Training camp is less than a month away and the Green Bay Packers’ outside linebackers remains a relatively thin position. It’s not too late for a last minute signing and former Packer Erik Walden should be near the top of their list of available free agents.
You may remember this name from when Erik Walden played with Green Bay Packers for three seasons before signing with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. He played mostly on a rotational basis during his tenure but he actually saw 15 starts in 2011. The Packers drafted Nick Perry in the first round of the 2012 draft which led to Walden walking in free agency.
Last year, Green Bay signed veteran linebacker Ahmad Brooks a week prior to their first regular season game. They may not want to wait so long this time around so the acquisition will have more time getting adjusted to a new defense. Like Brooks, Walden won’t be an impact player, but he will provide depth and stability at a position that has some question marks surrounding it.
The most sacks Walden had in a single season as a Packer was three, although, his production actually went up once he left. He started 60 games in four seasons as a Colt recording 23 sacks including 11 during a career-year in 2016. Walden proved he was more than just a pass rusher with three forced fumbles on the year as well.
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Once camp starts at the end of the month more players will become available, but the crop on the current market is solid enough, starting with Walden. Vince Biegel and Kyler Fackrell are the Packers’ backups respectively, but between the two they have a combined five sacks compared to Walden’s 35.
The Packers have been more active this offseason than in recent memory breathing life into the possibility of another unlikely signing. General manager Brian Gutekunst has installed a fresh approach this offseason as he tries to avoid missing the playoffs in back to backs seasons for the first time since 2005-2006.
Per the NFLPA, the Packers have about $10.8 million left in cap space to sign another player and Walden would only cost a fraction of that. Surprisingly, Green Bay has not addressed their edge rushers outside of drafting Kendall Donnerson in the seventh round of this year’s draft. Free agency is still an avenue they could explore to add depth behind Clay Matthews and Perry and Walden makes a lot of sense. In today’s NFL, you can never have too much depth at pass rusher.
Walden will hit 33 years of age in August and has played on five teams during his 10-year career. He’s been a consistent and reliable producer having only missed four games in the last seven seasons. The Packers have already had a reunion with veteran corner Tramon Williams but they would be wise to do it again.