Roster cuts are coming for every NFL team on Tuesday as each franchise trims down to the final 53-man lineup before the regular season begins. Every team will have difficult choices to make, including the Green Bay Packers. For Matt LaFleur, perhaps no decision will be more tricky than what to do with third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert.
The best option for Green Bay? Take the risk that he won’t get picked up off waivers and stash him on the practice squad.
Benkert has quickly turned into a fan favorite in Green Bay, and he’s validated it with his play in the preseason. He didn’t light the world on fire. However, he played confidently — and pretty damn well — for the Packers in their exhibition games. If there were such a thing as third-string quarterback rankings, Benkert would be in the top tier.
The reality is that teams in today’s NFL don’t typically keep three quarterbacks. Having a 53-man roster sounds like a lot of wiggle room to work with until you get down to those last couple of cuts.
For the Packers, those final decisions may come down to keeping Benkert as the third quarterback or keeping a player who can be utilized on special teams. Benkert is the more popular name, but that 52nd or 53rd guy could see valuable time. And Green Bay needs all the help they can get on special teams after the last couple of seasons. Given how poor that unit has been, it would be wise to offer new coordinator Maurice Drayton some extra options. If that means trying to slide Benkert to the practice squad, so be it. Green Bay doesn’t need to start the season with three active quarterbacks.
Benkert has two things working in his favor regarding his potential roster spot, but both are completely out of his control.
First, the COVID-19 numbers are skyrocketing again, and last year we saw many teams utilize a COVID emergency quarterback. Some teams might have a contingency plan, assuming their team will be hit at some point in the season, which could include keeping an extra QB on the roster. If that’s the case, chalk up a point for Benkert.
Second, while the Packers are pushing all their chips to the middle of the table this season, there’s no doubt that general manager Brian Gutekunst will continue to keep an eye towards the future as well. Benkert has already familiarized himself with LaFleur’s system and seems to have a decent grasp on it. It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Green Bay to keep him on the active roster for this season with the 2022 campaign in mind as well.
Despite both of those factors, taking the risk of relegating Benkert to the practice squad and hoping he doesn’t get scooped up off waivers is the best option. This won’t be the popular choice, but making moves based on what the fanbase wants is a way to lose your job in short order.
Benkert is respected by his teammates, that’s clear. But if he has one of the 53 spots, it’s super unlikely it would serve any purpose this season. Something wildly unpredictable would have to happen for Benkert to end up under center for a prolonged period of time. And let’s face it: If that were the case, Green Bay would be hedging towards next season anyway. That’s why the Packers would be wise to save the roster spot for someone else.
Is it possible those last two or three spots are used on players who also won’t play? Sure, but it’s even more unlikely that Benkert would play if he made the final 53.
If Green Bay is feeling uncertain about the COVID-19 situation or is too uneasy about what lies ahead after this season at the quarterback position, they should consider Benkert for a spot. Outside of that, get the dude on the practice squad and hope for the best.
Benkert hasn’t done anything that warrants him getting cut. He’s super likable and played well in the preseason. It comes down to a simple numbers game, one that has him on the outside looking in when it comes to prioritizing those last few spots. If someone snatches him up, they’re getting an instant fan favorite who can help lighten up a quarterback room. That’s a risk Green Bay should be willing to take.