The Green Bay Packers are headed towards the start of training camp, with the team’s first practice just over two weeks away. With practices fast approaching, it’s time for us at Acme Packing Company to issue our annual pre-camp 53-man roster predictions.
This year, seven APC contributors submitted their predictions to the project, and as usual we have combined those picks into a single consolidated prediction. Today we get the project going by looking at the quarterback position, where the majority of our writers expect the team to keep just two players.
Backup QB is one spot where the Packers could feasibly add a veteran to the mix. Still, the odds of that look remote thanks to the team’s relatively small amount of cap space that is practically available. That leaves the main question up to whether the Packers will keep three quarterbacks on the 53 or if they will stick with two and add a third to the practice squad. The latter approach is one that the team has taken frequently in the last decade, and ultimately it’s the way that five of our seven contributors decided to assemble the position.
As a reminder, the 2023 season will see the NFL implement a series of multiple roster cut deadlines after a few years with teams going straight from 90 to 53 on a single day. This year, teams must cut back from 90 to 85 players on August 16, then down to 80 on August 23 before finally getting to a 53-man roster on August 30.
Here’s a look at how we expect the quarterback position to break down when the Packers cut the roster down to the final number of 53 after the conclusion of the preseason.
Starter: Jordan Love
The biggest no-brainer on the entire roster is Love remaining as the starting quarterback, barring injury. You just don’t willingly move on from a four-time MVP quarterback without having his successor identified and feeling like he’s ready to take over.
Love and the Packers also agreed to a one-year contract extension in May, effectively buying out his fifth-year option for 2024 by coming to a bit of a compromise deal. That contract affords the Packers the ability to cut bait next season if Love crashes and burns in his debut season as a starter while also helping to spread the cap hit of the option money over the 2023 and 2024 caps. Meanwhile, Love got signing bonus money up front and now has a real opportunity to cash in with a long-term deal next offseason if he shows the kind of promise that the Packers expect from him.
Backup: Sean Clifford
When the Packers drafted Clifford in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, it appeared to be a panic selection. The team was sitting at the back end of a significant run on quarterbacks in the 20 or so picks ahead of them, so they appeared to take the one guy left that they thought would be a good fit, even if that fifth round slot seemed high for a nearly-25-year-old who is intended to be a backup.
Still, it would be a shock if Clifford doesn’t make the roster; the Packers are loath to release draft picks before their rookie year under Brian Gutekunst, and they certainly aren’t going to let a 5th-rounder go, particularly when they have few other options to back up Love. APC’s bet is that Clifford beats out Etling for the job and that the team rolls with two quarterbacks on the 53 to preserve another roster spot for another position.
Released: Danny Etling
Etling had a nice moment or two in the preseason last year, and in the 2023 spring program he received the bulk of the QB2 snaps. However, the Packers’ investment in Clifford all but ensures that he’s on the team to start the 2023 season. With the team needing bodies at other positions, it’s entirely possible that they keep just two quarterbacks, so for Etling to make the team, he’ll probably need to beat out Clifford for the primary backup job.
Although two contributors found a way to keep three QBs on the roster, as a group the bet is that he does not earn the primary backup job. In that scenario, that the Packers end up rolling with two QBs on the 53 and adding one (perhaps Etling again) to the practice squad in case of emergency.
Stay tuned on Tuesday as we continue our series by shifting our focus to the running back position.