The Green Bay Packers allowed a league-worst 8.1 yards per pass attempt in 2016. The defense was consistently torched in the passing game, no worse than in the NFC Championship game against Atlanta, where Matt Ryan threw for 392 yards in a 44-21 rout.
Clearly if the Packers expect to make the leap from playoff team to Super Bowl contender once again in 2017, a difference-making asset in the defensive secondary is of prime importance. Here are some of the free agents available at the cornerback position, separated by their likelihood of being signed.
It is well established Ted Thompson does not fork out big money for free agents. Even Charles Woodson, arguably his only significant free agent signing since taking over in 2005, came when few other teams showed any interest. Thompson is not one to join a bidding war, which is why the options below would fall under the category of pipe dreams:
- Trumaine Johnson – The 27-year-old ex-Ram figures to be one of the most sought after free agent corners, and could command a contract of over $40 million. At 6′ 2″ he has good size for a number one corner and is starting to get the respect of one two, as his interceptions went from 7 in 2015 to only one in 2016 as fewer teams threw at him.
- Prince Amukamara – After five good seasons with the Giants, Amukamara, 27, went to Jacksonville on a one-year deal and is now back on the market. He’s coming off his first season without an interception, but still figures to draw a contract north of $40 million.
- Stephon Gilmore – At 26 and coming off a career-high five-interception season, Gilmore is expected to be rewarded handsomely to the tune of $14 million per year by whoever signs him. This is a price tag so significant that most reasonable Packers fans would actually be upset if Thompson handicapped the team with such a deal.
- Brandon Carr – Although he totaled only seven interceptions in five years with the Cowboys, Carr is an all-around defender who tackles well and plays sideline to sideline. Even though he has reached 30, Carr still figures to draw a salary of around six million per year. This could be in that second tier of free agents Thompson delves into after the first wave of signings.
- Justin Gilbert – Thompson will have had to like the tape from Gilbert, because the stat sheet does not do much to show his worth. Missing 13 games in three years and rarely seeing the field as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers has diminished the value of the former eighth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. This could make him available at a team-friendly price.
- Darius Butler – Playing opposite Vontae Davis for much of his Colts tenure, Butler, 30, totaled 12 interceptions in five seasons. He is hardly anyone’s definition of a shutdown corner, but could provide some leadership in a young secondary.
Captain Munnerlyn – The former Viking could see some offers as a slot-corner, but at 5’9″ he is undersized to handle a number-one receiver and is not a great fit for Green Bay.
Morris Claiborne – Five years into his career, he has yet to play a full season and has missed 26 games in just the last three years. When healthy, he has managed four interceptions in five seasons.
D.J. Hayden – The 26 year-old Raider is coming off a hamstring injury that ended his 2016 season in December. Thompson would certainly want team doctors to take a look at Hayden before shelling out any cash. If Hayden slips past the first wave or two of free agents, Thompson could give him a look.
Who do you think the Packers could bring in from this list, or other free agent corners available? Let me know in the comments below.
——————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