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Packers 2021 Free Agents: Decision time approaches on four defensive linemen

The Packers’ toughest decision across this group probably comes with Tyler Lancaster. Is a low restricted free agent tender too much for a rotational run-stopper?

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2020 season. We also will break down the team’s free agent class for 2021. Today, we examine the defensive line.

The core of the Green Bay Packers’ defensive line remains intact for the immediate future. Kenny Clark’s new contract will keep him in Wisconsin for the next several years, Kingsley Keke has two more years on his rookie contract, and Dean Lowry remains under contract for 2021 — at least for now. However, several of the Packers’ depth pieces have expiring contracts, including a player who started ten games in 2019 and who has played over a third of the team’s defensive snaps across the past two seasons.

Here’s a look at the Packers’ four defensive linemen who are scheduled to become free agents in March.

Montravius Adams

NFL Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Free Agency Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 4 years, $3.262 million rookie contract
2020 Stats: 8 games played, 11 total tackles (2 TFLS)

The Montravius Adams experiment is probably over in Green Bay. An athletic tackle, Adams could never piece it together with the Packers, starting just three games in four seasons and recording 1.5 sacks. A season-ending injury around midseason all but assured that he will be looking for work elsewhere.

One of the least impressive picks in Ted Thompson’s final draft at the helm of the Packers, Adams appeared to be a reach in the third round and did not live up to his status as a day-two pick.

Damon Harrison

NFL Experience: 9 accrued seasons
Free Agency Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $1.05 million
2020 Stats:

Harrison was a player whom Packers fans on social media wanted badly on the team over the summer before he signed with the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad in October. The former All-Pro got into six games with Seattle in November and December, but a falling out over playing time led to him asking for his release. The Packers claimed him on waivers before week 17, and he played in the team’s final three games, including their two playoff contests.

However, at 32 and with little interest from around the league over the summer, Harrison will likely be forced to look for another league-minimum contract in 2021. He was a beneficiary of the NFL’s COVID-influenced expanded practice squad rules, which may not be in place for the coming season.

Billy Winn

NFL Experience: 8 accrued seasons
Free Agency Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $910,000
2020 Stats: 6 games played, 6 tackles, 2 pass deflections

Few players had as fascinating a story as Winn, who had not played in an NFL game since 2016 before suiting up for the Packers in week three. A practice squad addition a week earlier, Winn had spent most of the previous three years on injured reserve with the Denver Broncos after some decent years early in his career as a rotational lineman. Unfortunately, he landed on IR once again with the Packers due to a triceps injury.

Winn will turn 32 in April, but could be a candidate to come back and fight for a spot in camp.

Tyler Lancaster

NFL Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Free Agency Status: Restricted
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $750,000
2020 Stats: 15 games played, 3 starts; 23 total tackles; 1 pass deflection

The lone starter or part-time starter in this free agency group is Lancaster, who finished his third season with the Packers after signing as an undrafted rookie in 2018. Although he only officially started three games in 2020, he started 18 in total over three seasons and was in on about a third of the team’s defensive snaps as a primary option when the team did line up with a three-man line.

Lancaster still provides little pass rush, having recorded just 1.5 sacks in his career, but he is always available and does a decent job anchoring in the run game. He is a decent rotational piece, but a team counting on him to be a starting-caliber lineman week in and week out will likely be disappointed. With the state of the Packers’ cap, offering him a low RFA tender at about $2.25 million may be a bit too pricey a tag; instead, expect the team to try to bring him back on a deal closer to the league minimum in 2021.