Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers needs a better backup

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28: Aaron Rodgers
GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28: Aaron Rodgers /

The Green Bay Packers could have been a playoff team in 2017 with a capable backup quarterback.

Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley didn’t exactly thrill last season when he came off the bench after starter Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. Hundley threw for nine touchdowns against 12 interceptions in 11 games with a quarterback rating of 70.6. Not great stats for a team typically in the thick of the NFC North race.

That’s why it would be smart to snag a better backup in free agency this offseason. The Packers can’t trade for a player like Nick Foles—he is due over $7 million in 2018 and Green Bay only has around $21 million in salary cap and need to spread that money around, mostly on defense.

Free agent Case Keenum is out of their price range too, after taking the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. But that doesn’t mean Green Bay can’t find someone suitable to run the offense should Rodgers go down again. Plus, the NFC North is a winnable division with a backup quarterback (the Vikings proved that) and a strong run game, which Green Bay has.

Related Story: NFL Free Agency 2018: Top 50 players, signing predictions

Minnesota has a stout defense, but the Eagles exposed them (with a less talented quarterback than Rodgers), putting up 38 points on their way to the Super Bowl. Detroit should be better on defense with new head coach Matt Patricia, and the Chicago Bears had a top 10 defense in 2017, but all three are beatable with an accurate quarterback who takes care of the football. With that in mind, here are a few quarterbacks the Packers should target in free agency.

The Pipe Dream: A.J. McCarron

Sometimes in the NFL, the unknown plays to your advantage. Such is the case with A.J. McCarron. Drafted out of Alabama by the Cincinnati Bengals, he has spent four years playing behind Andy Dalton. During that time, McCarron has played in 11 games, started three (going 2-1) and thrown six touchdowns to two picks. He became a free agent this winter after filing a grievance against the Bengals and winning.

He is seemingly set for a big pay, even though he has done little on Sundays to prove he deserves the money. There are some reports  McCarron will get upwards of $19 million a year, and if that happens, it puts the Packers way out of contention for his services. There are multiple teams  in need of a starting quarterback, but you never know how free agency is going to play out, and you also never know if a team is going to decide they can do better in the draft than through free agency.

More from NFL Spin Zone

There is a lot of hype around McCarron right now, but that could die off. There are also a few proven commodities at the quarterback position that are free agents, so teams may pass on McCarron for a more experienced player. If one of those two circumstances comes about, he could slip to the Packers. McCarron is mobile inside the pocket, adept at avoiding sacks, plus he is careful with the football — two talents good enough to beat the Bears twice, and likely the Lions too.

The Draft: Yikes

Green Bay isn’t going to waste an early-round pick on a quarterback. The Packers have three selections in the fifth round and another three in the sixth, and that’s where you would likely see them take a quarterback, if at all. They need to fill some holes on defense — lineman, linebackers, a corner, perhaps — and shore up the offensive line.

This draft is considered top heavy for quarterbacks, but I won’t be surprised if the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen never pan out. It’s not that they are untalented, it’s just darn hard to be a dominant quarterback in the NFL, and the likelihood all three experience continued success after college is no certainty.

That leaves names like Virginia’s Kurt Benkert and Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek on the board — not exactly Tom Bradys lurking in the sixth round. So it’s not a stretch to think the Packers won’t take a quarterback. After all, Rodgers was upset when the team fired an assistant coach without his consultation. What do you think might happen if they choose his heir apparent as he closes in on free agency?

The Lock: Old Man River

Yes, the steely veteran is the way to go here, because he’s smarter, more mature and knows how to better run an offense than his younger counterparts. That’s why Derek Anderson would be a fine choice to backup Rodgers. Anderson is 34, but the Packers can protect him and the run game is strong, and Anderson has always been a smart quarterback on the field.

He has as many career touchdowns as interceptions (60), but a majority of those picks came early in his career when he played for the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, two franchises not exactly associated with greatness.

Next: 2018 NFL Mock Draft before Combine testing

Since coming to Carolina in 2011, he has thrown just five interceptions, though played less. Anderson is your best talent at the best value. You want someone better it’s going to cost and his last contract was for two years, $4.7 million, which is doable for the Packers. With any luck, the Panthers are ready to move on and the Packers get him at a discount.