Since Ted Thompson took over as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, the Packers have rarely cut players drafted in the fifth round or earlier before week one of their rookie seasons. In fact, it has happened just three times in the 13 seasons since Thompson took the rains.
In 2007, wide receiver David Clowney failed to make the cut after being selected 157th overall. 2009 saw pick #162, offensive tackle Jamon Meredith, miss out on the roster, though he had a productive stretch with a handful of teams through 2015. Then last year, DeAngelo Yancey made it three when the 175th overall selection missed final cuts, landing on the practice squad instead for the entirety of the 2017 season.
That history is what had us at APC convinced that offensive lineman Cole Madison was all but assured of a roster spot this fall. New GM Brian Gutekunst selected him with the first pick in the 5th round, number 138 overall, and with the team working him in primarily at guard — a position that is a question mark on the right side at the very least — it was logical to assume that he would be locked in. In fact, he was a unanimous selection to make the team by all of the APC contributors who submitted roster predictions in July.
Fast-forward to August 6th and we are nearly two weeks into training camp with no sign of Madison. He did not report for camp due to personal issues, and comments from Gutekunst last week suggest that no return is imminent:
Asked Brian Gutekunst when he expects rookie Cole Madison to be in camp, says he has no timeline of his return. It's a personal matter, he said. "We're more concerned about Cole."— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) July 31, 2018
Does he expect Madison to play for #Packers at some point? "There's really no update right now."
With language like “personal matter” and “concerned” in those statements, it’s clear that something significant is going on with the young player. If there are serious issues that he is facing, Packers fans should wish him success in dealing with whatever problems he may be facing.
However, the team needs to continue moving forward to define its 2018 roster, and the longer that Madison is away, the better the chances are that another offensive lineman will get the roster spot that was effectively earmarked for the rookie. In a way, Madison’s absence could balance out with the unexpected early return of Bryan Bulaga from the PUP list.
With Bulaga back, veteran tackle Byron Bell may have seen his shot at a roster spot diminish. The swing lineman can provide depth at both tackle and guard, but the quality of his play has been lacking in the last year or two. However, his versatility could indeed be of value to the Packers, since he is theoretically able to play four positions on the line.
Arguably, however, the Packers are set at tackle with Bulaga’s return and a pair of third-year pros — Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — as backups. That could mean that the team would feel more comfortable keeping a dedicated interior lineman on the roster. Perhaps Lucas Patrick, Kofi Amichia, or Dillon Day would get a better shot at the team this summer than previously expected. APC had Patrick as the ninth lineman on the roster for the fall, but Amichia, Day, and even rookie Austin Davis all got at least one vote.
We hope that Madison is able to work through his issues regardless of his ability to contribute on the football field. However, another player will need to step up into his spot this summer, and Packers fans should start to get a better idea of who is taking a step forward in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans.