Sixth in a daily series looking at the Green Bay Packers' free agents in advance of the start of the 2016 league year March 9.
The days leading up to the start of last year’s free-agency period saw the Green Bay Packers cross two big needs off their list when they reached long-term deals with receiver Randall Cobb and right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
What’s often forgotten about that wacky weekend is how the Packers also tabbed Scott Tolzien to be their No. 2 quarterback one day before the former University of Wisconsin standout was scheduled to hit the open market.
In agreeing to a one-year, $1.35 million contract, the Packers anointed Tolzien as the backup to MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers over longtime backup Matt Flynn, who had served in that capacity since his return to Green Bay in November 2013.
While Tolzien never was forced into meaningful action, coach Mike McCarthy and position coach Alex Van Pelt lauded the 28-year-old quarterback for his improved throwing mechanics and footwork. Known for his tireless work ethic, Tolzien proved capable in assisting Rodgers and popular in the locker room.
Tolzien wasn’t the only other quarterback on the 53-man roster, though. Less than two months after re-signing Tolzien, the Packers traded up to take UCLA’s Brett Hundley in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft. He looked raw and out of sync during the offseason program, but hit his rhythm early in camp and never looked back.
Hundley finished the preseason with the highest passer rating of any rookie quarterback (129.6) after completing 45 of 65 passes for 630 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. In the months that have followed, McCarthy has spoken highly of Hundley’s maturity, athleticism and football acumen.
It begs the question of whether Hundley is ready to handle the No. 2 role next season? McCarthy seems to think so based on his comments at the NFL scouting combine, though he also was effusive in praise of Tolzien.
The Packers reverted to carrying two backup quarterbacks the past two seasons after Rodgers’ broken collarbone in 2013 threw the position into flux. However, the organization now has their best quarterback position since general manager Ted Thompson used a first-round pick on Rodgers in 2005.
Green Bay isn’t as flush with cap room as it has been in previous years. With a lot of internal free agents to deal with, the Packers may allow Tolzien to test the market before determining whether to bring him back. They also could decide to plow ahead with Hundley and go back to carrying only two quarterbacks on the active roster.
The only outside acquisition the Packers made after the season was bringing in former Miami quarterback Ryan Williams, who worked out for the team last season and has practice-squad eligibility.
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Scott Tolzien, 6th-year quarterback
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: 10 total (10 offense).
The stats: 1-for-1, 4 yards with one fumble.
2015 salary: $1.35 million.