Mercifully, the 2018-2019 season for the Green Bay Packers is coming to a close. The Packers off-season will bring a lot of intrigue. Most of the intrigue will center around who the next Packers head coach will be. If the early reports are true on who Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst are interviewing, it will be an interesting and possibly upsetting time for Packers fans. The head coaching position won’t be the only topic up for discussion with Packers fans though. With the Packers not making the playoffs for the second straight season, there is a strong possibility that there will be a lot of roster movement this off-season. Like with his predecessor, Ted Thompson, Gutekunst will be active in the NFL draft. But unlike Thompson, Gutekunst has shown he is willing to dip into free agency to help improve the Packers roster. We thought it would be a good time to spotlight some possible free agent players who might get a look from Gutekunst and the Packers this off-season. Possible free agent targets for the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers Free Agent Targets
Signing free agent players is an inexact science. There is a reason that free agent players are allowed to leave their former employers. They are either deemed too expensive, over the hill, or possible NFL draft busts. But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
While Thompson rarely signed free agent players who were with other NFL teams, Gutekunst showed last season, he isn’t afraid to do so. Last off-season, Gutekunst signed several veteran free agent players. As Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com recently pointed out, Gutekunst’s first free agent signing provided mixed results. This time around, Gutekunst will need to do better, if the Packers are going to get back to the playoffs next season.
Positions of Weakness
When putting together a list of possible free agent targets, we first had to indicate positions that the Packers need help at. With a team that has missed the playoffs two years in a row, that wasn’t too difficult.
Some of these positions will be targeted in next year’s draft. At this point, only Gutekunst and his team of scouts only know which positions these will be. So for this list, we will list free agent players at each position of weakness. The franchise tag will play a big part in who is available this coming off-season as well. We are going to make some assumptions on who won’t be given the franchise tag.
The top positions of need for the Packers look to be at outside linebacker, safety, offensive line, and possibly wide receiver. Here are the players we believe should be free agent targets for the Packers this off-season.
Houston Texans Jadeveon Clowney will be the hottest name for free agent outside linebackers. We find it highly doubtful that he will be available this off-season. Clowney is finally healthy and because he can line up inside or outside for the Texans, we believe he won’t be going anywhere this off-season. With Clowney expected to be off the board, it can be argued that Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Dee Ford is number two on the list.
Ford is having his best season as a professional, with currently having 12 sacks on the season. Ford isn’t as big as Clowney, or the capability of playing multiple positions, but Ford knows how to get to the quarterback. Something the Packers sorely need on the outside. We believe that Ford would be a major upgrade to what the Packers currently have. There is a high probability that the Packers will look at an outside linebacker in the first round of the NFL draft as well. That rookie would benefit by having Ford playing opposite of him. One thing to keep in mind, this projection is that the Packers run a 3-4 defense in 2019.
Tramon Williams proved to be the best of Gutekunst’s free agent signings from last season. He made the move to safety when Gutekunst traded Ha-Ha Clinton Dix this season. Williams became the starter and former second-round pick Josh Jones eventually became the starter at the other safety position. Jones still struggled in pass coverage and seems a better fit playing closer to the line of scrimmage. Jones still has a place on the Packers roster, but we feel that would be on special teams and in special packages.
We believe that Landon Collins of the New York Giants would be a nice addition this off-season. Collins had a very solid 2015 season, which he intercepted five passes and also had four sacks. But since that season, he has just two interceptions and hasn’t registered a sack. It might be that Collins just needs a change of scenery. Unlike Clinton Dix, Collins is a leader and is a fierce competitor. Even with the two down seasons, Collins would be an instant upgrade.
The Packers would love to get a free agent offensive tackle that can be utilized as a swing tackle. But finding an offensive tackle, especially one that has the ability to play on both sides, is nearly impossible to find. With that in mind, the Packers might have better luck drafting a young offensive tackle they can groom to do that. Although Bryan Bulaga is as fragile as they came, they could try to get away with him as a starter next season. He will be in the last year of his deal.
That leaves the right guard position. This season, the Packers struggled with Justin McCray and Byron Bell as their starter. Lucas Patrick looks like a capable backup, but not much of an answer as a long-term starter. The Packers no doubt will draft a guard in the draft, but probably not one that will start immediately.
Los Angeles Rams starting guard Rodger Saffold might be worth taking a look at. He has started 15 games so far this season for the Rams and has done a solid job. He will be 31 years old next season, but if Gutekunst drafts a young guard, he might be a solid stopgap.
Some will argue that tight end should be put ahead of the wide receiver position. But the time has come for the Packers to find a quality young tight end in the draft. They have tried Jared Cook, Martellus Bennett, and most recently Jimmy Graham. The results, at best, have been mixed. It is doubtful they would grab a tight end with one of their two first round picks. Still, the tight end position is deep enough in this year’s draft to find one in the second or possibly the third round.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown both contributed as rookies for the Packers this season. They will be expected to make a bigger contribution next season. Still, it appears that slot receiver Randall Cobb won’t be re-signed for next season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is developing a bond with Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown, but it would beneficial to get him a veteran pass catcher. Especially one who can play in the slot.
Golden Tate was traded by the Detroit Lions to the Philadelphia Eagles during this season. The Eagles haven’t fully utilized Tate like the Lions did, which could mean they won’t re-sign him. Tate was ultra-productive when he was with the Lions. In 2017 he caught 92 passes with five touchdowns. The Packers would know what they are getting in Tate. When he was with the Lions, he was a pain in the Packers side. He had some huge games when he played against the Packers.
Tate would be an upgrade over Cobb. He hasn’t battled the injuries Cobb has had and has been more productive. Tate, along with current Packer Davante Adams, would give Rodgers a solid veteran duo to pass to.
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