People might not expect the Green Bay Packers to be better in their first season without Aaron Rodgers, but these three free agents could help make that more likely.
Even though Aaron Rodgers is being replaced by Jordan Love at quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the approach shouldn't change much. The receivers have gotten much better at catching passes, the offensive line is one of the best in the league, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are two of the best running backs in the league, and Matt LaFleur is an experienced offensive mind.
Even without Rodgers, that should be enough to keep the Packers in the game longer than some people think. The defense, which was a problem last year, still needs work, though.
Green Bay's defense is strong, there's no question about that. But the strength and, as any fan will tell you, the coaching are problems that could hurt the Pack during the regular season and if they try to defy NFL playoff betting to make the playoffs. Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the team can improve that side of the ball, though, because there are still some free players on the market.
Taking a look at what the Packers need most in terms of depth, these free agents could still be signed (and probably should be).
No. 3: Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE
It's hard to argue with what Yannick Ngakoue has done in his career. Since he joined the league in 2016, he has racked up 65.0 sacks. Since he left Jacksonville after the 2019 season, though, he has been bouncing around the league, spending one year at four different teams, most recently with the Indianapolis Colts.
Even though he ended the season with 9.5 sacks, Ngakoue's overall numbers from last year aren't great. PFF (subscription needed) gave him a bad grade and said he was one of the worst-qualified edge players in the league. But that was an oddity in his career, as he's been good to great every year from 2017 to 21, especially as a rusher.
With Rashan Gary (once he gets off the PUP list), Preston Smith, and 2023 first-round pick Lukas Van Ness, the Packers have a good edge group up front. Beyond them, Justin Hollins, Kingsley Enagbare, and undrafted free agent gem Brenton Cox Jr. also have a lot of promise. The problem with the depth group, though, is that they haven't done anything good before.
There is hope that Gary could be ready for Week 1, but it's not a sure thing. Even when he comes back, Green Bay could use some more pass-rushers to make sure that the pass rush doesn't drop if someone gets hurt.
After last season, Ngakoue should be available for a low price, but he should have a history of producing. Because of this and the fact that he can just pin his ears back in this defense, he could be a great free agent pick-up for the Packers for training camp.
No. 2: Matt Ioannidis, IDL
Matt Ioannidis, who spent a few years with Washington and last season with the Panthers, is the right fit and price for what the Packers should be looking for on the defensive line.
By all reports, Green Bay is pretty confident in Devonte Wyatt, Kenny Clark, and T.J. Slaton, the defensive line starters up front. But the guys behind them are where questions start to come up.
Jonathan Ford, a seventh-round pick in 2022, and Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks, both rookies from this year's third day of the draft, are the main three backups on the defensive front. There are a lot of good things about the newcomers' prospects, especially when it comes to them. But if they are asked to help right away in a meaningful way, that could be a problem.
Ioannidis, on the other hand, has always been a good defense player in the middle of the line. He has never been a star, but a rotational player who can hold his own in both the pass rush and the run game is very important. And to be honest, the Packers don't have it right now.
Since Ioannidis isn't a big name, he could go to Green Bay for cheap if they want him to. And the way the depth chart looks now, they should be very interested in adding him to the mix during training camp and the preseason.
No. 1: Duron Harmon, S
Even though there are needs that could be filled in the front seven, the safety room is where Packers fans worry the most when they look at the depth chart.
In this ensemble, Darnell Savage stands as the lone seasoned player, although he too experienced a stint on the sidelines for a handful of games in the past year. Rudy Ford, Tarvarius Moore, Jonathan Owens, and the recently drafted Anthony Johnson Jr. in the seventh round collectively fail to instill a strong sense of assurance in me, particularly when it comes to their potential to guide him towards a resurgence.
Green Bay has liked having veteran Adrian Amos cover the back end of the secondary with Savage for years. However, Amos's play dropped in 2022, so the Pack were happy to let him go in free agency. But they are now in a place where they could still use the safety of that veteran's presence.
There's no doubt that Duron Harmon fits the bill better than most. Even though he'll be 32 years old this season, the longtime Patriots safety has shown that he's still a good player in coverage, which is where Green Bay's current team is missing. Even though he was 31 years old, PFF (subscription needed) said he was a high-end coverage safety in 2022.
Even so, there's no promise that Harmon will play as well as he did at that age. But since it looks like the Packers' current group of safeties is already a bit of a gamble, adding another senior with more NFL experience and proven skills wouldn't hurt. More importantly, it could help in many ways, and this group probably needs a lot of help.