Backup QB competition already in place for Packers

Trade for DeShone Kizer changes Green Bay's outlook

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This is the first in a series of stories that'll examine the Packers' roster, position by position, heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. The series begins with the quarterbacks.

GREEN BAY – A little over a month ago, it seemed almost a given the Packers would select a quarterback at some point in this upcoming draft.

That changed upon acquiring former Cleveland QB DeShone Kizer in a trade that sent cornerback Damarious Randall to the Browns. The Packers upgraded their quarterback room and have set up the competition with Brett Hundley for the No. 2 job they were looking for.

Kizer recorded the second-most passing yards (2,894) and the third-most passing touchdowns (11) ever by a Browns rookie in 2017. Kizer also registered 77 carries for 419 yards (5.4 avg.) and five touchdowns. Photos by AP.

It doesn't mean a quarterback won't be taken, given the Packers have 12 draft picks, and a value selection sliding down the board at the game's most important position might be too good to pass up.

But with Aaron Rodgers, Kizer, Hundley and Joe Callahan (who has been tendered a contract as an exclusive-rights free agent) all on board for 2018, the Packers have Mike McCarthy's preferred number of four quarterbacks for the duration of the offseason if they want to stand pat.

Rodgers, and the team, would appreciate nothing better than a post-injury redux, as the last time the Packers' star QB returned from a broken collarbone, in 2014, he won his second NFL MVP award.

That's a high bar as Rodgers comes back from a surgically repaired one this time (in his right shoulder, as opposed to the left, non-surgically healed one from four years ago). But at the NFL Honors red carpet in February, Rodgers declared he plans to repeat the feat, and he'll have no limitations in offseason workouts from his recovery.

One of Green Bay's priorities was to improve at the backup spot, though, should something happen to Rodgers again. The trade with Cleveland was executed, in part, for that reason.

Hundley went 3-6 in his nine starts in Rodgers' place in 2017, a roller-coaster ride of uneven play. He posted a passer rating under 60 five times and over 110 three times, with the feast-or-famine nature of his game never smoothing out.

Enter Kizer, just 21 years old a year ago when the former Notre Dame star was the fourth quarterback selected in the draft, at No. 52 overall by Cleveland. He didn't win once in 15 starts with the Browns, who had a young, rebuilding defense and lost their top receiver and Hall of Fame left tackle for large stretches of the season.

Kizer has the arm talent and scrambling ability to make it in the NFL, and whether or not he unseats Hundley as Rodgers' top backup in 2018 could depend on how rapidly he grasps the offensive playbook being rewritten by McCarthy and returning offensive coordinator Joe Philbin.

The competition for the No. 2 spot will be one of many watched closely between now and the end of training camp, and most likely the preseason games will decide it.

That may not leave a ton of reps for Callahan, who enters his third year in Green Bay (having spent parts of his rookie season in 2016 with two other clubs), but he'll be bidding to outplay one of the other two backups and stick around.

The former star from Division III Wesley College was the talk of the preseason two years ago, but he didn't get a chance to step in during Hundley's struggles last year until mop-up time in the regular-season finale at Detroit.

Should the Packers indeed draft another quarterback, Callahan's roster spot is probably the most vulnerable, followed by Hundley's, as five quarterbacks would be unprecedented, as well as unmanageable in terms of practice reps.

The Packers wouldn't have traded a former first-round draft pick for Kizer without intending to give him every opportunity to show what he's got.

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