GREEN BAY, Wis. – While some impact players remain as the second week of NFL free agency gets under way, the league mostly has moved into the bargain-hunting phase.
After making a series of big splashes last offseason, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst settled on only a pair of midpriced veterans this year with linebacker Christian Kirksey and right tackle Rick Wagner. In this two-part series (Part 2 on the defense is here), we find one under-the-radar player at each position on offense who could help the Packers, with the caveat of being age 28 or younger.
Trevor Siemian, N.Y. Jets (28): With the exception of Matt Flynn in 2014, the Packers generally have had young backups behind Aaron Rodgers. That was the case last year, when Tim Boyle beat out DeShaun Kizer. Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 by Denver, started a total of 24 games for the Broncos in 2016 and 2017. His intelligence and experience would allow him a chance to succeed with minimal practice reps.
Tyler Ervin, Green Bay (26): Not all free agents need to come from the outside. Ervin rescued Green Bay’s special teams last season. In the first 12 games, the Packers had minus-8 yards on punt returns. In Ervin’s four games, he averaged 9.6 yards per punt return and 26.7 yards per kickoff return. The team tried to get him involved on offense, with little impact, but his speed and versatility make him an intriguing option.
Tajae Sharpe, Tennessee (25): A fifth-round pick in 2016, Sharpe had 92 receptions for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns in three healthy seasons with the Titans. While the Titans’ offense centered on the thundering running of Derrick Henry and the strong play of rookie receiver A.J. Brown, Sharpe caught 25 passes for 329 yards and set career highs with 13.2 yards per catch, four touchdowns and a 71.4 percent catch rate in 2019. He was one of five receivers with 35-plus targets to not have a drop, according to Pro Football Focus.
Geoff Swaim, Jacksonville (26): There’s not much left at a position group that was lacking a lot of intriguing talent, anyway. Following Jason Witten’s retirement, Swaim had a strong season with Dallas in 2018 with 26 receptions for 242 yards in nine games before a wrist injury. He also missed most of last season due to injuries. Swaim’s path to the NFL started at Butte College – Rodgers’ junior-college alma mater.
Interior offensive line
Cam Erving, Kansas City (27): Erving is an ideal candidate to be a team’s sixth man. A first-round pick by Cleveland in 2015, he’s started games at every position on the line. With Kansas City, he started 13 games at left guard in 2018, when he allowed one sack, and three games at right guard and one at left tackle in 2017, when he did not allow any sacks. In 2019, he started eight games at left tackle and allowed five sacks. Had he met the 50 percent playing time threshold, he would have ranked 44th out of 57 offensive tackles in PFF’s pass-protection metric.
James Hurst, Baltimore (28): Director of football operations Milt Hendrickson has had a strong influence on personnel since his arrival from Baltimore. Za’Darius Smith and Wagner are among the team’s former Ravens. Hurst started 44 games in six seasons for Baltimore. In 2017, he played 1,006 snaps at left guard and allowed three sacks, according to PFF. In 2018, he played 428 snaps at right tackle and 228 at left guard and allowed zero sacks. In 2019, both of his starts came at left tackle and he allowed one sack. He was released by the Ravens in February and will start the season with a suspension.
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