GREEN BAY, Wis. – Armed with an additional $6.2 million of salary-cap space following the contract extension for All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander, the Green Bay Packers have a few extra bucks to potentially use on a veteran addition.
It’s slim pickings in free agency but finding a difference-maker isn’t impossible. Last year, for instance, the Packers signed linebacker De’Vondre Campbell on June 9. Signed to a rather minimal one-year deal worth $2 million, the Packers received All-Pro production.
“Roster building’s 365” days per year, general manager Brian Gutekunst said during the draft. “I say it all the time. I’m sure you guys get sick of it, but it really is, so we’ll see what opportunities are out there as we move forward.”
With that being said, signings like Campbell are the exception and not the rule. The best players in free agency are long gone, and the NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror. With the key periods of roster building complete, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus combined PFF’s grades from the draft and free agency to help build a cumulative offseason grade.
Thanks to what he deemed a strong draft, Monson gave the Packers a B-minus.
“It’s hard to look beyond trading away Davante Adams, particularly when they didn’t want to,” Monson wrote as part of his summation. “Unlike the Tyreek Hill situation, Green Bay was actually prepared to match the contract that the Raiders were going to hand Adams, just not until they had already poisoned relations with Adams to the point he wasn’t prepared to accept it anymore. At the point Adams was determined to leave, the team did about as well as it could have in terms of compensation, but letting it get that far seems to have been an error.”
While Monson especially liked the use of a second-round pick on Christian Watson and a fourth-round pick on Romeo Doubs, “it’s hard to imagine this offense not taking a step backward,” he wrote, even with Aaron Rodgers slinging the football.
Eleven teams received a grade worse than Green Bay’s, including two of its NFC North rivals. The Detroit Lions received an A-minus.
The Too-Early Packers Roster Projection
In (2): Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love.
Out (2): Kurt Benkert, Danny Etling.
Watch out for: Etling, if only because he’s the fresh face and took better care of the football in college than Benkert.
Early viewpoint: There’s no reason to keep three quarterbacks on the roster and it’s hard to see any team wanting to trade for Love.
Pictured: Aaron Rodgers (USA Today Sports Images)
In (3): Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Patrick Taylor.
Out (3): Kylin Hill (PUP), B.J. Baylor, Tyler Goodson.
Watch out for: Baylor led the Pac-12 in rushing in 2021. According to Pro Football Focus, he forced 57 missed tackles on 227 carries compared to 38 missed tackles on 256 carries by Goodson. Then again, Goodson caught 31 passes with one drop compared to eight catches and two drops by Baylor.
Early viewpoint: Hill suffered a torn ACL at Arizona on Oct. 28. If he’s not ready, who will be the No. 3 back? Taylor perhaps changed the path of his career during the Week 18 game at Detroit, when he rushed 11 times for 53 yards and one touchdown.
Pictured: Patrick Taylor (USA Today Sports Images)
In (7): Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Samori Toure.
Out (3): Juwann Winfree, Malik Taylor, Danny Davis.
Watch out for: The rookies, obviously. The Packers invested heavily at receiver and they'll need an immediate payoff if they're going to remain legitimate NFL championship contenders.
Early viewpoint: Watkins, the fourth pick of the 2014 draft and the lone veteran addition to a group sent reeling by the trade of Adams, isn’t a lock to make the roster. The development of the rookies will have a role in determining if Watkins is simply Devin Funchess 2.0. The Packers moved Rico Gafford to cornerback, where he played in college, but he still could get some action at receiver.
Pictured: Chris Blair (USA Today Sports Images)
In (4): Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Tyler Davis, Josiah Deguara.
Out (3): Dominique Dafney, Alize Mack, Eli Wolf.
Watch out for: Davis played 111 snaps last season. While he caught only four passes, Gutekunst said, “I think we might have something there.” Mack, a seventh-round pick by the Saints in 2019, hasn’t played in an NFL game but looked good at the rookie camp.
Early viewpoint: Tonyan suffered a torn ACL at Arizona on Oct. 28. If he’s not ready for Week 1, he should be close so the guess is he’ll make the opening 53. It’s a quality group of role players that really needs Tonyan to return to his 2020 form.
Pictured: Tyler Davis (USA Today Sports Images)
In (8): LT David Bakhtiari, LG Jon Runyan, C Josh Myers, RG Royce Newman, RT Yosh Nijman, T/G Sean Rhyan, OL Zach Tom, T Rasheed Walker.
