If there was one move to make for the Green Bay Packers, it was to add another outside linebacker to the room. According to NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, the Packers are planning to do just that and sign former Houston Texans pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus. Mercilus, a former All-Pro pass-rusher, was released by the team on Monday after starting two of six games in David Culley’s first season of their new regime.
Before getting into the player, peeling the curtain back on why the Packers need an outside linebacker is an important piece to this signing. Za’Darius Smith, Chauncey Rivers, and Randy Ramsey are all on the injured reserve list while starter Preston Smith is currently dealing with an obliques injury.
Should Smith not be cleared to play this weekend, the Packers only have three pass-rushing linebackers on their roster: Rashan Gary, Jonathan Garvin, and La’Darius Hamilton. Garvin was a 2020 sixth-round pick, and Hamilton was signed off of the Buccaneers’ practice squad in Week 2. It’s worth noting that the team also signed Aaron Adeoye to the practice squad yesterday, addressing the position in more ways than one.
Mercilus has struggled as of late, as Aaron Reiss of The Athletic points out, but Mercilus has played a lot of good football in the past, Green Bay gets relatively little off the bench at the position, and the Packers already have one similar story on their roster (De’Vondre Campbell) thriving in a new environment. I’m sure general manager Brian Gutekunst is hoping a Mercilus signing is more Campbell or Randall Cobb than the early returns on Jaylon Smith.
Since signing a four-year, $54M extension in December 2019, Whitney Mercilus ranks 122nd out of 126 qualified defensive linemen in pressure rate, according to @TruMediaSports.— Aaron Reiss (@aaronjreiss) October 19, 2021
Here are three thoughts on the #Texans’ decision to release him: https://t.co/aoBqc3KA4D
If the entire pass-rushing unit ever gets healthy this year, with Za’Darius Smith returning from the injured reserve, Mercilus would likely be the team’s fourth outside linebacker, only playing reserve reps off the bench. In the Packers’ current situation, you could see Mercilus be heavily rotated into the game or potentially even start in sub-packages as soon as this week. Chalk this move up under “low risk, medium reward.”