Packers Sign Eight Undrafted Free Agents; Who Will Keep Streak Alive?

The Green Bay Packers have had at least one undrafted rookie make the opening 53-man roster for 19 consecutive years. Who will extend that streak to 20?
Donovan Jennings
Donovan Jennings / Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers have had at least one undrafted rookie earn a spot on the 53-man roster for 19 consecutive years. Last year, it was Brenton Cox, Emanuel Wilson and Malik Heath.

Who will extend that streak to 20? The Packers made official the signing of eight undrafted free agents on Tuesday. That’s a smaller class than usual because the Packers’ roster was closer to the 90-man limit than most year. Last year, the Packers signed 12; In 2022, they signed 14.

Here they are, ranked from most- to least-likely to earn a roster spot.

OL Donovan Jennings, South Florida: Money talks. The Packers usually don’t spend much money on their undrafted free agents, but they reportedly gave Jennings a $10,000 signing bonus and $100,000 guaranteed. So, clearly, the Packers considered Jennings a draftable player and one with the ability to earn a spot on the 53.

Jennings started 45 games for USF, with 43 at left tackle. After missing most of 2022 following a broken ankle, Jennings allowed only two sacks in 10 starts in 2023. He had five offensive coordinators in six seasons, so he should be well-versed in learning a playbook. At 6-foot-4 1/8 and 323 pounds with 33-inch arms, Jennings’ Relative Athletic Score was 8.93.

He had a predraft visit.

LS Peter Bowden, Wisconsin: Bowden was Badgers’ full-time snapper for his final three seasons. Whether it’s the Doak Walker Award or Outland Trophy, every position group in college has an award. For long snappers, it’s the Patrick Mannelly Award. Bowden was a semifinalist in 2022 and one of three finalists in 2023.

“What's nice about it is that there's nobody else involved in the play but me,” he told Badger Extra. “I don't need somebody to give me the ball. I don't need like a call or something, it's just me and the ball. So I always viewed it as like, if I do what I have to do, and I can be confident in myself in doing the job, then I'll be fine.”

Bowden was a walk-on in 2019 and was put on scholarship in 2020. He was the No. 1 snapper prospect in the draft, according to The Athletic’s Dane Brugler. At 6-foot-2 3/8 and 239 pounds, he ran his 40 in 5.12 seconds and his RAS was 6.72.

Signed last offseason, Matt Orzech was OK as the Packers’ snapper in his debut season, but he had a few wayward snaps that were saved by Daniel Whelan. There is a legit opening for Bowden.

DL James Ester, Northern Illinois: Ester has the tangibles and intangibles to push for a spot at a position the Packers did not address in the draft. At NIU, he started 43 games. In 2023, he was a second-team all-conference choice and team MVP after recording career highs of 49 tackles, four sacks and 6.5 TFLs. PFF credited him with 24 pressures in 2023 and 22 in 2022.

Moreover, the four-year team captain was a semifinalist for the Campbell Trophy – aka the Academic Heisman. “James is the heartbeat of our defense,” coach Thomas Hammock said. “He’s given his all to this program and he's got a very bright future.”

At 6-foot-2 1/2 and 289 pounds with 33-inch arms, his across-the-board mediocre testing numbers gave him a 4.12 RAS.

OL Trente Jones, Michigan: Jones was a four-star recruit but never was a consistent starter. In four seasons, he played in 41 games with 13 starts. While he started only five games in 2023, he was a key contributor in the Wolverines’ run to the national championship when he stepped into the starting lineup at right tackle for the final three games following Zak Zinter’s broken leg. He allowed zero sacks and three pressures in 148 pass-protecting snaps.

At 6-foot-3 7/8 and 305 pounds with 33-inch arms, he ran his 40 in 5.17 seconds and had a RAS of 7.45.

It will be an uphill battle with nine returning players and Andre Dillard joined by three draft picks.

DL Rodney Mathews, Ohio: After a year of junior-college seasoning, Mathews was a three-year starter for the Bobcats. He set career highs with 26 tackles and seven tackles for losses in 2022, and followed it up with 20 tackles, 4.5 TFLs and one interception as a captain in 2023.

At 6-foot-1 and 311 pounds, his RAS was only 2.81. But the Packers didn’t invest in their defensive line in the draft.

RB Jarveon Howard, Alcorn State: Howard opened his career at Syracuse before transferring to Alcorn State for his final two seasons. In 2022, he was the SWAC Newcomer of the Year, when rushed for a career-high 1,273 yards. In 2023, he rushed for 764 yards (same 5.0 average as in 2022) but set a career high with 31 receptions.

It was against lower-tier competition, but he averaged an impressive 3.2 yards after contact in 2023, according to PFF. In those two seasons, he had 443 touches, forced 113 missed tackles and fumbled only twice.

Howard measured 5-foot-9 7/8 and 219 pounds. With a 4.53 in the 40, his RAS was 7.39.

The Packers’ running backs include Josh Jacobs, AJ Dillon, third-round pick MarShawn Lloyd and Emanuel Wilson.

TE Messiah Swinson, Arizona State: Swinson spent his first three seasons at Missouri before finishing with two years at Arizona State. Most of his production came at ASU. He caught 28 passes in five seasons, with 21 at ASU: 15 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns in 2022 and six catches for 48 yards in 2023.

This offseason, the Packers re-signed Tyler Davis but did not add a tight end.

At 6-foot-7 and 259 pounds, he ran his 40 in 4.85 seconds. He’s a big man with 34 1/8-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands but woeful all-around athleticism gave him a RAS of 1.50.

LB Ralen Goforth, Washington: Goforth spent four years at USC, where he started 17 games and tallied 149 tackles (career-high 60 in 2021), before finishing his career last year at Washington. He played in all 15 games and recorded 37 tackles to help the Huskies reach the national championship game.

He’s 6-foot-1 1/4 and 227 pounds with a 4.62 in the 40 and a 4.21 in the shuttle. His RAS was 7.81.

Working against him: The Packers drafted Edgerrin Cooper in the first round and Ty’Ron Hopper in the third round and re-signed Eric Wilson and Kristian Welch. Also, his career missed-tackle rate was 20.0 percent.

The Packers’ 11 draft picks and eight undrafted free agents will be joined by first-year players and tryout players at the rookie camp on Friday and Saturday. 

Jarveon Howard
Jarveon Howard / Barbara Gauntt/Clarion Ledger / USA

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.