GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There’s a difference between being ready to start an NFL game and actually getting a starting job.
If all goes as planned for the Packers, it will never happen for Hundley in Green Bay. Eventually, they may trade him away for a higher draft pick than the fifth-rounder they spent on him in 2015. His body of work combined with the quarterback market (see Mike Glennon) suggests that likely will happen before Hundley becomes a free agent in March 2019.
If Hundley continues on his current path, that draft pick will only become higher and Hundley’s bank account fatter. Glennon signed a three-year, $45 million contract last month with the Chicago Bears. It included $18.5 million guaranteed. All for a quarterback with 5-13 record as a part-time starter in Tampa Bay in 2014-15.
“I feel like as I keep playing and hopefully get a couple snaps in the regular season and show what I can do, it’ll keep growing,” Hundley said this week while taking part in the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour. “Right now I’ve just got to keep playing, stay focused. Obviously there’s a lot of quarterbacks getting deals, but my job is to just stay focused and play this game.”
For now, that means staying healthy so he can get more preseason work. Last summer he played in only one exhibition because of an ankle injury. That came a year after, as a rookie, he was one of the NFL’s best preseason quarterbacks. That summer, he led the league with 630 yards passing and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and one interception. It was that performance that helped convince Packers coach Mike McCarthy that Hundley could jump from the No. 3 quarterback into the role of Rodgers’ backup last season.
“You never really know until you get them into games; they have to play games,” McCarthy said recently at the NFL annual meetings. “I think the first challenge is when they play really well in preseason, you feel really good about that. When you put them into live action, I just go back through the years, I can remember Matt Hasselbeck in 1999 getting into a game. We were playing Denver in the preseason down in Madison, [and] he went in there and played extremely well. And a few weeks later, we were trading Rick Mirer to the Jets.”
The Packers didn’t draft Hundley to be Rodgers’ replacement, so it was a forgone conclusion that if Hundley developed like they thought he could, he would eventually be traded away. It’s just a matter of when. He has two more years left on his rookie contract, so next offseason might be the time for the Packers to make a move. They would have to trade him before the midseason deadline in 2018.
Rodgers, 33, doesn’t appear anywhere near the end of his run. McCarthy said last month at the NFL combine that he could see his quarterback doing what Tom Brady has done -- playing championship-level football as he approaches age 40.
“I for sure, 100 percent, think Aaron could play until he wants to,” Hundley said. “He’s done great things thus far, and last year was one of his best years. You can see he’s still growing and still Aaron Rodgers. So he’s going to be playing for a while. For me, I’m just keeping my head down, learning as much as I can, playing whenever I get my opportunity, making the most out of it. And we’ll see where it takes me from there.”