With the Cleveland Browns hitting the trade market hard in advance of free agency, the Green Bay Packers decided to get involved. On Friday, the two teams agreed to a trade involving cornerback Damarious Randall and quarterback DeShone Kizer, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Green Bay and Cleveland will also swap picks in the fourth and fifth rounds of the upcoming NFL draft, giving the Packers the opening selection of Day 3 for the second consecutive year.
The Browns had already agreed to deals for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry and Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor when they hammered out a trade for Randall. While the move came without warning, connecting the dots doesn’t require much investigation. New Cleveland general manager John Dorsey and his recently tabbed top deputies Eliot Wolf and Alonzo Highsmith all established their scouting careers in Green Bay, with the latter two working for the Packers when they selected Randall in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Randall endured an up-and-down Packers career. After a promising rookie campaign, he regressed sharply in 2016, a downturn that carried over into the early part of last season. Head coach Mike McCarthy benched Randall during a Week 5 matchup with the Chicago Bears, lending to speculation that the corner had worn out his in Green Bay. To his credit, Randall bounced back to deliver four interceptions (including a pick-six against the Dallas Cowboys) after the demotion.
Still, Randall’s play down the stretch apparently didn’t convince new Packers GM Brian Gutekunst. With the corner entering the final year of his rookie contract with a decision on his fifth-year option pending, Green Bay decided to flip him ahead of free agency, thus cementing cornerback as one of the team’s biggest areas of need. As it stands, two of the Packers’ top returning options come off significant injuries (Kevin King and Quinten Rollins) while another didn’t play a snap in 2017 (Demetri Goodson).
As for the player headed to Green Bay in the swap, Kizer represents a buy-low candidate to challenge Brett Hundley for the right to backup Aaron Rodgers. Expectations for Hundley built to a fever pitch over his first three offseasons, with the quarterback expressing hopes that he could eventually garner a first-round pick for the Packers in a trade. Those dreams came crashing down in 2017 as Hundley’s played poorly as the starter while Rodgers recovered from a broken collarbone.
Though Kizer struggled last season as well, he did so surrounded by considerably less talent in Cleveland. The Packers reportedly coveted the young signal-caller coming out of the draft, an idea reinforced by Friday’s trade. If McCarthy and his coaching staff can iron out Kizer’s issues, the team will find itself in a more favorable position should Rodgers suffer another injury.
From a grander scope, the trade of Randall and the incoming competition for Hundley serve as the latest repudiation of the Packers’ 2015 draft class. All of the defensive selections have either departed Green Bay or failed to carve out a full-time role and only the multi-positional Ty Montgomery has made much of a dent on offense. While the Packers bounced back in their more recent drafts -- Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez look like long-term fixtures of the defense and the backfield combination of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones showed considerable promise last season -- their mistakes in the draft three years ago contributed to their 7-9 campaign in 2017.