Brian Guteskunst needs to take a hard look at the list of free agent corners for 2018. The Packers picked up a familiar face in Davon House house last year, but there was other talent at that position. Aj Bouye and Stephone Gilmore are just a couple names that come to mind. The Packers played it safe, which has held them back from getting to another Super Bowl. Of course these decisions were left to the discretion of penny pincher Ted Thompson. If Gutekunst is going to stay true to his promise of bringing in outside talent to Green Bay, a serviceable corner would immediately help the 23rd ranked pass defense.
I can’t see a scenario in which House returns next season. He was supposed to give the Packers solidarity on the outside yet he graded as one of the worst corners in the league according to Pro Football Focus (97th overall). Quinten Rollins is another guy the Packers should let go. He was lost for the season in week 6 because of a non-contact achilles injury. He was having the worst season of any defensive back on the roster. Yes, including Josh Hawkins.
If the Packers have two open spots to fill at corner, there will be a number of options they can explore. Using an early pick in the draft is prudent. Although, an experienced corner from free agency to fit into the rotation could prove to be an even more guarded decision.
Which out of the box name could the Packers sign to boost depth at cornerback?
Rashaan Melvin, Indianapolis Colts
Melvin came out of nowhere in 2017. Originally, he was going to compete for reps on the outside opposite of Vontae Davis. He fought his way into the rotation during training camp and started every regular season game he appeared in. His 6-2 frame was disruptive as he picked off three passes and led the team with 13 passes defended. What is most impressive is that he did this in only 10 games. A hand injury landed him on injured-reserve for the final six. Before that he was allowing a shoddy 66.8 passer rating. The market for corners isn’t great, therefore Melvin could get big money thrown at him. The Packers could put out a feeler of $6 million a year toward him and see if he takes the bait.
Bashaud Breeland, Washington Redskins
The Redskins will likely not re-sign Breeland with Kendall Fuller and Fabian Moreau ready to contribute. Breeland has been a regular starter since he entered the league in 2014. He’s only missed seven games in four years. Last season the former Clemson Tiger ran away with the team lead in passes defended with 19. Good enough for fifth overall in the NFL. Breeland is not a ball hawk with eight picks through 60 games. What he does provide is physical play off the line of scrimmage and decent run support for a corner. His market is one of the highest for his position at around $7 million annually, per Spotrac.
E.J. Gaines, Buffalo Bills
At 25 years old, Gaines is expected to receive a hefty contract once he hits the open market. Gaines battled a lingering hamstring injury and knee issue for much of the year causing him to miss five games. But, when he was in, he was good. The Bills went 8-3 with Gaines in the lineup and 1-4 when he was out. Gaines stated last week he hopes the Bills bring him back, but I really hope they let him walk. PFF recently ranked Gaines 24th among all corners. He forced three fumbles, defended nine passes, and had one interception in 2017. ESPN put Gaines on a list of free agents who will get paid more than you think this offseason. I hope it is Gutekunst who writes the check.
It would be downright negligent for the Packers not to bring in a free agent corner this spring. Even if it means spending a little extra money. Despite the cost, any of the three guys listed above would provide an instant boost to the cornerback rotation.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.