As free agency enters its third week, teams are beginning to turn their attention to the draft. The first wave of free agent signings has come and gone, with most of the top-tier talent inking new deals.
The Green Bay Packers were in the middle of discussions for a handful of players, at the very least indicating a more active approach to free agency under GM Brian Gutekunst. With just under a month until the 2018 draft, the Packers will likely use free agency’s second wave to fill out their roster before bringing in a new class of rookies.
Green Bay added a few crucial pieces in the first stage of free agency. The Packers signed tight end Jimmy Graham, giving Aaron Rodgers a dynamic tight end with a major red zone presence that will hopefully help mitigate the loss of Jordy Nelson. They also added Muhammad Wilkerson to an already stout defensive line.
Green Bay also brought back Tramon Williams to provide much-needed help to the secondary. Williams spent last season with Arizona, where he played exceptionally well opposite Patrick Peterson. He’ll look to replicate that production with the Packers, where he spent the first nine years of his career.
The moves that Green Bay makes next could have a major impact on the team’s outlook for 2018. While the initial free agent frenzy may have subsided, there are still talented players that the Packers could add to provide an immediate boost.
The team’s biggest need remains the secondary. Even after adding Williams, the cornerback position is incredibly thin, especially given that the Packers traded Damarious Randall to the Browns earlier this month.
Assuming his infected foot heals as planned, former Redskin Bashaud Breeland could help, and his injury would likely knock down his price as well. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, formerly of the Giants, would also provide experience on a short-term deal to an otherwise young cornerback group. However, if the Packers’ plan is to add a corner with their first-round pick, they may choose to bypass additional free agent additions to the position.
While cornerback is definitely the team’s most obvious need, Green Bay has other holes to fill. The pass rush needs an upgrade, though it’s generally easier to remedy that through the draft than it is to find solid corners. The Packers should also look at bringing in a safety, especially after losing Morgan Burnett to Pittsburgh. The safety market has been cheap for this year’s class of free agents, so someone like Eric Reid–who has earned the endorsement of former Packers’ safety LeRoy Butler–could provide help.
A final area where a second-wave signing could help is wide receiver. Green Bay cut ties with Jordy Nelson, leaving the Packers with a need to add at least one piece to the position. They were rumored to have interest in former Eagles and Bills wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who could be a potent number two with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. The biggest drawback is that receivers have been getting overpaid this year (even Donte Moncrief got a one-year deal for $9.6 million).
Graham and Williams will likely play major roles in the Packers’ upcoming season, and the draft will allow Green Bay to find more help–especially on defense. But the way that the team approaches the second phase of free agency could have a major bearing on the team’s 2018 success.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .