that goes (on signing a veteran QB), but we really like what he (Clifford) begins to the table,” said Gutekunst after the draft. “He’s started a lot of games in the Big 10, has a lot of experience. Really good athlete, liked his arm talent and brought him in for a pre-draft visit and really liked the makeup of the person. I like the room right now, and all those guys need reps, so we will see how those guys do before we decide to explore other options.”
Without question, there is a jump that comes with going from the college to NFL game — we all know this — but what was made clear over the weekend is that Green Bay did value Clifford’s experience at Penn State in a Packers’ quarterback room that is short on it. During his collegiate career, Clifford had nearly 1,600 dropbacks, and 2,723 total snaps, while appearing in 51 games.
Also mentioned on a few occasions when discussing Clifford was his athleticism. He recorded a Relative Athletic Score of over 9.0 at his Pro Day and rushed for more than 500 yards during the 2020 season. Clifford’s fit in the Green Bay locker room was also emphasized as well by those who spoke about him. As Director of Football Operations Milt Hendrickson said on Saturday, this environment won’t be too big for him.
“Sean is a guy that is really intelligent, he’s played a lot of games, he’s got some athleticism, he’s a natural thrower, all the things you look for in a quarterback he possesses,” said Matt LaFleur. “We had him up here on a 30 visit and went through the meetings with him and were impressed by his football acumen and overall intelligence. Looking forward to getting the chance to work with him in rookie minicamp.”
As one would expect this time of the year, there aren’t exactly many free agent options at the position that are still available either. A few of the notable names include Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, and Trevor Seimian. That aspect, coupled with the Packers’ still tight salary cap situation that has them with just over $12 million in available cap space, not including incoming expenses such as signing the new draft class, along with the backup role not being guaranteed as there will be an open competition this summer for that roster spot, Green Bay shouldn’t be allocating much cap space towards the backup quarterback position as it is.
For the time being, it sounds like the Packers are going to take a wait-and-see approach at quarterback. They will first get into OTAs and perhaps even training camp to see how Clifford and Etling perform before making a decision on whether or not they need to add a veteran. Regardless of whether it is Love, Etling, or Clifford, all of them need reps right now, and the Packers are going to give them that opportunity.
“We will be fluid with it and see what these guys can do,” said LaFleur. “Those will be ongoing conversations with myself and Gutey and his staff. If the opportunity presents itself, we are always going to try to do what’s best for the football team in that regard.”