As we pass the time until Training Camp starts in Green Bay, it’s time to focus on the roster battles, specifically the roster bubble. Training Camp (along with preseason) will be the ultimate decider for who makes the 53-man roster and the 10-man practice squad, and who ends up as a free agent.
And unlike recent years, where undrafted rookies were abound and waiver wire pickups were all the rage, the Packers have quite a few veterans who are in camp but aren’t assured of spots. Throw in some former undrafted guys who are now veterans, and the roster bubble is on the verge of popping.
And on this list we have ten such players. Guys who are in at least their third season who are squarely on the bubble of making or missing the Opening Day roster. We’ll break down their standing on the depth chart, what they need to do to stay on the team, and the chances they get cut. By no means is this a comprehensive breakdown of each player, that will come later in the summer as we get closer to camp. This is more of an overview of veterans to keep an eye on to see where they may fit into the 2018 Packers.
DAVON HOUSE (8th Season)
The veteran corner was brought back after a solid, but not spectacular year back in Green Bay. Known for his physical play and knack for playing elite receivers tougher than expected, House was brought back to be a mentor for the press corners like Kevin King and Josh Jackson. But his brand of play may not be enough to make it with a lot of young talent above him. He’s already fifth on the depth chart at best and is facing a serious battle with Lenzy Pipkins and Josh Hawkins (more on him further down) to hang on to that spot. Another thing that goes against him is his special teams work, which isn’t as prevalent as the other two guys. He could be the biggest surprise cut at the end of camp.
Chances of being released: 45%
BYRON BELL (8th Season)
The massive right tackle was signed a few weeks ago to bring depth to the line and potential fill in as the starter until Bryan Bulaga is ready to return. A former stalwart for the Panthers, Bell missed the entire 2016 season with an injury before struggling in Dallas last year. The injury appeared to sap his limited athleticism greatly last year, and he may be better to move inside this year. When he’s on and healthy, he’s a prime road grader who is almost unmovable once he sets his anchor. But he’ll need to prove it quickly in camp to be ahead of guys like Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, and Lucas Patrick.
Chances of being released: 50%
LANCE KENDRICKS (8th Season)
Kendricks was signed last season to be form a dynamic duo with a malcontent who will not be named. And while that player flamed out in Green Bay, Kendricks wasn’t much better. He didn’t make too much of an impact after Aaron Rodgers got hurt and now is in a battle for the third tight end spot with Emmanuel Byrd and Robert Tonyan. His experience and production in the past will greatly help, but unless he becomes the blocker that he showed flashes of in St. Louis and plays an H-Back role with gusto, his days may be numbered to save some money.
Chances of being released: 35%
JAKE RYAN (4th Season)
In the final year of his rookie contract, Jake Ryan is rapidly losing playing time on defense. Blake Martinez is locked into the top role inside while rookie Oren Burks should be the third down specialist. That leaves Ryan for work in the base, which was rarely used last year. It remains to be seen how much Mike Pettine uses it this year, but Ryan may be stuck as a special teams leader this year. The biggest thing working against him is the money. He’s not making a great amount compared to the position, but every penny may count as we get closer to the reckoning that will be the Aaron Rodgers extension.
Chances of being released: 30%
AARON RIPKOWSKI (4th Season)
The Ripper has become the cult hero successor to John Kuhn as the bearded warrior blocking for a talented rushing attack. He was featured quite a bit in 2016 as a ball carrier, blocker, and even occasional receiver. But those snaps rapidly dwindled in 2017 with Mike McCarthy showing a preference of spreading the field more and letting his young running backs work in singleback and shotgun sets. That left Ripkowski to special teams where he met a challenger in Joe Kerridge. Both guys were good special teams guys and will probably battle it out again this year for that single fullback spot. In previous years, the team has kept two, but with the startling amount of depth at other spots, a second fullback may be more of a luxury, which puts Ripkowski squarely on the bubble.
Chances of being released: 40%
BRETT HUNDLEY (4th Season)
Where do we begin with Brett Hundley? Once seen as one of the biggest trade assets in the NFL, he went from Matt Flynn levels of backup quarterbackery to Brian Brohm every other Sunday. Dreadful at home and passable on the road, Hundley didn’t produce when given the chance to prove his worth as a potential NFL Starter down the line. And in the final year of his contract and with a newer, younger, more naturally talented guy battling with him for the #2 spot, Hundley may make the team due to his familiarity with the offense as the third quarterback, but like the fullbacks, three quarterbacks may be a luxury. Plus, if he saw the field in the regular season, twitter might self-destruct.
Chances of being released: 70%
DEMETRI GOODSON (4th Season)
Already older than his peers when he was drafted, the former point guard never really asserted himself on defense, but did make a nice living as a gunner on punt coverage. But he hasn’t seen any meaningful snaps on the field in two years following achilles and hamstring injuries. Trying to come back after those isn’t easy to begin with, but with Pipkins, Hawkins, and the young safeties for special teams snaps. Despite his yeoman’s work over the years, Goodson is likely on the outside looking in.
Chances of being released: 85%
QUENTIN ROLLINS (4th Season)
Speaking of achilles injuries, we come to Quentin Rollins. The former second round pick is trying to come back from that serious injury after struggling before the injury last year. In his short career, he showed decent ball skills and a willingness to tackle that could be great on special teams. But he is no well behind the eight ball as a corner who is recovering from a serious leg injury with questionable speed to begin with. He may need to move to safety to re-acquire a role on defense and may need to become a special teams stalwart to continue his career in Green and Gold.
Chances of being released: 55%
JOSH HAWKINS (3rd Season)
As with Davon House above, Hawkins is in a battle to be that fifth cornerback on the roster. On his side is youth, speed, and endless confidence. Most important among those is that speed. With a sub-4.4 40 time coming out of East Carolina, Hawkins might be one of the frontrunners to be a gunner on punt coverage to replace the Janis. If everything bounces his way, that’ll be his role and he’ll see limited snaps on obvious deep passing downs. If he doesn’t show the incremental improvement that he did the past two years and plateaus, he’ll be looking for another team.
Chances of being released: 60%
TREVOR DAVIS (3rd Season)
Finally, we get to a receiver. One of the better punt returners in the NFL last year, Davis was possibly the only guy who could make fans stand up and cheer raucously after one play while on a separate play make fans question their own sanity. His knack for fielding the ball inside his own ten yard line may have been smart when looking back on it depending on the position of the gunners, but his ability to break the big play made those risks worth it. And that could, and is likely, his ticket to the team again. He hasn’t developed too much as a receiver and is now battling three rookies and an improved second year DeAngelo Yancey to solidify his spot. If he were to be cut, Ty Montgomery could definitely take his spot as a kick returner, and any one of Randall Cobb, Jaire Alexander, Rollins, or even Aaron Jones could take his spot.
Chances of being cut: 60%——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.