Eleven days removed from the initial fire sale of free agency, and the Green Bay Packers may by some accounts have more holes to fill than before it began. Nick Perry was retained at about market value, while Eddie Lacy, Micah Hyde, J.C. Tretter, T.J. Lang, Jared Cook, Datone Jones and Julius Peppers have signed elsewhere. Jayrone Elliot, Don Barclay and Jordan Tripp were also re-signed, but only Barclay figures to contribute on anything other than special teams.
The Packers also took a rare foray into the open market to sign tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, and bring back a 2015 free agent departure, cornerback Davon House.
With the number of potential free agent dance partners thinning and the NFL Draft five weeks away, it may be time to take inventory. Despite the relative net gain at tight end, the Packers find themselves nearly two weeks into free agency without a couple pieces to field a competitive roster. These are their three biggest needs and a couple potential free agent and draft targets to fill them. As of the publishing of this article, Green Bay has $24 million in cap room according to the NFL PA website.
The loss of Lang was no small one for the Packers, who he reportedly wanted to re-sign with if their offer was anywhere close to the one he took from the Lions. Right guard is not the most important pass protecting position, but the Packers nevertheless cannot afford to have a liability at the position. Assuming Ted Thompson is looking on the young side of 30, the free agent options are slim. Brandon Fusco was released by the Vikings earlier this offseason, and Tim Lelito also visited the Lions this weekend but could be another option. Hugh Thornton is young but injury prone, and Andrew Tiller spent a year on the Packers practice squad but was more recently with the 49ers.
Ted Thompson has rarely been one to draft for need, but there is the rare occasion such as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix where need has met best player available. This could happen again at pick 29 in the first round, where Western Kentucky Guard Forrest Lamp. The last time the Packers had an offensive lineman named Forrest, he was the “finest player” Vince Lombardi ever coached, Forrest Gregg. Beyond the first round, Dorian Johnson out of Pittsburgh could be available at the 61st overall pick, Danny Isidora out of Miami (Fla.) at 93, Jessamen Dunker out of Tennessee St. or Zach Banner out of Southern California at 134. Anyone taken much later than that figures to come with some refining, and this position should not be filled by someone learning as they go.
There is really no other way to highlight the problem than the fact that Ty Montgomery, who began last season a wide receiver, is the only running back currently on the roster. Nearly every team carries at least three on their active roster, with perhaps another on the practice squad. Green Bay will most definitely address this position with a late pick in the draft, and perhaps an undrafted free agent or two will be brought into camp as well. There are a couple power backs available in free agency, but they may come at a greater price than the Packers wish to pay for a complimentary player. Adrian Peterson is of course one option, but durability is a major concern for the ten year pro. LeGarrette Blount is a better fit for the Packers, but coming off an 18 touchdown season, he is likely to price himself out of their range. Jamaal Charles has also been rumored to be a potential Packers target, but is another aging back with ACL injury history that they should steer clear from.
Potential draft targets include the versatile Stanford back Christian McCaffrey in the first round, troubled Oklahoma back Joe Mixon in the third, or perhaps James Conner from Pittsburgh in the later rounds.
Davon House is more than likely not going to be a savior shutdown corner, and even if he was, Green Bay’s secondary needs far more help than he can provide. That help must come from a youth infusion in the draft, or perhaps a veteran signing to mentor Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and the rest of Green Bay’s young secondary. Darrelle Revis is available, but seems hell-bent on staying at cornerback and making a lot of money for playing that position. If he could be talked into filling the Micah Hyde role for smaller deal, he just might have a chance to make a difference in the twilight of his career. The rest of the free agent pool is a “who’s who” of second and third stringers who would have to fight for a roster spot unless their cap hit guaranteed them a shot.
Come draft day, Fabian Moreau (UCLA), TreDavious White (LSU), Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson) and Chidobe Awuzle (Colorado) will most likely be the best available at pick 29. Quincy Wilson (Florida) is valued right around their 61st pick, and Rasul Douglas (West Virginia) could be sitting around at 93.
Which of these three needs should the Packers address in round 1, if any? What other needs do you see as Green Bay’s biggest? Let me know in the comments.
——————Zac Bellman is a sports writer, experienced journalist and Marquette University graduate with a degree in journalism. You can read his current articles here on PackersTalk.com. To connect with Zac, follow him on twitter at @ZacBellman_WNY. or check out his Facebook page Zac Bellman-Sportwriter