As Acme Packing Company continues its look at the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster, we move from examining the returning outside linebackers to the ones that joined the team in the offseason.
Even with Clay Matthews returning to the edge this season, the Packers needed to land some young talent at outside linebacker for the future. Julius Peppers could retire at the end of the 2016 season while Nick Perry and Datone Jones have the opportunity to depart in free agency. The team's third-round pick headlines the group, which also includes the rare unrestricted-free-agent signing.
Kyler Fackrell, No. 51
H/W: 6-foot-5, 250 pounds
School: Utah State
2015 stats: 83 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
When the Packers selected Fackrell in the third round, many projected him to take over Mike Neal's former role in the defense. However, though the Utah State product should absorb a good deal of the vacated snaps, he lacks the mass Neal and the team's other "elephant" linebackers possess. Rather, Fackrell better fits the "Sam" linebacker position, the same one now occupied by Matthews.
In Year 1, Green Bay expects to use Fackrell as Matthews primary backup while developing him into a future starter. Though his length makes him an intriguing project, his age (25 in November) limits his ceiling. Likewise, the knee reconstruction Fackrell underwent in 2013 has robbed him of some of his athleticism. As such, while he could still become a useful player, he may end up as a complimentary piece rather than a future field-tilter.
Lerentee McCray, No. 55
H/W: 6-foot-3, 249 pounds
2015 stats: 52 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 3 sacks
The Packers made one true unrestricted-free-agent signing this offseason: former Denver Broncos linebacker Lerentee McCray. McCray played sparingly during his three NFL seasons, accumulating just 21 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks during his limited defensive action. By putting compensatory picks on the line for the linebacker, general manager Ted Thompson appears to believe McCray might have greater impact in Green Bay if given a larger role. Alternatively, the Packers may have signed him simply to reinforce their special teams units. Either way, McCray stands good chance of making the final roster.
Reggie Gilbert, No. 46
H/W: 6-foot-4, 262 pounds
School: Idaho State
2015 stats: 41 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks
If the Packers decide to retain another undrafted-free-agent edge rusher, Arizona's Reggie Gilbert appears best positioned to take advantage. Gilbert lacks top-tier athleticism, which helps explain why no team called his name during the draft. However, his length and additional mass make him appealing as a run stopper with the ability to rush the passer, a role that kept Neal in Green Bay for six seasons.