The world rejoiced this week as Aaron Rodgers showed up to training camp and an off-season’s worth of drama stalled out. Rodgers wanted to play, and the Packers seem like they will actually be making a few concessions. Foremost among those was a trade for former Rodgers’ teammate Randall Cobb, which caused many to speculate whether the Packers have a new GM Aaron Rodgers.
Actual Packers GM Brian Gutekunst admitted in his Thursday press conference that the team would not have considered a Cobb trade without Rodgers’ influence. In Rodgers’ own press conference, he lamented the fact that he has not been able to leverage that influence on free agents over the years. Specifically mentioning that he has friends around the league who share the same agency or workout with him.
It is too late in the offseason for Rodgers to recruit any big-name players, but there are six guys who could certainly make a positive impact with some connection to Rodgers.
The obvious: Clay Matthews
Clay Matthews is the most obvious candidate. He is one of Rodgers’ all time favorite teammates. He played for a season with now Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry in Los Angeles. The Packers’ biggest weakness (inside linebacker) is Matthews best position. Clay even tweeted a joke about Rodgers this week.
Matthews could likely start day one at inside linebacker and could provide a third down pass rushing role that the Packers don’t have. Each of the Packers top three or four edge rushers are long, heavy, and strong players. This is the opposite of the Rams’ edge personnel from last season when Joe Barry was the linebackers coach there.
Matthews can be a change-up rushing from the edge on third down and dropping into coverage when a blitz or creeper is called.
There are two problems: money and progress stopping. Matthews was close to signing with the Seahawks last season and it fell apart when they wouldn’t offer him enough cash. The Packers would be even less likely to offer Matthews substantial money considering the current salary cap situation. Matthews would likely have to sign for the veteran minimum.
The more important problem is progress stopping. If the Packers sign Matthews, who probably has two seasons left max, every snap he plays is a snap where a young player like Krys Barnes or Rashan Gary isn’t on the field developing to their potential.
That may not be a bad thing for Matthews to take a backseat. Matthews is an old player and would benefit from a situational role that allows him to be a player-coach on first and second down and move around the front seven on third down.
Two Former Teammates: Damon Harrison and Mike Pennel
Snacks and the Penneltentiary are both former Rodgers teammates whose sole NFL job was to me immovable and stop the run. As Packers twitter phenom Justis Mosqueda is fond of mentioning, the Packers only have a few defensive linemen who weigh more than 300 pounds. Any extra girth on the d-line would be a plus.
That said, neither of these guys are super likely to be signed by the team. Snacks was only in Green Bay for a few weeks last season and didn’t get many snaps. Pennel was cut from the team after multiple suspensions and is currently on the Bears’ roster.
Two Athletes First Clients: Everson Griffen and Kelechi Osemele
I couldn’t find any direct connection with these two and Rodgers outside of the fact that they share(d) an agency, but both of them could improve the team.
Everson Griffen, the long-time Viking, was an athletic freak as a young player. As an old player, he still is one of the strongest pass rusher in the league. Adding him to the mix would free up Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary to rush inside more and likely improve the run defense on the downs he played.
Osemele is a multiple pro-bowler guard who only played a few weeks last season for the Chiefs where he filled in nicely. The Packers have about 46 guards on the roster right now so I wouldn’t expect Osemele to be signed any time soon. But don’t be surprised if the team looks into it if there is a late season injury.
Bonus Twitter Friend: Russel Okung
In an article where none of the moves will happen, this one won’t happen the most. Okung is about as eccentric as it gets for an NFL player. He has long been his own agent and last season took his salary in bitcoin. He is a very vocal bitcoin proponent on twitter and often tweets libertarian content that Rodgers invariably favorites. Yes, I know that because I check Rodgers’ favorites often.
Okung has had a successful career at left tackle and could fill in for David Bakhtiari until he returns from a torn ACL. The Packers did sign another tackle, Dennis Kelly, just this week, but Coach LaFleur stressed in a press conference that Kelly is more of a right tackle than left tackle. Okung could fill in at left tackle allowing Billy Tuner to stick on the right and Kelly to be the swing tackle.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.