Free-agent countdown: QB Scott Tolzien

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Packers backup quarterback Scott Tolzien (16) looks to pass during the first half of last Thursday’s game against the Chiefs.

Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media is counting down the top unrestricted, restricted and exclusive-right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.

He wasn't inactive for most of the season. Yet, the pregame routine stayed constant.

Hours before every game, Scott Tolzien would stroll into the stadium and sling passes to whatever practice-squad receivers he could corral in the locker room. He went through his reads, concentrated on footwork and put an entire week of work in practice into motion.

This was Tolzien's game day.

Once the crowd filed in, Tolzien was back in his street clothes and took his place as No. 3 quarterback on the Green Bay Packers' sideline. He leaned into the quarterback huddle on the sideline, absorbing as much information as possible from eventual NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and backup Matt Flynn.

It wasn't until after Rodgers tweaked his calf against Tampa Bay in Week 16 that Tolzien finally put on his pads for the regular-season finale against Detroit. He dressed in both of the Packers' playoff games, but never stepped onto the field.

It was a complete reversal from his first season in Green Bay. After signing to the practice squad in September 2013, he became the team's starting quarterback a little more than a month later when Rodgers (broken collarbone) and Seneca Wallace (groin) succumbed to injury.

The Packers signed him to a two-year contract upon his promotion to the active roster, a deal which expired immediately after the team's 28-22 overtime loss to Seattle last month in the NFC championship game.

Tolzien and Flynn stand two weeks away from unrestricted free agency, though Rodgers has pitched for both quarterbacks to return. When asked about Tolzien's forecast at the NFL scouting combine, Packers coach Mike McCarthy reiterated his excitement about his potential.

"I think Scott is definitely an ascending player," McCarthy said. "I still think he has more growth in front of him."

Tolzien isn't a rookie anymore. He'll turn 28 in September and enters his fifth NFL season. He possesses a stronger arm than Flynn, but threw five interceptions in three appearances in 2013 to lose the interim starting job.

With more time to learn the playbook, the former Wisconsin standout showed progress in training camp. He out-performed Flynn in the preseason with a 112.0 passer rating in completing 38-of-56 passes for 477 yards and three touchdowns.

While Flynn's familiarity with the offense led to him winning the No. 2 job, Tolzien's play convinced the Packers' brass to keep three quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster for the first time since 2008. Green Bay should be able to re-sign both quarterbacks at a reasonable rate, but general manager Ted Thompson might also want to explore selecting a late-round quarterback in the draft.

Unlike the failed development of Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, Tolzien has showed consistent improvement in Green Bay. Time will tell whether it's enough to land back in the Packers' quarterback room in 2015.

"I don't know how that stuff is going to play out," said Tolzien last month. "Really, you can only control what you can control. For now, you try to get away, and we'll visit that when the time comes."

-- and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

Scott Tolzien, fifth-year quarterback.

The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.

The snaps: None.

The stats: None.

2014 salary: $645,000.

Previous installments:

15. S Chris Banjo and RB DuJuan Harris

14. WR Jarrett Boykin

13. LB Jamari Lattimore

12. QB Matt Flynn

11. FB John Kuhn

10. CB Jarrett Bush

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