It was a relatively quiet span of a few weeks after the Green Bay Packers made splash signings with Muhammad Wilkerson and Jimmy Graham and re-acquired former Packer Tramon Williams. A number of free agents had come and gone from Green Bay with one of the more recent targets, Jordan Matthews, opting for a one-year deal with New England. But with the Packers re-uniting with Davon House on another one-year contract Thursday, the free agent search picked back up.
With the NFL Draft just two weeks away, could the Packers be patiently waiting in the wing on a few other names prior to selection weekend?
Last year, Green Bay made an unexpected, quiet move on draft night eve to sign long-time veteran Jahri Evans. The move was good for both sides. Evans gave Green Bay flexibility in the draft in terms of interior offensive line depth and started 14 games amid season-long shuffling on the unit. For Evans, it gave the then-33 year old a home before he lost leverage on a league market receiving an influx of young, rising talent.
To say Green Bay has several holes and positions left to upgrade this offseason is an understatement. If the Packers were to bolster the roster in the day leading up to the draft for a second consecutive season, here are a few options to consider.
Connor Barwin, EDGE
The Packers were said to have contacted Barwin during free agency last year and the rush linebacker is back on the market this spring. The 31-year old is coming off a season in which he registered five sacks for the Los Angeles Rams, bringing his streak to five straight seasons with at least five sacks.
Green Bay wouldn’t necessarily count on Barwin to be as successful as his 14.5-sack season in 2014, but would utilize him as a bridge at the edge position while the Packers develop Reggie Gilbert, Vince Biegel, and any 2018 draft picks. The Packers tried a similar tactic by signing Ahmad Brooks after training camp last season, but received minimal results. This time around, the Green and Gold would bring in another player that has played at a high level while appearing in 16 games in six of the past seven seasons.
Barwin received a $6.5 million maximum deal from the Rams last year and would most likely receive something lesser this time around. The Packers could afford to use an incentive-based approach with Barwin and take pressure off of the anticipated rookies to produce immediately.
Delvin Breaux, CB
The former New Orleans Saint has had his share of injuries over the past two seasons and would seem to represent a classic one-year prove-it option at a position that has been grossly overpaid this offseason. Breaux reportedly had a visit with Green Bay in late March, but remains unsigned.
Breaux also had visits with Denver, San Francisco, and New England, but much has been said about his interest in re-signing with New Orleans, his home city. Still, the right offer could sway Breaux. With Green Bay poised to add more than one body at cornerback via the draft, this would be the time for a deal to be made if both parties are still interested. Signing House slightly reduces the need for veteran press corners, but Breaux remains a name of interest.
Eric Reid/Tre Boston, S
With the Packers allowing Morgan Burnett to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay appears ready to roll the dice with Kentrell Brice and Josh Jones at strong safety next season. Each has plenty of potential to become a capable starter long-term, but both returners are severely unproven due to injury or inconsistency.
A safety signing may be a difficult possibility for this author to imagine, as the potential for Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick to slip to the Packers in the first round still exists. Still, both veterans would add starting-caliber experience and playmaking ability to a secondary lacking in those areas a season ago. Boston, in particular, picked off five passes for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. Either player would allow the Packers to explore cornerbacks and pass rushing prospects such as Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport with much more ease.
In their mid-twenties, Reid and Boston present younger options for Green Bay, but the team already has similarly youthful players experienced in its system in Brice and Jones. With Green Bay’s commitment to developing internal players, especially draft picks, signing a veteran safety might be far-fetched. But safety remains a position to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.
Tamba Hali, EDGE
Retirement is possible for the 34-year old pass rusher, a five-time Pro Bowler. If he decides to play one more season, Hali would represent an outstanding leader for both the defense and in the community.
There is no denying that age and injury has crept up on the former Kansas City Chief over the past two seasons, but Green Bay would be looking for just one more productive season from a player that would figure to be a mentor to a young unit going through a coordinator change. Worst case scenario, Green Bay releases Hali prior to the season after signing a low-risk contract.
Hali has a decision to make on his future very soon, but would be a battle-tested, stop-gap veteran like Green Bay acquired last offseason in Evans.
Jahri Evans, G
Yes, the Packers could repeat their transaction from a year ago.
Evans is still available in free agency and was relatively durable and consistent for the Packers a year ago despite his age. The Packers surely could choose to go with an internal option or draft a plug-and-play prospect, but Evans would be a thrifty, bang-for-the-buck signing if he comes anywhere near his production last season on a contract worth $2 million or less.
Green Bay hasn’t directly addressed its starter at right guard next season. Until it does, Evans cannot be written off.