As the NFL season comes to a close, we begin to look forward to potential roster pickups to help build on the Packers’ 2016 successes. It’s old news by now that Green Bay struggled significantly on defense to stay healthy this season and ultimately injuries cost the team a trip to the Super Bowl.
It’s likely the Packers will select a CB early in this years draft, with Sidney Jones (Washington) or Tre’Davious White (LSU) as possible targets as mentioned by Acme Packing Company writer Owen Riese in a recent article.
In addition to adding more young talent, taking a chance on veteran CBs or OLBs could help to add more experience to the roster the Packers so badly need. A recent article published by Spotrac.com lists potential players whose contracts make them good candidates to be released in 2017, a few of whom could be a good fit for Green Bay. The Packers currently have just over $31M in cap space and could add to that if they cut Sam Shields who is owed $9 million, James Starks $3 million in 2017.
Below is a list of possible cap casualty pickups for the Packers; perhaps there is even another Charles Woodson or Julius Peppers hiding in the bunch.
Of the defensive backs on this list there are three players that stick out as possible options for Green Bay - New York Giant Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Indianapolis Colt Vontae Davis and Baltimore Raven Ladarius Webb.
The first, Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, could be cut by the Giants if they reach their salary cap. At 30 years old, DRC is still a very solid option in the backfield that could step in quickly as a starting CB. Last season, DRC was one of the Giants' key playmakers in the secondary recording six interceptions and further proving his worth when he left with an injury in the playoff game against Green Bay. Rodgers-Cromartie is in his ninth season and has a $8.5M cap in 2017, $4.5M of which the Giants would save should he be cut.
The second viable option would be Colts CB Vontae Davis who is his eighth season. At 28 years old, Davis has a $10.25M cap figure, $9M of which the Colts could save if they released him. While the Colts defense struggled in the last few years, finishing 20th or worst in four of the last five seasons, Davis has been an up and down player. Indianapolis struggled to find a CB to match up with Davis but alongside Quinten Rollins or Damarious Randall, Davis could find a bit of stability.
The last and arguably least likely target is Baltimore FS LaDarius Webb who is in his eighth season. Webb was moved to the free safety position last year after spending his entire career at CB. Despite being one of Baltimore’s more experienced defensive backs, the Ravens are tight against the salary cap this season and are on the hook for $7.5M if they decide to stick with Webb. Baltimore is a team that is not afraid to let key players walk if necessary and Webb could easily be the team’s next big causalty, saving them $5.5M in cap space. If Webb can move back successfully to the CB position, he could be a stable pickup for Green Bay.
At 37 years old, it’s likely OLB Julius Peppers could head into retirement before the beginning of the 2017 season. There are also talks of Peppers possibly finishing out his career where it began in Carolina. Either way, it’s not looking likely he’ll return to Green Bay.
If the Packers do not draft a CB in the first round, they are likely to draft an OLB to fill the hole left by Peppers. As we’ve seen in the recent past, Clay Matthews has performed better at the inside position. In order to move Clay back to the inside, we could see the Packers pick up a veteran and add more depth to that position.
One player the Packers may look at is Eagles’ OLB Connor Barwin. Barwin is 30 years old and if not cut, will account for $8.35M against the cap. Cutting Barwin would save Philadelphia $7.75M. Despite having a down year in 2016 (due to the Eagles switching to a 4-3 defense) Barwin was a high performer in the three years prior as a 3-4 OLB. With Peppers out, Barwin could be a nice match for Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
San Francisco OLB Ahmad Brooks could be another off-season target for the Packers. Brooks signed a six-year extension with the 49ers in 2012 and has been a steady performer since. With the 49ers going through major organizational changes it wouldn’t be surprising to see them cut a few high-priced veterans during their rebuilding process. By cutting Brooks they would save $7.8M. Although on the slightly older end at 32 years old, Brooks could be a decent player in Green Bay for at least a few years.
The Packers clearly need to add a decent amount of depth to the defense this season in order to be legitimate playoff contenders. With a few good draft selections and some more veteran playmakers on the roster like the ones mentioned here, the Packers could easily and realistically be headed down the road to the Super Bowl once again.