Once an understudy to Green Bay Packers’ folk-hero John Kuhn, fullback Aaron Ripkowski had the name and grit to quickly become a fan favorite in his own right. But at least for the time being, Green Bay is cutting ties with the fourth-year player.
As has been noted in the past, the role of the fullback has been diminishing across the NFL. The Packers were one of very few teams to utilize the position in a prominent role. However, even last season, there were signs that Green Bay was also beginning to move away from its traditional use of the fullback. Ripkowski was called on for just five carries and seven receptions in 2017, a far cry from his 34 carries in 2016. His offensive snap count also was significantly reduced by over 100 (288-180) in that two-year span.
The release of Ripkowski in the final year of his rookie contract paves the way for an extra tight end to make the final roster. At the time of this post, Emanuel Byrd and Robert Tonyan were still safe from the cut down and each could play a role as an H-back player for the Packers in Ripkowski’s absence. Also adding intrigue is that Joe Kerridge currently remains a Packer. The third-year fullback has bounced between the active roster and practice squad over the past two seasons, but also contributes on special teams.
It was noted earlier today that Quinten Rollins suffered a hamstring injury and could pose a difficult challenge to the Packers’ front office if they value his versatility in the secondary enough to place him on returnable injured reserve. In that case, Ripkowski could be a strong bet to find his way back on the roster after injury placements sort themselves out. Still, there could be some interest in Ripkowski from teams around the league that still employ the fullback position.
In the scenario that Green Bay does not retain Ripkowski, the Packers are in a curious position in terms of their backfield for week one. With Aaron Jones serving a suspension and Devante Mays and Joel Bouagnon released earlier today, it leaves Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery as the only two sure-fire players to be in the backfield. While Kerridge and late pickup LeShun Daniels have not been mentioned in the reported releases as of yet, it would appear the Packers could be on the lookout for another running back casualty in final cuts around the NFL.