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If all goes according to plan for the Green Bay Packers, quarterback Brett Hundley will never see the field in a regular-season game other than garbage time in a blowout.
Starter Aaron Rodgers, 33, has intentions of playing until at least 40. It would be highly unlikely that Hundley, 23, would wait that long for his shot barring a major injury to Rodgers in the next couple of years. Rodgers has started every game for the Packers the past three seasons.
So for the Packers’ front-office players, the appropriate question should be when not if they decide to make a move with Hundley.
Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf had some leverage to make such decisions himself with Brett Favre as his starter from 1992 through 2001. Despite Favre’s ironman nature and ability to play well through injury, Wolf continued to draft quarterbacks — seven in all — for coach Mike Holmgren to groom. On three occasions, Wolf traded them.
Mark Brunell, a fifth-round pick in 1993, was about the only challenger to the Favre throne over a 16-year period. During a rough patch early in Favre’s career, Holmgren had to be talked out of giving Brunell a chance. When Favre responded by playing better in 1994, the Packers dealt Brunell to the Jacksonville Jaguars just before the 1995 NFL Draft. Brunell had just 27 career pass attempts yet Wolf was able to get third- and fifth-round picks, which he turned into fullback William Henderson and running back and special teams standout Travis Jervey. Brunell went on to start 161 games (including the playoffs) for three teams.
The Packers also traded Matt Hasselbeck to the Holmgren-led Seattle Seahawks on March 2, 2001. Hasselbeck spent three years as a backup in Green Bay after being acquired with a sixth-round pick in 1998. He had only 29 career pass attempts in Green Bay but rode a couple of hot preseasons and familiarly with Holmgren into a starting job in Seattle. The Packers were able to move up seven spots in the first round (to No. 10 overall) and acquire a third-round pick for Hasselbeck in one of Wolf’s better trades. That was trumped, however, by his selections of Jamal Reynolds and Torrance Marshall with those picks. Both turned out to be major busts. Hasselbeck started 171 games with three teams over the next 15 years, including a trip to the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2005.
A year after drafting Hasselbeck, the Packers went even deeper, snagging Aaron Brooks with a fourth-round compensatory selection. The 1999 season might have been the deepest the quarterback position had ever been under Wolf, so a little over a year after he was drafted, Brooks was traded to the New Orleans Saints with tight end Lamont Hall for linebacker K.D. Williams and a 2001 third-round pick. The Packers parlayed that pick into a swap of picks with the San Francisco 49ers. Brooks started 92 games over the next seven years with the Saints and Oakland Raiders but only advanced to the postseason once.
While it remains to be seen if Hundley can sustain the same type of longevity, he certainly would seem to possess the pedigree to do so. Though he fell to the Packers in the fifth round in 2015, he had a standout career at UCLA. After a rough start to his rookie training camp, he came on strong in the preseason with a passer rating of 129.6 (highest among those with at least 30 attempts) and a league-leading seven touchdown passes. Last preseason, an ankle injury limited his game action but, by many accounts, he was continuing to grow under coach Mike McCarthy and alongside Rodgers working on the finer details of his game.
The Packers have more holes to fill on their roster than maybe anticipated with the loss of six free agents in the past week. Not counted in that group is the release of Sam Shields and James Starks last month. They have countered with signing three outside free agents — Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Davon House — and will most likely address other spots through the draft and with rookie free agents. Even then, however, they might need more help through methods unconventional to Ted Thompson.
Hundley’s rookie contract is set to expire after the 2018 season, so next year could be the key year if nothing happens in the next couple of months. While it is too early to predict which teams might be panning for quarterbacks next offseason, at least five projected starters for 2017 — Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr — are scheduled to become free agents. As of Wednesday, as many as six NFL teams could be looking for starting quarterbacks this coming season with Tony Romo in limbo and big-name veteran Jay Cutler available.
Hundley may not have the background of those two players or the demand on the trade market of, say, Jimmy Garapollo, but the Packers would be better off getting something for Hundley when they need it rather than nothing if he hits free agency. Given the free-agent exodus, the Packers might need to exhaust all possibilities to make sure they are “all-in” for this season.
In that case, it might mean shopping Hundley sooner rather than later.
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com