With only a few days remaining in the franchise tag period, the Green Bay Packers may still be contemplating whether or not to use the designation on running back Aaron Jones. At this time, it does not appear the Packers have ruled out retaining the star running back. But as the team considers its alternatives, the Packers could go back to the well in replacing Jones the same way they acquired him.
Recently, day three of the NFL Draft has been filled with runs at very specific positions requiring the team’s attention. While running back could be one such area again this year, which other positions could be addressed? Today’s musings touch on one potentially overlooked area, while exploring a cap casualty that could fit the Packers’ budget.
Day three of the draft has brought runs on very specific positions as of late
It is a cliché that organizations “draft the best players available.” To an extent that is true, but positional need certainly plays a role. Day three can be a great place for NFL teams to address areas of need and take chances on many players (and hoping one sticks) without having to sacrifice premium picks. For the Packers, this has been especially true in recent draft history.
In three of the past four drafts, Green Bay has selected three players at a specific position on day three. The 2017 draft kicked off the run with three running backs, including Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones in rounds four and five, respectively. A year later, the Packers selected three wide receivers in rounds four, five, and six, which netted Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the process. Finally, just last year, Green Bay added a trio of offensive linemen late in the draft, including a first-year contributor in Jon Runyan. In these situations, the Packers have both addressed immediate team needs and done a bit of forward-planning to future free agency.
If there was a run on one single position again in 2021 for Green Bay, which would it be? Depending on how the offseason plays out, running back could very well be back in the picture with the future of Jones and Williams up in the air. Wide receiver is also in a very similar position as before with the Packers trying to add young developmental pieces. Defensive back also would make plenty of sense, with three picks split between cornerbacks and safeties to attempt to find a blend of instant and long-term producers. It is a rather deep draft pool at both receiver and cornerback and it would not be a surprise to see the Packers take advantage of those positions this year after not targeting them in 2020.
Safety could be an overlooked position of interest for the Packers
Speaking of adding defensive backs, Green Bay is in a unique spot at safety. Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos form an excellent duo for the Packers on the back end, but behind them the team is awfully thin.
Will Redmond is an unrestricted free agent and there is a more than a 50-50 chance he will not return. A pair of rookies in seventh-rounder Vernon Scott and undrafted Henry Black also spent time with the squad in 2020, but their pro inexperience is not comforting in the event Savage or Amos is lost in-game or for extended time. With Joe Barry’s defense, the Packers already could be on the lookout for a nickel corner “star” player in the draft, but a corner with safety versatility could be a real benefit to the team if a safety itself is not drafted.
With Amos under contract for another two seasons and Savage for up to three, safety is not a code red situation in which the Packers need to find an instant starter. But a capable backup with a starter’s ceiling, who can fit certain defensive packages, could be the type of player the Packers target on day two to provide a blend of insurance and early contribution.
One recent release could be of interest to the Packers and their wallet
Cost-cutting measures have begun across the league and the budget-conscious Packers will certainly be on the lookout for affordable options as they navigate the reduced salary cap.
One of those players could be 32-year old Golden Tate, who was released by the New York Giants earlier this week. Tate is most notably known in Green Bay fan circles as the recipient of the “Fail Mary” pass from Russell Wilson in 2012, but he has been a productive player over 11 NFL seasons. The market for Tate is uncertain, but a crafty veteran slot receiver with plenty of speed should more than interest the Packers as they try to surround Aaron Rodgers with more weapons next season, particularly from the slot.
For the right price, a player like Tate would be an ideal pickup as most rookie receivers, even if the Packers do draft an early-round player, take time to acclimate. Playing time and lack of targets were a source of frustration for Tate after joining the Giants in 2018 via Detroit, and it has been a while since the Notre Dame product has played for a winning franchise. The Packers’ current level of contention, along with an MVP quarterback, could be enticing to a player who posted more than 70 receptions just two years ago.
There is plenty of talent left in Tate, and he would not figure to command a heavy investment considering his age and rocky season a year ago. The option is worth exploring for Green Bay as they search the bargain bin.