How the Current Free Agency Landscape Affects GB’s Draft

Coming into the 2018 part of NFL free agency, the Green Bay Packers had a laundry list of areas that needed to be improved for the upcoming season. From adding healthy bodies to the defensive backfield to figuring out what offensive weapons Aaron Rodgers needed for his arsenal, there were many areas that were in need of improvements.

Flash forward to the beginning of April, and the draft is 17 days away, beginning on April 26. With the 14th pick in the draft, the projections have the Packers going many different directions, most of which are on the defensive side of the ball.

Cornerback is still a pressing need, with the team only having acquired 35-year-old veteran Tramon Williams for his second stint in Titletown.

This year’s draft class has a few game changers in the defensive backfield, headlined by Denzel Ward, the class’s best corner from Ohio State. Because he is seen as the best corner in the draft, many pundits believe he will go inside the top-10; however, if he were to fall to 14, Brian Gutekunst would absolutely nail his first draft as the General Manager if he selected him.

Others that could potentially fill the defensive coverage void are Josh Jackson, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James, from Iowa, Alabama and Florida State, respectively. All three prospects are strong in coverage, with both Fitzpatrick and James seen as a corner/safety hybrid in ever-evolving positionless NFL defensive schemes.

For current options in free agency, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie headlines the remaining corner options, but there is a reason he has not signed yet. He has been public in his want to wait until April to sign somewhere, which could give him a better chance at winning a spot on a team.

DRC was cut from the Giants after he did not take a pay cut from his $6.5 million salary last season and will be looking for a chance at an outside cornerback role on a team, according to NFL Network. He could potentially have a role as a safety next season as well, as the 31-year-old may need to have certain limitations covered up by playing safety.

For addressing other team needs, wide receiver is an area of need after the surprising cutting of Jordy Nelson, whose salary was essentially used for new-addition Jimmy Graham. A dark horse candidate that could go at 14 is Calvin Ridley, the 6-foot, 4.43 40-running specimen out of Alabama.

Later in the draft, Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist, D.J. Moore from Maryland and D.J. Chark from Louisiana State all could go in the second and/or third rounds, which would be a better spot for Green Bay to address the receiver position.

Offensive line depth is a must-need to be addressed, as last year’s starter at right guard, Jahri Evans, remains unsigned but is opening to coming back. Justin McCray, who saw time at all over the line last year, remains with the team and is the top in-house candidate to replace Evans if he isn’t brought back. In the draft, Wyatt Teller from Virginia Tech is a trendy pick around the fifth round, so he could be a smart selection for Gutekunst.

Other areas include safety, linebacker and tight end, as Green Bay lost some sort of role players at each of these position groups.

With the current status of free agency, Green Bay would be best suited to look for improvements through the draft, as the team has a league-high 12 selections at its disposal. Whether Gutekunst decides it is in the team’s best interest to move up in certain rounds based on value remains to be seen, but the team would be smart to address improvements through the draft rather than free agency.

Unless there are any surprise camp and/or post-free agency cuts, look for the Packers to use their scouting expertise to again make a contributor out of the undrafted free agency pool as well.

Ideas about how the team could improve? Have any specific suggestions as to how the remainder of the offseason should play out? Let me know in the comments below!  

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Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23

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