Wednesday was a tough blow after the Packers released defensive tackle Mike Daniels. It’s hard to get used to getting rid of good players but the financial side of things serves as justification. The Packers saved a little over $8 million by cutting the former Pro-Bowler.
This move could indicate the signing of a current player whose contract is expiring soon. Perhaps, Kenny Clark or Blake Martinez. However, while that is transpiring on the sidelines, the defense will have to find a way to replace their man in the middle who has served as the heart and soul of the defense over the last few years. Daniels recently turned 30 and is coming off a season in which he missed six games due to a foot injury.
So, who is going to replace Daniels? The Packers have several options to help augment the current void on the defensive front.
On Tuesday, the team extended defensive end Dean Lowry who can most seamlessly slide into Daniels’ spot. Lowry started eight games in 2018 and has been a solid rotational player since being drafted in 2016. He also finished third on the team in quarterback hurries last season. Expect him to take on an even larger role in the Daniels’ absence.
In 2017, the Packers selected Montravius Adams in the third round. Adams suffered a brutal foot injury right before his rookie season limiting him to just seven games. In his second season, Adams appeared in all 16 games and showed some of his development down the stretch. He finished with 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Adams has been a standout so far this offseason.
He’s not a standout, but Tyler Lancaster came on strong last year. Undrafted in 2018, the Northwestern product appeared in 12 games, starting five. He’s less explosive than Daniels but has a bigger build and the strength to be a factor up the middle against the run. If he continues to progress, he will continue to get reps.
There’s even a chance a pair of rookies will get a chance at the open spot. Fifth-rounder Kingsley Keke is a natural athlete who honestly plays similar to Daniels’ style. He shares the position as a tweener between a defensive end/tackle in a 3-4 system. The upside is, Keke makes up for what Daniels lacked in size and length.
Then, there is Rashan Gary who is likely going to start out playing on the edge for the Packers. Their first pick in this year’s draft is a great athlete who was brought in to bolster the pass rush. He has the explosiveness, length, and strength to set the edge. The team hopes his premiu athleticism will turn him into a good pass rusher on the outside.
However, Gary may be able to kick inside to be a three-technique defensive tackle as well. A position where Daniels spent most of his time in recent years. Gary could have a strong enough base to hold up against guards and his length will also come in handy on runs in his direction. You can also factor in his speed and aggression as a backside run defender. The same can be even said about Za’Darius Smith who saw time as a three-tech with the Ravens.
There’s no denying Daniels was a good player and possessed a great attitude for the locker room, but the Packers may already have his replacement.
___________________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.