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Restricted Free Agency: Packers Face Difficult Decision with Boyle

Talented Tim Boyle has emerged as a quality quarterback but will be in the Green Bay Packers' plans in 2021?
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers has had a lot of backups during his sensational run as the Green Bay Packers’ starting quarterback. Few are more revered than Tim Boyle.

At a time when Rodgers purportedly should have been sulking over the presence of first-round pick Jordan Love, Rodgers and Boyle instead spent parts of training camp engaging in WWE-style wrestling matches.

It was a fun summer for Boyle, who with two years in the NFL and one year in coach Matt LaFleur’s system easily beat out Love to be Rodgers’ backup.

“I don’t think a lot of people understand just the backup’s role on a game week is to support the room,” Boyle said during training camp. “Obviously, that starts with me being there for Aaron and doing what he needs me to do from a test standpoint or watching film and seeing how a corner plays a certain ball. But my job is to be there and support him. I think last year, I came into myself a little bit and got comfortable. I was able to speak openly and I wasn’t that shy anymore. I felt like I had a voice and I felt respected, which was nice. But being around ‘12’ is helpful from a mental standpoint and a physical standpoint. I felt like it came to me last year. I felt comfortable being in the room and I felt respected, which was obviously appreciated.”

Boyle has grown by leaps and bounds. At Connecticut and then Eastern Kentucky, Boyle statistically had one of the worst collegiate careers for any starter in at least the past couple decades. With obvious talent and a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic, he has made himself an intriguing quarterback prospect. But, after crushing touted former Notre Dame star DeShone Kizer to be the backup in training camp 2019, Boyle was crushed on draft night in April when he saw the Packers had drafted Love.

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“I was with a good friend of mine and my two sisters out by my fire at my house,” Boyle recalled. “It was late. I can still remember it. Honestly, it’s probably a feeling I’ll never forget. Just, obviously, seeing the name ‘Jordan Love’ pop up and my heart drops a little bit. But, at that point, it’s out of your control and it’s time to go back to work. That’s how I approached my offseason was I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I’m here to compete and have a good timing doing it and bring some smiles to the party and be the best quarterback I can be. By no means is it Jordan’s fault or anyone’s fault. Jordan’s a great guy and we’re obviously very lucky to have him. I think at first, it was a little shocking just from an, ‘Oh, man, we got a first-round quarterback’ and all those thoughts rush into your head but then you settle down and go back to work.”

Where will Boyle be working next season is the million-dollar question. Actually, it’s the $2.133 million question. That’s the projected cost for the Packers to tender Boyle as a restricted free agent next month following a season in which he “rushed” 13 times for minus-9 yards and was sacked once and fumbled on his only dropback.

Under normal circumstances, it might be a no-brainer for the Packers to tender Boyle. The team could either go into the 2021 season with a quarterbacking trio of Rodgers, Love and Boyle again, or Boyle could put together a strong preseason to make him a viable trade candidate. These aren’t normal circumstances, though. Due to COVID-19, the salary cap is expected to fall sharply and the Packers might have to slash millions of dollars’ worth of salary to get below the cap by the start of the league-year on March 17.

Thus, the Packers might have no other choice but to let Boyle become an unrestricted free agent. With an MVP season for Rodgers and the enormous investment in Love in terms of draft picks (first and fourth round) and money ($12.38 million guaranteed), Boyle likely would see his path to playing time coming with a split from his tag-team partner.

As quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy put it, “This game still comes down to getting on the field on game days and seeing what you can do.”

That’s true for Boyle, whose path to the playing field has been blocked, and for the team, which needs Love to move up the depth chart.