The summer of 2019 seems set to be the solstice of reunions in the sports world. Remember way back to middle of summer 2017. There were major and messy ripples in the sporting atmosphere. Brazilian soccer dynamo Neymar Jr. wanted out of Lionel Messi’s shadow in Barcelona, and branched out to French juggernaut Paris St. Germain for a world record fee. NBA superstar Kyrie Irving, tired of playing second fiddle to Lebron James, forced his way out of Cleveland with a trade to the Boston Celtics. The two tantalizing titans have failed in their independent escapades, and each could now be set for a homecoming. The Green Bay Packers, regrettably, have let a number of talented homegrown players leave the confines of Lambeau, only to watch them flourish elsewhere this decade. So which former player could rejoin the Packers for another shot at glory?
Casey Hayward: Perhaps the most egregious error former General Manager Ted Thompson made this decade was allowing Casey Hayward to get away. The former second round pick was a solid contributor during his four years in Green Bay, and recorded 9 interceptions while playing primarily in the slot. Since his free agent move to the Chargers franchise, he has done nothing but play high level football. The Vanderbilt Commodore was named a Pro-Bowler after both the 2016 and 2017 seasons and came up with 11 interceptions in that time. He has played an integral part in building the Los Angeles Chargers defense into a top tier unit, and looks set for another outstanding year in 2019. At this point a Hayward return is nothing more than wishful thinking, but a late career get together could be in the cards.
Micah Hyde: Much like Hayward, Micah Hyde is another player Ted has to regret letting walk. After signing a 5 yr, $30 million dollar deal with Buffalo in 2017, the 28-year old has done nothing but flourish in the strong safety role. The jack-of-all trades secondary man for the Packers had some stretches of strong play while wearing the green & gold, but is probably best remembered for the plays he didn’t make. (The through his hands interception vs San Francisco stands out.) Regardless, Hyde has shown his true colours with the Bills, registering 5 interceptions in 2017 and being named a first time Pro-Bowler. Brian Gutekunst rectified these mistakes this off-season with the additions of Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, but imagine what the team would look like if those resources were available to be spent elsewhere.
J.C. Tretter: Another young up and coming player who was allowed to leave is center J.C. Tretter. After filling in admirably for the injured Corey Linsley during the 2016 season, Tretter’s star has shone brightly for a rising Cleveland Browns team the past two years. With the former 4th-round pick now snapping the ball to the polarizing Baker Mayfield, in an offense filled with stars, he won’t be looking for a way out anytime soon.
Jared Cook: Perhaps the most intriguing option on this list, Jared Cook has continued to perform after ruefully being allowed to leave Green Bay in favour of signing Martellus Bennett. In the first year of the Jon Gruden-Derek Carr experiment in Oakland, Cook was consistently the offense’s biggest threat. The former South Carolina Gamecock turned 68 receptions into 896 yards and 6 touchdowns, while also earning his first Pro-Bowl berth in 2018. Already on the receiving end of one of the franchise’s most iconic passing plays, the return of Cook would be a welcome sight in Green Bay. If only the Packers had chosen to keep Cook in 2016, maybe the awful contracts to Bennett, and the corpse of Jimmy Graham would never have happened.
Morgan Burnett: A superb 3rd round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, Morgan Burnett was, at times, the glue that held the Packers secondary together. Often, when number 42 was forced out with an injury, the defense would get torn up, with nowhere to turn in his stead. Burnett was a solid, versatile fortification on the back end of the defense, even playing some linebacker in the latter stages of his Packers career. Green Bay is in need of veteran safety depth, and Burnett would have been as good of a contingency plan as you could ask for. Having signed with the Cleveland Browns this off-season, a reconciliation may not be high on his list of priorities.
The most glaringly obvious precedent this article should set is young up and coming talent should never be allowed to leave 1265 Lombardi Ave. Brian Gutekunst and Co. must do a better job than their predecessors of identifying the competent, and convincing these players that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Recent history in this aspect doesn’t work in the Packers favour. Although, with Aaron Rodgers in tow, the Packers brass should be able to convince players to want to stay, and perhaps even to return to play, in Green Bay for a long, long time.Nick is a lifelong Packers fan. 4th and 26 was on his 13th birthday, unlucky. Follow him @CANDRAFTGEEK647 on Twitter for all your Packers draft needs and questions.