One of many unfortunate side effects of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic as it concerns the NFL is the difficulty in evaluating the health of potential free agents. Look at former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for a prime example. Newton is only a few years removed from an MVP season and is certainly more talented than many starting quarterbacks in the league, but teams aren’t able to confirm his medical status, and he remains unsigned.
This applies to many other talented players as well, and the most intriguing option for the Green Bay Packers is defensive lineman Mike Daniels. Daniels was a surprise cut from the team in 2019, but after an injury-plagued season with the rival Detroit Lions, he could be a quality pickup for the Green and Gold once again. While signing Daniels could be risky, he would be an excellent addition to a team in need of a run-stopper.
Daniels was a solid player with a powerful presence in his time in Green Bay. A former Day 3 pick, Daniels evolved into a reliable starter, a team leader, and one of the best players against the run. But in 2019, he was the year’s cap causality, and the team saved over $8m by releasing Daniels.
He had a solid start with Detroit (10 total tackles, a sack, and two QB hits), but injuries plagued him once again. Daniels played in just nine games in 2019, as leg and arm injuries stole his season.
Despite two injured and unimpactful seasons, Daniels was a Pro Bowl player just two seasons ago and fits a need for his old team. It will be a long time before Packers fans forget how badly their team was gashed in the run by the 49ers in the NFCCG, and none of their offseason moves have addressed that issue.
The Packers would like to see Kingsley Keke shore up the defensive line next to Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry, but there are no guarantees he’ll take that huge year-two leap. Daniels could shore up the line while letting Keke get snaps in relief, preparing the latter to become the starter in the future.
The team also has a new group of leaders in the Smiths, Adrian Amos, and Jaire Alexander. Daniels’ in-your-face leadership can be balanced out by these new teammates and allow him to mesh well with the other defenders in a different locker room environment.
Daniels’ injury history is concerning but likely lowers his price significantly from when he last played in Green Bay. He’s been very vocal on social media about his recovery and is determined to not only play but dominate on the field. Should his injuries be healed, he just makes so much sense for the Packers.
For his part, Daniels is open to a reunion with his former team. In an interview with ESPN Wisconsin, he stated, “What I will say is that I’m very excited about the possibility and opportunity of coming back — if that were indeed a thing. Green Bay is home. It’s one of my homes — New Jersey, Iowa (and) Green Bay, Wisconsin. So to be able to return back to where I started my NFL career and now I’m way more mature, polished, would be great.”
Interest, need, and a connection align. The only questions are the official results on Daniels’ health and his cost and Green Bay’s interest. Should the stars align, a Green Bay/Mike Daniels reunion just makes so much sense.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.