SANTA CLARA, Calif. (WNCN) – The guy who should have been the heir-apparent to breaking all of Shane Carden’s records at East Carolina University will now have another shot at an NFL roster after joining the San Francisco 49ers practice squad.
Kurt Benkert, who was a true freshman for the Pirates in 2013 and a reserve in 2014, will have the opportunity to backup Jimmy Garoppolo now that starter Trey Lance underwent season-ending surgery for a fractured ankle suffered Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
Benkert officially enrolled early at ECU in Jan. 2013 and participated in spring drills to “expedite the learning process of the Pirates’ offensive scheme” and be a member of the team.
Then, in 2014, he appeared in three games as a reserve, scoring two touchdowns and being an efficient 60 percent in the red zone.
But, he became a shocking transfer out of the Pirates’ program after recovering from a torn ACL and surgery following the 2015 season. He transferred to the University of Virginia after ECU threatened to deploy a two-quarterback system, Hoist the Colours reported in 2019.
Benkert tore his ACL one week before the Pirates’ opener, forcing ECU to use Blake Kemp and James Summers as emergency quarterbacks that year after Carden’s graduation from the program.
After not becoming bowl eligible, head coach Ruffin McNeill was fired.
In that same article from Hoist the Colours, Benkert admitted to transferring to Virginia to finish out his collegiate career with McNeill, who was hired as an assistant coach with the Cavaliers.
Post-college, Benkert has had stints with both the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons. However, neither stint has been significant. He has appeared in just one game, with the Packers.
However, the 49ers really only have one veteran quarterback on its roster in Garoppolo.
Despite San Francisco OK’ing him to seek a trade on July 26, it ultimately re-signed him for one year, and the decision couldn’t have come at a better time. Had the 49ers not, they’d only have Brock Purdy, a four-year starter out of Iowa State, on their roster.
Garoppolo was due to make $24.2 million this season with a cap hit of just under $27 million, but his new deal has him making $6.5 million with a cap hit just under $14 million.
Meanwhile, Lance is making approximately $5.3 million with a cap hit of $10.8 million on his rookie deal.
ESPN reported Monday that San Francisco was looking to add another signal-caller, and on Tuesday, it landed with Benkert.
“We’ll see what’s out there,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said to ESPN. “We definitely need to get a guy in here for practice squad because we need a third man up in case something happens, because he’s one play away from being the backup and he’s two plays away from being our starter.”