With only two weeks remaining before the 2013 NFL Draft - essentially the start of the offseason for the Green Bay Packers - it's probably the right time to wonder about the backup quarterback position. More specifically, will the Packers acquire any additional bodies to compete for the spot? For a team that's given short shrift to running the ball, having a dependable backup behind Aaron Rodgers is imperative.
This will be one of the marquee position battles in training camp. Since Ted Thompson became the general manager in 2005, the Packers have only rostered more than two quarterbacks twice (three times if you count the late season addition of Graham Harrell in 2010 after Aaron Rodgers suffered his second concussion). Unless two players emerge as sturdy passers, there's no reason to expect the Packers to carry three or more quarterbacks in 2013.
Last year's backup, Graham Harrell, remains a project in the eyes of many. While he's made significant strides during his three years in Green Bay, Harrell has yet to demonstrate the competency of a quality NFL backup. Granted, it's difficult to prove yourself when Rodgers doesn't miss many snaps. But with the NFL cracking down on player safety issues, the Packers can't assume Rodgers' backup won't see the field in 2013. Harrell will need a solid training camp and preseason to keep his job. Otherwise, his lasting memory may be fumbling his first NFL snap.
While Harrell is the presumptive front runner for the backup spot, he'll have to fend off B.J. Coleman, a 2012 seventh-round selection who spent his rookie year on the practice squad. Coleman possesses many qualities Harrell does not: a strong arm, athleticism, and a knack to make something good happen when a play breaks down. What Coleman lacks is discipline. His senior year at Tennessee-Chattanooga, Coleman threw as many picks as touchdowns. The good news is Coleman now has a full year of NFL coaching under his belt, not to mention he'll be getting his first taste of Coach McCarthy's QB School during minicamp. If Coleman starts making better decisions, he'll have every opportunity to win the backup job.
It doesn't appear as though Thompson will sign a free agent quarterback to compete. Other than Harrell, who prior to joining the Packers hadn't made an NFL roster, Thompson hasn't used free agency for quarterback depth. For what it's worth, there weren't many attractive options this year. The best of the bunch, Matt Hasselbeck, signed a two year, $7.5 million dollar deal to backup Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. Thompson will never pay that much for a 37 year old backup. After him, you're looking at the likes of Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, and Seneca Wallace. Accordingly, any additional competition at backup quarterback will come through the draft.
Here's where things get interesting. While this year's draft class has been criticized for lacking obvious franchise quarterbacks, it's rich with high upside prospects who should be on the board through the middle rounds. A modest investment of a fourth or fifth round pick could net the Packers their next Matt Flynn. And there's a quarterback for every scheme too. Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson fit more traditional pro-style offenses, while Arizona's Matt Scott utilizes speed and athleticism. What makes these guys threats to take the backup job is their experience. Wilson and Jones each started for more than two seasons in college. Scott didn't start until his senior season, but he played meaningful snaps as an injury replacement the two years prior. And this is just a sampling of the quarterback prospects. There's more still that could be snapped up by the Packers in the same area. With a value hunter for a GM, it's easy to envision Green Bay pulling the trigger on one of these guys early on day three of the draft.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Company. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.