Quarterback shuffle: Packers ship Brett Hundley to Seattle, making DeShone Kizer the new No. 2
GREEN BAY — A day that ended with the Green Bay Packers signing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the most lucrative contract in NFL history began with a deal that sent his backup packing: A trade sending Brett Hundley to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick next year.
The Packers and Seahawks agreed to the deal Wednesday morning, although the Packers actually announced the deal in the afternoon, after Rodgers’ new four-year, $134 million extension had become official. The Packers’ official announcement said they received an “undisclosed” pick, but a league source confirmed the NFL Network’s report that they got a sixth-round selection from the Seahawks.
By dealing Hundley, who started nine games last season with Rodgers sidelined by a fractured right collarbone, the Packers made DeShone Kizer their top backup. Kizer was acquired from the Cleveland Browns in March in a deal that sent 2015 first-round draft pick Damarious Randall to the Browns — in a deal that general manager Brian Gutekunst did in part because he was very high on Kizer despite the Browns’ winless season last year, according to one league source.
Gutekunst wasn’t bothered by Kizer’s struggles with accuracy (53.9 completion percentage) or turnovers (a league-high 22 interceptions) last season.
“He’s a young quarterback who has an athletic skill set we look for. Exceptionally bright, very smart. He’s accurate with the football. He’s able to extend plays, make things out of nothing. I think he just needs time,” Gutekunst said of Kizer, who started 15 games as a rookie second-round pick. “The things we’ve always looked for in quarterbacks from a skill set and a wiring type he had, and that was intriguing to us.”
So far in preseason, Kizer has completed 27 of 53 passes (50.9 percent) for 403 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (88.8 rating).
“I definitely see progress and development and improvement,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Tuesday. “When you’re playing that position that DeShone’s playing … the last thing you want is to be paint-by-numbers, robotic at the quarterback position. There’s got to be some spontaneity there, there’s got to be some playmaking ability.
“I think a) he’s definitely improved fundamentally and b) it’s showing up on the tape. I think he’s played the game without being too robotic about it.”
ESPN reported that the Packers plan to keep Kizer and undrafted rookie free agent quarterback Tim Boyle on their 53-man roster when final cuts are made Saturday afternoon. Kizer and Boyle are set to man the quarterback position during tonight’s preseason finale at Kansas City, where Rodgers is not expected to play. Boyle has impressed with a strong arm after a nomadic, largely unproductive college career at UConn and Eastern Kentucky.
“He certainly has some arm talent, Tim,” Philbin said. “That’s been fun to watch. I think he’s gotten better, I think he’s improved since he’s been here. He’s a big guy, he’s got good arm talent, he throws the ball accurately, so it’s been good to see him get some work in the preseason. He’s made the most of his opportunities and we still have some time left and we’ll see what he can do.”
Asked last week whether he favored keeping two or three quarterbacks on the roster, Gutekunst replied, “I think you look at it as more of a team perspective — and you’re trying to do the best thing for the team. I come from a school where quarterback is pretty important and if you have guys that can play, you want to try to keep as many as you can and continue to develop them. … If we have guys that can play, we certainly want to keep them around.”
The trade was the second in less than a week by Gutekunst, who acquired inside linebacker Antonio Morrison from the Indianapolis Colts for cornerback Lenzy Pipkins on Sunday.
Hundley, a fifth-round pick in 2015 from UCLA who was entering the final year of his rookie deal, finishes his time in Green Bay having completed 194 of 326 passes (59.5 percent) for 1,853 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a 67.9 passer rating.
The Packers went 3-7 in the 10 games Hundley played, including their Oct. 15 loss at Minnesota when Rodgers broke his collarbone on the second offensive series of the game. The Packers were shut out twice at home with Hundley under center and watched as he failed to throw a single touchdown pass at Lambeau Field. The Packers’ three wins with Hundley at quarterback were over the Browns (0-16), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) and Chicago Bears (5-11) last season.
The Seahawks were in the market for a backup quarterback, as veteran Austin Davis and rookie seventh-round pick Alex McGough have not impressed this preseason.
“He’s played quite a bit and started a bunch of games last year. That’s a big part of it,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters in suburban Seattle. (At the time, the trade had not become official.) “He’s big, he runs well, he’s got a good arm, he’s got good vision of the field, he’s made a lot of big throws and big plays.
“He really gives you the thought that he could come in the game and keep it moving. So we thought it was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. … He’s also been in a really good program and coached really well. We think that exposure only helps him.
“I know he’s gained a lot through the time he’s been there. Being around Aaron and all that, it could only help you. Mike McCarthy is a great coach, and we have great respect for how they approach the game, so we know he has that in his background as well.”