The first wave of free agency is definitively over, and surprisingly, the Packers have already made a few moves. Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson have been signed, Jordy Nelson has been cut, Damarious Randall has been traded, and Morgan Burnett has been allowed to leave.
The Packers still have needs, though, and with the bargain-hunting period of free agency underway, we asked our writers what Brian Gutekunst should do next.
Shawn Wagner - Sign a Cornerback
I’m sure I’m going to sound like a broken record on this channel, but when will Green Bay sign a solid veteran cornerback?
I understand the team’s decision to stay out of the Trumaine Johnson and Malcolm Butler sweepstakes, as both players commanded salaries and commitments outside of what I would perceive their values to be. I get it. Corner is a premium position these days and the free agent market is not conducive to a team that desperately needs one. It’s detracted from the Packers’ interest in the past. I was surprised when Green Bay swung and missed on the Bears’ Kyle Fuller as it represented a significant, uncharacteristic leap of faith.
But after years of struggles with replacing players with both drafted and undrafted rookies and marginal returns from one-year, low-to-middle-tiered players like Davon House, I expected Green Bay to be more aggressive in the cornerback realm. Instead, the Packers’ biggest transaction was trading away Damarious Randall. Now, they are looking to lean on underwhelming players such as Quinten Rollins, Demetri Goodson, Lenzy Pipkins, and Herb Waters to be a number two corner. Sure, the Packers could draft another player to line up opposite Kevin King (a hopeful number one) on the outside, but, scheme change or not, isn’t that a continuation of past struggles?
There was an opportunity for a one-year deal with up-and-coming Rashaan Melvin. There were admittedly less optimal opportunities for short-term deals with Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick, and Vontae Davis. But right now, it looks like Green Bay will settle for a one-year deal with the aging House and Tramon Williams despite younger, experienced talents like E.J. Gaines and Ross Cockrell still on the board.
A hole became a crater this offseason at cornerback and Green Bay still hasn’t addressed a position that will keep it from truly contending in 2018, especially with the unknowns at pass rusher and safety.
Mike Vieth – Sign a Cornerback and a Guard
After a wild start (by Green Bay standards) to free agency I think things will definitely slow down now that we’re a month before the draft. I like what Brian Gutekunst has done so far and his moves should make a nice improvement for the 2018 season. While I don’t think the Packers will do much, if anything, before the draft, there are some areas that could need some work.
The most glaring need is at cornerback. While there is some potential with the young guys on the roster, the Packers don’t have anyone that is a proven commodity. Bashaud Breeland and EJ Gaines lead the available corners as far as proven talent goes but they don’t seem to be getting much attention at this point in free agency.
Breeland had a deal in place with the Panthers but that was nixed when he failed the physical because of a foot injury that will need a skin graft to repair the injury. So, who knows if another team will take the chance on him right now until that is repaired? I’m not sure Gaines would be the best fit with Mike Pettine’s defense as Pettine likes to use more of a press-man coverage and Gaines has had more success with zone coverage schemes. Another name could be Ross Cockrell. He seems like a young player that could be someone looking to break out with a new team after playing with the Giants this past season.
If the Packers don’t do anything to address the cornerback position early in the draft, I think we also could see a reunion with a familiar face in Davon House or even Tramon Williams.
I think the guard position on the offensive line could also be a potential place the Packers might look to add a player. Justin McCray and Jason Spriggs filled in last year along the offensive line when others went down with injuries and if the Packers are ready to commit to one of them going forward I can understand giving them a chance.
If the Packers are not willing to commit to these two I think Jahri Evans would be a wise move to return. He knows the scheme and played well last year for Mike McCarthy’s offense.
The Packers still have some needs to address before the season starts and, with the draft only a month away, they may wait and see what they get there before adding any other players. Any way we look at it though, expect the Packers to make a couple more moves…eventually.
Paul Noonan - Sign a Cornerback
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the entire Packer secondary is flying on a wing and a prayer, but that wing is on fire, and the prayer was answered...by Satan.
The fact is that defense is a math problem. The time it takes for your pass rush to sack a QB or force a throw = X, the time your secondary can reasonably cover = Y, and if Y > X, your defense is good. The Packers have thus far spent the offseason culling the secondary of talent, sending their best corner to Cleveland for a guy who hopefully never plays (DeShone Kizer), and losing Morgan Burnett for less money than they were paying him on his last contract. Y is like, 2 seconds as we currently stand, and unless Muhammad Wilkerson gains the ability to rush the passer at close to the speed of light, the pass rush won’t be able to save this group. Plus, if Wilkerson moved that quickly he would, by the established laws of relativity, gain mass and the gravitational pull would crush the earth into a black hole, dooming humanity to extinction.
In each scenario, the team is starting from scratch at corner, and adding at least one veteran in free agency is imperative to mitigate the risk of an all-rookie unit next year. I hope they have a plan because so far their plan looks terrible.
Jon Meerdink - Sign a Cornerback and Eric Reid
Clearly, the Packers need help at corner, and they need help to an extent that probably can’t be fixed through the draft alone. Without a doubt, the Packers should do all they can to add talent to their cornerback group. Heck, the Packers should probably just look to add people to their cornerback group. Currently, they have six on the roster, and of those, two missed all of last season with injuries, two more ended the season on injured reserve, and the others are Josh Hawkins and Lenzy Pipkins.
Having echoed what everyone else has said, let me also add this: the Packer should sign Eric Reid.
[Yes, Reid participated in the controversial-for-stupid-reasons protests last season. If you were bothered by that, just start typing your angry replies in the comments now. I’m not going to try to change your mind.]
Clearly, the Packers didn’t believe Morgan Burnett would be a significant factor in their secondary in 2018 since they didn’t even attempt to match or outdo Pittsburgh’s relatively paltry offer.
But Reid could be a factor. He’s just as versatile as Burnett and happens to be three years younger. Adding him to the roster would allow the Packers to deploy Josh Jones creatively without having to rely exclusively on Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans to shore up the back end of the defense. Or, the Packers could utilize Reid in the hybrid role occupied by Burnett and Jones in 2017 and allow Jones to roam deep. Reid can even play slot corner on occasion.
Either way, he’d be a quality, versatile addition to the secondary group. Given the soft market for safeties so far, he could also be an affordable one.