Shockwaves were sent throughout the sports world in early July with the announcement that LeBron James would be joining the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2018 season. In just the past week, the Milwaukee Brewers have been swirling in trade rumors for the services of Manny Machado, Jacob deGrom, and others prior to the baseball trade deadline.
That got this writer thinking - which semi-realistic acquisition would place the Green Bay Packers in a more prominent position as the NFL approaches preseason action? There are countless possibilities, but here are some thoughts.
Sign Dez Bryant
Let’s start with one of the more obvious moves: the signing of former Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant. Toward the end of May, Aaron Rodgers did not seem optimistic or overjoyed about the chances of the 29-year old veteran joining the Packers.
“Well, we like young receivers so I’m assuming that’s the way [the organization is] going to keep going. I don’t know why you’d cut Jordy and bring in Dez. But he’s a talented player and he’s going to end up somewhere. If he ends up here, obviously we will welcome him with open arms and get him up to speed as quick as possible.”
But the move makes sense for a few reasons at this juncture.
There remains a certain degree of doubt that Geronimo Allison or a Packers rookie can step up and be a viable third receiver for this year’s squad. Allison had just 23 catches for 253 yards a season ago and never quite made an impact after Rodgers went down with injury. While that bond with Rodgers could certainly help Allison rekindle a bit of the late spark he showed as a rookie, the jury is skeptical. With Randall Cobb a more clear fit for the slot role than Allison, that likely puts Allison on the outside opposite Davante Adams. Does that strike fear in the opposing secondary?
The early answer would be no, but adding Bryant begins to turn the tide. Injuries have been a constant battle for Bryant as of late, but he needs to find a team with training camp set to begin this month. A safe, affordable, one-year deal is a win for the Packers and a potential selling point for Bryant in free agency a year from now after playing with a skillful quarterback. Adding a former Pro Bowl talent at this point could bring more proven production to the Green Bay receiving cast.
Sign Elvis Dumervil
The question for this writer is if a Dumervil signing is too similar to the Ahmad Brooks deal a year ago. Both from San Francisco, both with roughly six sacks the season before, and both beginning to age with Dumervil now 34. But as the former All-Pro sits on the open market, the Packers have the same questions about their depth at pass rusher as they did this time last year.
Expecting a Pro Bowl-caliber performance from Dumervil in 2018 is foolish. But there could be enough in the tank for a snap-conscious coaching staff to get meaningful, situational rushing snaps from a savvy, rested Dumervil. A signing would also represent insurance in case Clay Matthews or Nick Perry suffers another injury or players like Reggie Gilbert and Vince Biegel do not take the next step. Dumervil would be cheap, experienced, and hungry for a Super Bowl ring. The move wouldn’t have the glamorous, headline news Bryant would attract, but it could be nearly as productive for the team.
Trade for Brandon Graham or Carlos Dunlap
As mentioned above, edge rusher is a position that could be upgraded and finding another player that could increase the sack total in 2018 would be welcomed. Clay Matthews, 32, also is entering a contract year.
Two other players venturing into the final seasons of their contracts are Brandon Graham of the Philadelphia Eagles and Carlos Dunlap of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both have been ends in predominantly 4-3 schemes, but may be athletic and versatile enough to fit Mike Pettine’s defense. Pettine is a 3-4 minded coach, but has been open about not necessarily having to stick to the traditional alignments. Dunlap enjoyed a 7.5 sack season in 2017, while Graham posted 9.5 sacks. Yet, neither are locks to be signed to extensions after this season (see Graham and Dunlap).
Would a one-year rental - each player either 29 or 30 years old - warrant a significant trading piece in return? Maybe the Eagles would be hesitant to trade with another NFC competitor, but they are deep with pass rushers. As a fan, would you be willing to trade a late third or fourth round pick for the chance to significantly upgrade the pass rush for at least one season?
Trade for Earl Thomas
The Packers are hoping for a bounce-back year from Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at one safety spot, but are relying on growth from Kentrell Brice and Josh Jones at the other. Jones was a second round pick and could make that year two jump to being a quality starter for the unit. But it’s a risk for a team seeking to assemble a Super Bowl-level defense around Aaron Rodgers. There are some notable safety free agents surprisingly still available as camp nears with Eric Reid, Tre Boston, and Kenny Vaccaro on the market. They could provide a less expensive route to shoring up the depth of the position.
Or...the Packers could make a splash for Thomas, a six-time Pro Bowler that has been extremely durable outside of a broken tibia late in the 2016 season. The Legion of Boom has dissipated and the 29-year old is in a contract year of his own. The rumor in recent days is that the Dallas Cowboys have picked up the pace in trying to land Thomas, whose asking price seemed to lower after the draft. Thomas’s holdout may only amplify the need for a resolution sooner than later.
If the Packers believe Thomas can still be an impact player for years to come in the secondary, would moving a second round pick plus a mid-rounder be worth a trade-and-sign situation? Thomas would be a reliable, versatile second safety that would surely help the young cornerbacks as well as Clinton-Dix who is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Having two expiring contracts at safety almost assures that one won’t be on the roster in 2019. But the move could be a game-changer in the NFC for a season as players like Brice and Jones develop.