Packers Offseason Report Card: Free Agency

The Packers made two big additions in NFL free agency with Xavier McKinney and Josh Jacobs. Here is our updated offseason report card.
Green Bay Packers safety Xavier McKinney (29) is shown during organized team activities on Tuesday, May 21, in Green Bay.
Green Bay Packers safety Xavier McKinney (29) is shown during organized team activities on Tuesday, May 21, in Green Bay. / Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ offseason program is complete. Now’s the time for the Packers to regroup and refresh ahead of the start of training camp on July 22.

In the first of a series of Packers offseason report cards, here’s a look at the impact of free agency.

Signed: S Xavier McKinney

Xavier McKinney has a chance to be one of the most important free-agent signings in the NFL this offseason.

In Year 4 with the Giants last season, McKinney had 116 tackles, three interceptions, 11 passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 17 starts. Darnell Savage and Jonathan Owens, who left the Packers in free agency after starting a total of 21 games last year, combined for 124 tackles, zero interceptions, four passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries.

That’s impressive production. Also impressive is McKinney’s ability as a tackler. Last year, according to Pro Football Focus, 84 safeties played at least 400 snaps. McKinney ranked fifth in missed-tackle percentage (5.7 percent), Owens was 26th (9.2 percent) and Savage, as usual, was near the bottom at 76th (18.5 percent).

“He is a dude,” coach Matt LaFleur said of McKinney.

And if that’s not enough, McKinney has quickly emerged as a key leader. So long as he stays healthy – he played in 15 of a possible 33 games in 2020 and 2022 – he could be a season-changing player as a fulcrum in new coordinator Jeff Hafley’s defense.

“What a pro. How hard he works, the communication, the way he is in the meeting rooms, the way he looks out for the younger guys, that’s the stuff you don’t see,” Hafley said before the start of OTAs.

All the stuff I explained to you in my first meeting, yeah, we think he can do all those things – and he’s shown that he can – but the coolest part about him is, and I told him this the other day, you don’t find out about somebody and who they are and how hard they work until they get here. That’s been the thing that’s probably made us the happiest. Great pro, great attitude, great effort.”

Signed: RB Josh Jacobs

In a franchise-shifting Day 1 of free agency, the Packers signed Jacobs and released Aaron Jones – who quickly joined the rival Minnesota Vikings.

Jacobs received a one-year-and-we’ll-see contract because he was All-Pro in 2022, when he ran away with the NFL rushing title, and all-nothing in 2023, when he ranked 48th with 3.45 yards per carry – just ahead of AJ Dillon, who was 49th at 3.44 yards per carry.

At his best, Jacobs is a three-down running back with the ability to run through or past defenders. In 2022, he led the NFL with 90 missed tackles. Jones, for sake of comparison, never broke more than 53, and Dillon has 92 in his four NFL seasons.

Jacobs missed the start of OTAs with a hamstring injury and was allowed to skip the final day of minicamp. He didn’t make a dramatic impact when on the field, though his style isn’t a great fit for an OTA setting. Assuming he’s healthy, he almost certainly will be on the field for the first snap of Week 1 against the Eagles.

Signed: OT Andre Dillard and K Greg Joseph

Long after the first waves of free agency, the Packers added offensive lineman Andre Dillard and kicker Greg Joseph.

Depending on the state of right tackle Zach Tom’s torn pectoral, Dillard could be in the mix to start in Week 1 against the Eagles – the team that drafted him in the first round in 2019. Joseph’s monster leg and experience gives him a shot in his battle against incumbent Anders Carlson.

Will either player make an impact? Who knows, but those are smart, no-risk signings.

Lost: RG Jon Runyan

Runyan ceded playing time down the stretch last year to Sean Rhyan. Runyan wanted to stay in Green Bay but the interest was not mutual. There might be some bumps in the road, but the Packers will be just fine with Rhyan or first-round pick Jordan Morgan.

Lost: S Darnell Savage

The Packers made a huge upgrade with McKinney, who beat Savage in tackles (116 to 50), interceptions (three to zero) and passes defensed (11 to 1). It will be fascinating to see if Savage can resurrect his promising career with the Jaguars.

Lost: S Jonathan Owens

The Packers quadruple-upped at safety. Along with McKinney, they drafted Jonathan Bullard in the second round, Evan Williams in the fourth round and Kitan Oladapo in the fifth round. Owens was a solid contributor in his one year with the Packers, and should be again with the Bears, but there is enormous upside in Green Bay’s rookie additions.

Lost: OT Yosh Nijman

Nijman had a golden opportunity to succeed David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Instead, he wilted from the competition and watched Rasheed Walker put his stamp on the position. A solid swing tackle for the Packers, that should be Nijman’s role with Carolina.

Lost: TE Josiah Deguara

Deguara was Green Bay’s unofficial fullback the last four seasons. Henry Pearson, an undrafted rookie last year, got the snaps in that role during the offseason practices.

Final Grade: B-plus

We’ve said this before, but McKinney is the Packers’ best safety since Nick Collins. The Packers haven’t taken many big swings on free agents over the years, but general manager Brian Gutekunst signed the best free agent to fix the team’s worst position. In every way possible, McKinney is a sizable upgrade over Savage, Owens and Rudy Ford, who remains unsigned.

The big question, obviously, is at running back. By just about any measure, Jones was better than Jacobs last season. With his end-of-season hot streak, Jones carried the Packers to the playoffs. Incredibly, he had six more 10-yard runs than Jacobs even while having 90 fewer carries. He was a face-of-the-franchise type of player.

But Jacobs is four years younger – not that it really matters at what’s practically become a disposable position – and his skill-set might make him a better late-season factor. If Jacobs rebounds and Jones has another injury-plagued season in purple, the offseason grade will move to an A.

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Bill Huber

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: packwriter2002@yahoo.com History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: https://twitter.com/BillHuberNFL 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 PackerReport.com. 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.