While the NFL draft injects talent into the league, it doesn't create new jobs. Inevitably, rookies will take roster spots away from veterans.
That process unofficially began in Green Bay when rookie camp opened this weekend. In addition to the 80-some contracted players, the Packers tried out several more. Now that the 90-man roster appears set, the death march towards 53 can begin in earnest.
Even at this stage, many wonder which rookies will win 53 spots and play prominent roles. However, the other side of that coin is just as intriguing; which veterans could lose their jobs to rookies?
Here are five Packers that could be looking over their shoulder the next few months.
While Jarrett Bush has long been a whipping boy among Packers fans, he's carved out a respectable career as a special teams ace and reserve defensive back. Most years, Ted Thompson brings in some challengers at the position, and Bush either beats them out or the team creates an extra corner spot on the 53.
While it's not smart to bet against Bush, 2014 brings his biggest roster challenge yet. Clearly ahead of him are Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, Casey Hayward, and Micah Hyde. Davon House most likely also stands ahead of him on the depth chart. The Packers have carried six corners before (2013 most recently), but that doesn't guarantee that they do so again this season.
And that's even before considering Demetri Goodson. A sixth-round selection in this past year's draft, the Packers have expressed considerable excitement regarding Goodson, especially position coach Joe Whitt. "I like the kid's skill set. He's a guy that has the chance to be a good player down the road. I like [that Goodson is raw], because there are not a lot of bad habits that you have to erase. They are what you coach."
So if the Packers are to keep six cornerbacks, it probably involves Bush beating out a rookie draft pick and possibly even House. He's capable of doing it, but it's a tough ask.
A few weeks ago when we put together our post-draft 53/depth chart projection, only three tight ends made the cut. That was before the Packers tried out and subsequently signed Colt Lyerla and the recent developments in the Jermichael Finley saga. In other words, the tight end competition could be a street fight. Consequently, at least one veteran tight end will be left of the final roster come September.
The two veteran tight ends on the bubble are Brandon Bostick and Ryan Taylor. The former enters his third year in Green Bay as a developmental tight end. His athleticism has enamored the Packers' coaching staff, but with Richard Rodgers and the aforementioned Lyerla and Finley either on the roster or working to rejoin it, Bostick will need more to stick around. Ryan Taylor has an established role on special teams, but he's yet to develop into the pass catcher the Packers had hoped for. That so many of the other tight ends struggle with blocking works in his favor, but that alone won't guarantee him a roster spot this year.
As with the tight end position, the increased level of competition projects to squeeze out one or more outside linebackers who've played significant roles previously. Just a year ago, the arrival of sixth-round pick Nate Palmer and undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba forced out Dezman Moses, the Packers' third-leading sacker in 2012. Now that same dynamic might work against Palmer and Mulumba.
The first move against Mulumba and Palmer came when the Packers signed Julius Peppers in free agency. While not solely a linebacker, the team plans to give Peppers plenty of snaps there opposite Clay Matthews. In the fourth-round of the draft, the Packers added Arizona pass rusher Carl Bradford. The team also signed Adrian Hubbard and Jay Elliott as undrafted free agents shortly thereafter. With Nick Perry also in the mix for snaps, competition will be steep.
Our last 53/depth chart projection had the Packers keeping only five outside linebackers. With Matthews, Peppers, Perry, and the rookie Bradford all expected to make the roster, that leaves one available spot at the position. This would normally favor Palmer and Mulumba who registered a combined 561 snaps last season. However, Green Bay plans to utilize a 4-3 under defensive look a fair amount in 2014. Accordingly, longer players who are better able to put their hand in the dirt and contribute at elephant end may ultimately earn the roster spot. Neither Palmer nor Mulumba are taller than 6-3, while Hubbard stands as a towering 6-6. If Hubbard shows promise, it'll be hard to the Packers to cut him lose given his versatility.