GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers signed 11 players to futures deals on Tuesday, including 10 players with Packers ties and lightning-fast receiver Rico Gafford. One player who will not be asked back is cornerback Isaac Yiadom.
Yiadom was acquired from the New York Giants in exchange for Josh Jackson, a former second-round pick, midway through training camp. He played in 16 games with one start. That start came at Chicago in Week 6, when he was burned on the opening series and replaced – permanently, as it turned out – by Rasul Douglas, who emerged as a star.
The Packers released Yiadom and defensive tackle Jack Heflin last week to make room for the return of outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus on injured reserve.
While he didn’t play anything but garbage-time snaps on defense down the stretch, Yiadom was a key player on special teams, logging 307 snaps and three tackles while playing on the core phases of kickoff and kickoff return, punt and punt return. He was a quality gunner for most of the season but was penalized for kick-catch interference against Baltimore he plowed over Devin Duvernay.
“Ike was very upset,” special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton said at the time. “He obviously saw the fair catch call and he was going to run by the returner. Credit to their returner, a returner who has many returns under his belt. He was very savvy with the late fair catch signal, but Ike still had enough time to see it and get out of the way and the returner kind of nudged into him. So, credit to that guy, bad on our part. We’ll just have to break down sooner once we see that fair catch signal and he has to get out of the way.”
After the Packers lost to the 49ers in the playoffs due in part to three major malfunctions on special teams, Yiadom tweeted his defense of Drayton.
Yiadom was a third-round pick by Denver out of Boston College in 2018. He spent his first two seasons with the Broncos and the 2020 season with Giants. Now, with 20 starts under his belt, he’ll be looking to join his fourth team.
“I don’t really look at it as, ‘I’m a third-round pick, I’ve got to meet this expectation or I’ve got to do this,’” Yiadom said in August. “I just try to meet Ike’s expectations, you know what I mean? I just try to do what I’ve got to do, and that’s get better every single day. It’s not like it hasn’t panned out or hasn’t worked out. I don’t see it like that. At the end of the day, I think I’m getting better every day. That’s all that matters to me. I’m in a great place, Green Bay. And I’m ready to play. So, I’m going to help my team out here.”
As a player going into his fifth season, Yiadom would have counted $1.035 million against the salary cap, so perhaps there’s a financial component involved as the team wrestles with its cap.
Also not returning will be versatile offensive lineman Ben Braden. Braden was released before the final regular-season game, a spot that ultimately went to Randall Cobb when the receiver returned from injured reserve. He is seeking greener pastures.
Braden was quite a story during training camp. He was in the mix for a starting job at guard, then showed he could play at right tackle, too, during the preseason. He was released at the end of training camp and was promoted from the practice squad when Elgton Jenkins suffered a torn ACL at Minnesota. Braden played in a career-high nine games with four snaps on offense and 71 on special teams.
There should be a market for a player with three-position versatility as a depth piece.
The Packers also chose not to retain fifth-year receiver David Moore, fourth-year linebacker Peter Kalambayi, third-year receiver Josh Malone, third-year tight end Bronson Kaufusi, second-year defensive tackle Abdullah Anderson and second-year running back Kerrith Whyte, all of whom would have earned more than the first-year base of $825,000.