Out (8): G/T Elgton Jenkins (PUP), C Jake Hanson, C Michal Menet, C Cole Schneider, G George Moore, T Jahmir Johnson, T Caleb Jones, G/T Cole Van Lanen.
Watch out for: Schneider was a four-year starter at Central Florida who did not allow a sack as a senior. Could he be Lucas Patrick 2.0 as an undrafted free agent who found a home as a versatile interior lineman?
Early viewpoint: The Packers took nine blockers into the regular season last year but the position versatility of Rhyan (at guard and tackle) and Tom (at all five positions) could allow the Packers to save a roster spot for elsewhere. Jenkins suffered a torn ACL on Nov. 21. It’s unlikely he’ll be ready for Week 1 but maybe he’ll be far enough along in his recovery to make the 53.
Pictured: Elgton Jenkins (USA Today Sports Images)
In (5): Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Devonte Wyatt, Jarran Reed, T.J. Slaton.
Out: (4) Jonathan Ford, Jack Heflin, Akial Byers, Hauati Pututau.
Watch out for: It was only a rookie minicamp. And it wasn’t live competition in the trenches. But the 26-year-old Pututau showed his strength by pushing around some of the young offensive linemen.
Early viewpoint: The additions of the veteran Reed and the rookie Wyatt have changed the face of the defensive line. This has the makings of being a really strong unit to join with excellent starters at the other positions.
Pictured: Kenny Clark (USA Today Sports Images)
In (6): Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Jonathan Garvin, Kingsley Enagbare, Randy Ramsey, Tipa Galeai.
Out (3): La’Darius Hamilton, Kobe Jones, Chauncey Manac.
Watch out for: As a sixth-year super-senior, Manac recorded 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses for Louisiana in 2021.
Early viewpoint: Enagbare tested horribly at the Scouting Combine (and even worse at pro day) but he looked athletic enough at rookie camp. If you want a rookie-camp overreaction, Enagbare could be a big-time steal. Ramsey, who missed last season with an ankle injury, and Galeai need to be assets on special teams.
Pictured: Kingsley Enagbare (USA Today Sports Images)
In (5): De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker, Krys Barnes, Isaiah McDuffie, Ellis Brooks,
Out (3): Ty Summers, Caliph Brice, Ray Wilborn.
Watch out for: Brooks, a productive starter at Penn State, went undrafted but showed some real potential during rookie camp. His instincts seem on-point and he comes with a reputation for being a hitter.
Early viewpoint: At the top of the depth chart, Campbell and Walker could be superb together. At the bottom of the depth chart, holdovers McDuffie and Summers and youngsters Brooks and Wilborn will battle for the last spot or two.
Pictured: Quay Walker (USA Today Sports Images)
In (6): Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, Eric Stokes, Shemar Jean-Charles, Keisean Nixon, TBA.
Out (4): Kabion Ento, Rico Gafford, Raleigh Texada, Kiondre Thomas.
Watch out for: Ento seemingly has been in Green Bay for a decade. An undrafted free agent in 2019, he spent 2019 on the practice squad, 2020 on injured reserve and 2021 on the practice squad. A former receiver, his athleticism has stood out on a number of occasions.
Early viewpoint: Maybe Jean-Charles or one of the other young cornerbacks will step to the forefront. But, as it stands now, the depth is perilous. Starting with the trade of Josh Jackson to the Giants for Isaac Yiadom during training camp last summer, Gutekunst tried and tried again to find competent depth. That might be the recipe again.
Pictured: Kabion Ento (USA Today Sports Images)
In (4): Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Tariq Carpenter, Shawn Davis.
Out (3): Vernon Scott, Innis Gaines, Tre Sterling.
Watch out for: Gaines was a great story last summer, having gone from DoorDash to making a dash for the roster. He lost out to Scott for a roster spot, but Scott spent his second NFL season with his butt glued to the bench.
Early viewpoint: The starting duo is tremendous. The depth? Questionable, at best. Carpenter, a seventh-round pick, has the tools. Davis was a fifth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2021 who played in one game for the Packers. Same as last year, if the Packers want to use Savage in the slot, they need to have a competent player to step in at safety.
Pictured: Innis Gaines (USA Today Sports Images)
In (3): K Mason Crosby, P Pat O’Donnell, LS Steven Wirtel.
Out (2): JJ Molson, Dominik Eberle.
Watch out for: Whoever the Packers sign to challenge Wirtel.
Early viewpoint: Eberle has experience with new special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia and boasts a strong leg, but Crosby is the heavy favorite to keep his job after a poor season.
Pictured: Mason Crosby (USA Today Sports Images)