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Packers Undrafted Free Agents: Even After Draft, Help Wanted on D-Line

Even after signing Jarran Reed and drafting Devonte Wyatt and Jonathan Ford, there is a long-term need on the defensive line for the Green Bay Packers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers used one of their first-round draft picks on Devonte Wyatt and one of their seventh-round draft picks on Jonathan Ford.

Combined with the free-agent addition of Jarran Reed, the Packers have made a big investment in their defensive line this offseason. That, however, doesn’t mean there’s not room for undrafted free agents Akial Byers of Missouri and Hauati Pututau of Utah.

That’s because, with Dean Lowry and Reed set to be free agents next offseason, only Pro Bowler Kenny Clark, 2021 draft pick T.J. Slaton, 2021 undrafted free agent Jack Heflin, Wyatt and Ford (assuming he makes the roster) are under contract for 2023.

So, whether Byers or Pututau spend the season the 53-man roster or gaining seasoning on the practice squad, the door is open for one of them to eventually make a splash.

As a fifth-year senior, Byers played in 12 games with 10 starts. He had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses among 23 total stops. A high school All-American, he recorded two sacks and nine tackles for losses in 52 career games (20 starts).

Byers took advantage of the NCAA’s “COVID year” and played a fifth season. He changed his jersey to No. 0 and worked under former Packers defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.

“He pushes us to get better every day no matter where it's at, on the field, or just in the weight room," Byers said at SEC Media Days. “He wants us out there working together, working on our footwork, hand placement, anything, or even just learning the playbook. And I think that's a big thing. He teaches us something new every day. So, every time we go into a meeting room, it's like you're in the classroom learning new things. I take every day we're meeting seriously.”

Byers is from Fayetteville, Ark., but wasn’t recruited by his home-state team because of academics. In 2018, he scored a touchdown against the Razorbacks.

“Scoring my first touchdown against my home state was just crazy,” Byers recalled last year. “It’s been a journey. I just wanted to stay the course, always get better each day and help my team win.”

A sixth-year super-senior, Pututau played in 14 games and made eight of his 12 career starts in 2021. He had three sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses among 18 total tackles. In 57 career games (12 starts), he finished with six sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and 13 passes defensed.

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With six years on the field and his LDS mission, he is 26 years old.

“I was recruited as a linebacker, but then gained a few pounds on my mission,” he said last season. “I came back and they put me at D-line.”

Pututau is one of eight children. He was one of four Pututaus on the Utes’ roster, including brothers Fua and Tennessee, both of whom are defensive tackles.

“Tongan people are very prideful,” Pututau said. “We pride ourselves in who we are and who we portray to others who we are. As a Tongan you don’t show weakness and here at Utah that is what they stand for is you show no weakness. You work hard and the results will come. Being Tongan is what keeps me going, motivates me to be a hard worker and to develop a good work ethic each and every day we are out here on the field.”

By the measurables, Pututau is the better prospect. At 6-foot-3 1/8 and 306 pounds, Pututau ran his 40 in 5.21 seconds and put up 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press.

At 6-foot-2 7/8 and 308 pounds, Byers ran his 40 in 5.66 seconds and put up 17 reps on the bench press. He does have the advantage with 34-inch arms compared to 32 1/4 inches for Pututau.


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