With the Green Bay Packers missing out (or choosing not to put forth much effort) on signing free agent edge rusher Connor Barwin, the options to add a veteran presence to the team’s outside linebacker group have dwindled considerably. The top names are off the board, and although the Packers did lock up Nick Perry for five years, a steady presence could help with the rotation at the position in 2017.
Enter a few veterans who remain on the market and who are looking for new homes next season. We examine a couple of the players still available in free agency by breaking down their careers and looking at what they could bring to an NFL team — the Packers in particular — next season.
Career stats: 11 seasons; 146 games played, 99.0 sacks, 23 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, 354 total tackles (255 solo)
The diminutive pass-rusher made his name in Denver, where he starred for his first seven seasons before moving on to Baltimore in 2014. In a span of six years between 2009 and 2014, Dumervil was one of the leagues most-feared edge rushers; he missed one season (2010) due to a torn pectoral muscle, but he racked up 9.5 sacks in each season that he played, including two years of 17 sacks. In those five years, he averaged 12.8 sacks per season and almost three forced fumbles.
In the past two seasons, his playing time has dipped as he worked into more of a time share, but he has sacked the quarterback nine times in the past two years. On a limited snap count or working mainly as a sub package edge rusher, he could be a productive player on a moderate salary.
Career stats: 15 seasons; 209 games played, 122.5 sacks, 46 forced fumbles, 23 fumble recoveries, 330 total tackles (281 solo)
Much like Julius Peppers, Freeney has been a disruptive force for a long time in the NFL. The two are roughly the same age and have put up relatively similar production, though Peppers is a bit ahead in most categories. Still, Freeney proved last season in Atlanta that he can still get after the quarterback in limited reps, and he should be looking to play for a playoff contender once again.
Age: 27 (turns 28 in November)
Career stats: 4 seasons; 61 games played, 15.0 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 93 total tackles (70 solo)
Of the veteran pass-rushers available. Taylor is the youngest but he is also the biggest. Where Dumervil and Freeney both are around 6 feet (or a shade under), Taylor measures in at a lengthy 6’7” and 275 pounds. That could make him an ideal size to play the hybrid elephant end position that the Packers have utilized in recent years with Peppers and Datone Jones. Taylor could provide some rush off the edge on base downs, then shift to the interior in passing situations.
However, Taylor has struggled at times in his production and consistency. His career high in sacks game in 2015 with seven, but when he finally got a crack at a full-time starting job in 2016 he registered just 4.5. In addition (for those who put some stock in these numbers), Pro Football Focus gave him one of the lowest grades among edge rushers in this year’s free agent class. Perhaps a change of scenery could do Taylor well, however.
Adding to the fun: Taylor was the player who was flagged for a facemask penalty on Aaron Rodgers in the 2015 game that ended with Richard Rodgers’ Hail Mary catch.
Since these players are all unlikely to draw a contract that would break the bank, they likely would not jeopardize any of the Packers’ projected compensatory picks for 2018.