PHOENIX - Scott Tolzien may be the front-runner to land the Green Bay Packers' No. 2 quarterback job, but the former Wisconsin standout will have to earn it this offseason.
The Packers and coach Mike McCarthy liked Tolzien enough to re-sign him to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million earlier this month, nearly double the $645,000 minimum he made last year as the team's third-string quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn.
It's a high-risk, high-reward proposition for the former undrafted free agent. Although the contract's only guarantee is a $100,000 signing bonus, he could earn up to $1.35 million if he's on the game-day roster for all 16 regular-season games.
McCarthy has seen Tolzien make strides in his mechanics since arriving in September 2013. Still, he stuck with Flynn as the primary backup on game days, mostly because of his familiarity with the offense.
By all indications, the Packers seem poised to move on from Flynn, who'll turn 30 this offseason, in favor of Tolzien and perhaps a younger prospect. Two weeks into free agency, general manager Ted Thompson has re-signed only three of his 11 unrestricted free agents.
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The fact Tolzien is one of them could bode well for his chances at backing up Rodgers.
"Well, that's what the off-season is for," McCarthy said. "I'm curious to see if he can take a couple steps in different areas. He definitely has the will and the guy's work ethic is impeccable. When you see a guy who had the flaws he had when he arrived and you see him improve and he's working on them all the time and he feels like the adjustments that have been made are working and it's evident on the tight quarterback profile video and things like that, it's encouraging."
You can be sure the Packers will be monitoring Tolzien's development this summer, especially after how Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman struggled behind Rodgers in 2013. Thompson eventually cut both, signed veteran Seneca Wallace and added Tolzien to the practice squad a week before the start of the regular season.
As much as McCarthy likes to develop quarterbacks, he hasn't had many pupils in his nine years in Green Bay. The Packers drafted Flynn and Brian Brohm in 2008 and didn't take another until Coleman in 2013.
Could this be the year they added a prospect to work under Rodgers' wing?
"It's really never an exact science with us," McCarthy said. "The draft board really kind of dictates that a lot. I'd love to get a guy out of the draft. I say that every year. You just don't know how that board is going to go."
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