A quietly impactful transaction that the Green Bay Packers made during the 2022 season was the acquisition of outside linebacker Justin Hollins. A former fifth-round draft pick, Hollins had spent the 2020 and 2021 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, then started five of the Rams’ first ten games of 2022. However, the team waived him after that point, and the Packers claimed him on waivers to help bolster a pass rush group hit hard by the season-ending injury to Rashan Gary.
With Hollins’ contract up after 2022, he became a free agent last Wednesday. However, he will be returning to Green Bay in 2023, as he has reportedly signed a one-year contract worth $1.2 million to return.
Hollins effectively confirmed the news with a simple tweet on Thursday morning:
— Justin Hollins (@justinhollins_) March 23, 2023
This move appears to be a good one for multiple reasons. First, Hollins was an effective pass-rusher for the Packers in the final stretch of the season. In six games with the Packers, Hollins recorded 2.5 sacks, with one of those coming in his very first game — the team’s Sunday Night Football matchup with the eventual NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles. Hollins also picked up a half-sack as the Packers beat his previous teammates, the Los Angeles Rams, and he got his other sack in Green Bay’s big win over Minnesota in week 17.
The Packers may also be fortunate to retain Hollins, as he recently took a free agent visit with the New York Giants.
With Gary hurt, Hollins ended up serving as the Packers’ third outside linebacker, rotating heavily with rookie J.J. Enagbare opposite Preston Smith. Hollins played 128 snaps on defense for the Packers, which equates to about 37% of the defensive snaps over the final six games.
Hollins’ contract also offers the Packers some salary cap benefits as well. His deal appears to quality for the veteran salary benefit, a mechanism that allows teams to apply a smaller cap hit to veteran players making close to the league minimum. Under the terms of the deal, Hollins will have a base salary of $1.08 million, the minimum for players with four accrued seasons of experience, and a small signing bonus; however, that contract will carry just a $940,000 salary cap charge. This is a similar approach that the team used when signing safety Tarvarius Moore, one of the team’s two outside free agent acquisitions.
If Rashan Gary is able to return for the start of the season, this gives the Packers a very serviceable two-deep on the edge. Gary and Smith remain a solid starting pair, and a duo of Enagbare and Hollins should provide quality reps as a backup unit.