While the biggest names in free agency have signed new deals, some important decisions have yet to be made. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams will soon decide whether to re-sign with the Green Bay Packers or depart for a more enticing offer elsewhere
If he chooses the latter, it leaves the Packers with a significant void at outside cornerback. Of the players currently on the roster, only Sam Shields lined up along the perimeter for more than half of his snaps. That means the team must either push a slot corner into a new role or find someone new to play opposite Shields.
So what can the Packers do if Williams leaves? Let's consider their options.
Since joining the Packers as a second round pick in 2012, Casey Hayward has served primarily as a slot cornerback. He shined as a rookie, intercepting a team-best six passes and holding quarterbacks to a 30.4 rating on balls thrown in his direction per Pro Football Focus. A stubborn hamstring injury limited Hayward to just three games the following year, and though he performed well when called upon this past season, Micah Hyde ate into a significant portion of his snaps.
At the same time, Hayward does have some experience playing outside. When Shields missed six games in 2012, Hayward rotated between his spot and the slot. Hayward took some snaps for Shields again when a knee injury sidelined the starter for two games in 2014. Hayward doesn't profile as a big press corner nor is he a speed merchant, the two cornerback archetypes the Packers prefer along the boundaries, but he likely wouldn't embarrass himself there either.
Like Hayward, Micah Hyde has spent a large percentage of his time working in the slot. However, Hyde's larger frame (6'0", 197 pounds) and positional flexibility makes him a more complicated evaluation.
Because of his size and willingness to play physical, he might work as a press man opposite Shields. That said, he performs better the closer he is to the football, which is why he translates so well to the slot. Leaving Hyde on the perimeter with only a safety shaded over could prove problematic while also negatively affecting the run defense. While the Packers may consider Hyde if Williams doesn't re-sign, the experiment may be short lived.
A lot of attention was paid to Demetri Goodson after Green Bay plucked him in the sixth round of the last year's draft. Goodson possesses decent size (5'11", 197 pounds) and speed (4.44 second 40) and could become a player in his second year. What isn't clear is whether the team is grooming the former Baylor Bear to become a regular in the secondary or as a replacement for free agent special teamer Jarrett Bush.
An unfamiliar name to many, Tay Glover-Wright may have a brighter future than the aforementioned Goodson. Undrafted in 2014, Glover-Wright signed on with the Atlanta Falcons. He was released during the first wave of preseason cuts and waited two months before earning a spot on Green Bay's practice squad. He remained there for the rest of the season.
Glover-Wright entered the NFL as an extremely raw player, but his athleticism suggests a high ceiling if developed correctly. Packers assistant Joe Whitt has already turned a cavalcade of similarly underdeveloped athletes into starting corners. Glover-Wright may not turn into Shields, but he could become an important contributor in Green Bay.
It's no secret that Packers general manager Ted Thompson doesn't like to sign free agents from other teams. Generally speaking, such players command too much money, they need to be integrated into the scheme and such signings exhaust funds that could be used to retain Green Bay's own players. When Thompson has made an exception, it has usually been for players that were cut by other teams rather than unrestricted free agents, a strategy that keeps the signings from affecting the team's comp picks.
In terms of the remaining cornerback market, there isn't any player remaining that has significant starting experience and is a "street" free agent. While that doesn't completely preclude the Packers from adding someone, there's no reason to suspect a signing will happen.
Marcus Peters (Washington)
With long arms, good instincts and experience playing against the wide-open offenses of Pac-12, Marcus Peters could prove an excellent stand in for Williams. He is well built at 6'0", 197 pounds and possesses above average athleticism for the position. Peters is also a willing run defender, something that can't always be said of top-flight corners.
The main red flags surrounding Peters are his maturity and the nebulous "character concern" tag. He was thrown off the Washington football team after an alleged altercation with his coaches. While the school denies this, NFL scouts believe it to be true. Still, Washington has decided to include Peters in its April 2 pro day, suggesting that the issues may have been overblown.
Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest)
Kevin Johnson would be getting more attention as one of the best athletes in this year's cornerback draft class if not for his 40 time. Johnson ran the drill in a respectable 4.52 seconds, but that's hardly a time that stands out next to Trae Waynes' 4.31 or Ronald Darby's 4.38. Still, Johnson led the group with a 41.5" vertical leap, a 130" broad jump, a 6.79 second 3-cone drill and 3.89 second 20-yard shuffle.
That reflects what he shows on tape, a quick-twitch athlete with smooth movement skills. He also shows good instincts and a willingness to initiate contact in run support. With three years of starting experience under his belt and good size for the position, Johnson checks a lot of boxes.