There were a lot of unknowns at the outside linebacker position heading into the 2017 season for the Green Bay Packers.
The departures of Datone Jones and Julius Peppers left the Packers young and unproven at the position outside of Nick Perry and Clay Matthews, but there remained a certain sense of confidence within the organization that the youth would step up. With the additions of a Wisconsin fan favorite during the draft and steady edge rushing threat via free agency, Green Bay made an attempt to beef up its outside linebacker depth.
Unfortunately for the Packers, three external moves resulted in just 1.5 sacks and Green Bay will search for pass rushers once again in the 2018 offseason.
How Acquired: Street free agent (cut by San Francisco); one-year, $3.5 million
2017 Stats: 19 total tackles; 1.5 sacks; 2 passes deflected
The former Pro Bowler Brooks was a surprising 49er casualty at the end of the preseason and Green Bay moved swiftly to sign the veteran. After tallying at least five sacks in every season since 2009, Packer fans hoped for even another five-sack season to help the defense generate a stronger pass rush in 2017.
But it was a disappointing season from Brooks who, despite creating occasional pressures, finished with just a sack and a half. A durable player, Brooks played his fewest games since 2008 - 12 - and made five starts in injury replacement of Perry and Matthews. Injuries noticeably slowed Brooks as well in what may be the start of his decline at age 33. Although he figures to be a cap-friendly signing this offseason, it’s difficult to imagine Brooks on the Green Bay roster next season.
How Acquired: 2017 4th-round draft pick (#108 overall)
2017 Stats: 16 total tackles; 0 sacks
The former Wisconsin Badger was a unique draft pick for Green Bay after passing on Biegel’s edge rushing counterpart T.J. Watt in the first round. The pick also checked a box in the “need” department with internal free agents moving on after the regular season.
Biegel, however, was smitten by the injury bug early on, requiring foot surgery after rookie camp in May. A stop on the Physically Unable to Perform List followed for Biegel, who didn’t make his NFL debut until November. When he did return to action, Biegel was quiet, totaling just 16 tackles and zero sacks while adjusting to an NFL learning curve. While he did progress as the season closed in setting the edge in the running game and creating a push as a rusher, Biegel has a ways to go in becoming more consistent in each phase and did not have any one single trait that stood out.
Being a full participant in offseason camps will be important for the inexperienced Biegel to become the more polished edge rusher that the Packers desperately need. Right now, he’s more Kyler Fackrell than Watt.
How Acquired: Claimed off waivers (Atlanta); three-years, $1.665 million
2017 Stats: 6 total tackles; 0 sacks
Odom was a surprise post-training camp signing by Green Bay simply for the fact that the Packers traded Jayrone Elliott to make room for him. After a promising preseason for the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay hoped for a surprise spark from the undrafted rookie.
Surprisingly, Odom and Reggie Gilbert saw limited defensive snaps in the regular season despite a struggling Packers pass rush. Odom played in parts of seven games for Green Bay with a total of 59 defensive snaps. Scheduled to return to the Packers to fight for a roster spot in 2018, Odom’s development remains a wait-and-see.