By this time next week, a flurry of free agency signings by the Green Bay Packers could fill the weekly musings. However, this week’s thoughts center more around subtractions than additions.
While a number of 2020 Packers found new homes this past week, Detroit’s signing of Jamaal Williams may be the most immediately impactful for Green Bay, with the veteran signing with a divisional rival. While he looks to fill a clear hole in the Lions’ offense, the Packers now have an opportunity to justify one of their more surprising picks in last year’s draft.
Today’s article takes a look at those two topics, while offering some comic relief with a check-in on Chicago’s quarterback situation.
Jamaal Williams should help the Lions create a Packers-like backfield
There was some thought that Williams could be the free agent running back retained by the Packers, not only because of his price tag compared to Aaron Jones but the energy he brought to the offense. However, after Jones re-signed with Green Bay, there was no doubt that Williams would be signing elsewhere and he earned a two-year deal worth up to $7.5 million with Detroit.
After years of striking out (post-Barry Sanders) on drafting a dynamic running back, the Lions appear to have found an all-around weapon in D’Andre Swift. However, the team was still looking for a reliable second back to split carries and offer a complementary skillset. In Williams, the Lions found that exact player and can begin to build a Green Bay-like backfield. Like Jones, Swift brings a more dynamic, speedy running style that blends with his valued ability to catch out of the backfield. As the Lions begin to develop Swift into a true number one back in year two, Williams should re-assume a third-down back role that takes advantage of his own receiving skills and, of course, his excellent pass-blocking ability. And with Swift already having some durability issues at times during his rookie season at a very similar size as Jones, there should be opportunity for Williams to have a few intermittent starts and higher-volume carry days as Swift’s snaps are monitored.
Williams seemed to relish being the Robin to Jones’ Batman and has a unique ability to be the same player in Detroit alongside the former first-rounder Swift. While the Lions will not be a contender next season like the Packers, the fit for Williams seems ideal on the surface.
A year later, the Packers’ first three picks of the 2020 NFL Draft still provide a number of talking points
Last year’s draft resulted in a lot of perplexed faces following days one and two. A quarterback? A running back? An H-back in the third-round? There was no shortage of conversation and consternation when it came to the Packers’ first three selections. After their rookie seasons, the picks still provide talking points but not just negatively-oriented ones.
First, however, is just how much production the Packers earned elsewhere from the same offensive positions of those draft choices. The future of Aaron Rodgers became instantly cloudy by the Jordan Love pick, but the former MVP turned in another extremely impressive MVP season. Meanwhile, Green Bay had another highly efficient season from Aaron Jones, who averaged 5.5 yards per rush while earning himself an extension, and a breakthrough receiving season from tight end Robert Tonyan that will make him an eventual high-priced re-sign candidate in the near future. The need for the Packers’ first three picks was questioned after the draft, but the 2020 season did little to squash those doubts.
Still, next season provides plenty of hope for those selections to be justified. Even though the salary cap played a factor, General Manager Brian Gutekunst is trusting his decisions by allowing Tim Boyle and Jamaal Williams to depart. Instantly, Love becomes the backup to Rodgers in the event of emergency. After watching Chicago strike out on deals to acquire an answer at quarterback, perhaps there is some comfort in the Packers’ decision to prepare early with Love.
AJ Dillon also will get a chance to build upon some of his late-season success by becoming the thunder behind Jones’ lightning. Dillon’s ability to improve himself as a pass-blocker will be one of the most important aspects of his replacement of Williams, and his workload while spelling Jones could result in even more ground production than Williams, who never averaged more than 4.3 yards per carry in Green Bay. An expanded role could also be in store for Deguara, whose rookie season was lost to injury. While Tonyan continues to blossom, could it be Deguara who takes on the lead reserve role? Packers brass was excited about Deguara’s addition and he could quickly play a pivotal hybrid role if Marcedes Lewis is not re-signed and Jace Sternberger does not show any sort of reliability and durability in quick fashion.
There will continue to be plenty of chatter and confusion about the Packers’ first three picks in the 2020 draft calendar, but the two-year outlook could offer a very different perspective.
Andy Dalton signing with Chicago may be a highlight of the Packers’ offseason
Even though the Packers are in the driver’s seat of the NFC North for the time being, there still had to be some level of concern if Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson ended up in Chicago. While the price in draft picks and veteran players may have been a slight detriment for the Bears, their years of struggle in acquiring a proven quarterback would have been well worth the price for either quarterback.
So, with the news of Andy Dalton’s signing this week and an end to the pursuit of Wilson, Chicago’s settlement was a monumental gain for the Packers in trying to repeat as divisional champs. While it is just a one-year deal, it is one more year that the Bears will be in QB limbo with a combination of Dalton and Nick Foles. The decision is particularly head-scratching given the team has a general manager and head coach heading into a make-or-break season. Does Dalton truly move the needle any more than Foles, or offer more upside than, say, a Tim Boyle? Sure, the Bears could draft the long-term answer in round one this year, but will Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy be around long enough to see the fruits of that labor?
After raising the Chicago fan base’s hopes of making a splash at quarterback this offseason, the Dalton signing both raised eyebrows and drew some snickers from their rival fans up north.