The Green Bay Packers entered Wednesday with 88 players on the active 90-man roster, and following an announcement this morning they are down to just one open spot. In a press release, the team revealed that they have signed linebacker James Crawford, an undrafted rookie from the University of Illinois.
Crawford played several different positions for the Illini throughout his career. As SB Nation blog The Champaign Room notes, he was initially recruited as a safety. He played special teams as a freshman before playing a hybrid edge rusher position in a 4-2-5 defense as a sophomore. He played a traditional off-ball linebacker role as a junior in a 4-3 before putting his hand down as a 4-3 defensive end in 2017, when he racked up four sacks and three forced fumbles.
Crawford’s listed size (6-foot-2, 239 pounds) seems more in line with the Packers’ typical body type for inside linebackers, however. The Packers have not been shy about moving players around in the linebacker room and fellow rookie Naashon Hughes may be a good comparison. Hughes is listed on the Packers’ initial depth chart at inside linebacker after also entering college as a safety recruit and playing a mix of positions in his career; he lined up at both defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker at Texas. It is a reasonable expectation that Crawford would begin his pro career inside as well.
Unfortunately, we do not have much data on Crawford’s athleticism. He did not receive an invite to the 2018 NFL Combine, and his Pro Day workout was cut short when he reportedly suffered a minor injury during his first 40-yard dash attempt. All we have to go on is a 35-inch vertical jump.
All in all, it’s no surprise to see the Packers add a body to the inside linebacker group given the injury to Jake Ryan. Although this is not a veteran player signing with the team, Crawford should receive at least some playing time as training camp goes along and could be in the mix for a practice squad spot.