Green Bay Packers: The Blake Martinez Era Could be Coming to an End

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Blake Martinez #50 of the Green Bay Packers tackles Dallas Goedert #88 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at Lambeau Field on September 26, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 26: Blake Martinez #50 of the Green Bay Packers tackles Dallas Goedert #88 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at Lambeau Field on September 26, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Blake Martinez is in the final year of his contract with the Green Bay Packers and it looks like this could be his final season with the team.

After a fast start to the season for the Green Bay Packers’ defense that included Aaron Rodgers exclaiming “we’ve got a defense” after a week one win over Chicago, their performance over the last month and a half has really declined.

In a recent article by Sheil Kapadia of The Athletic, he would point out just how bad the defense has been since week three.

"“In the past six weeks, the Packers’ defense ranks 31st in yards per play allowed, 30th in net yards per pass play, 30th in big completions, 23rd in points per game, 24th in sack percentage and 26th on third down.”"

Additionally, a lot of the damage has happened in the middle of the field. Whether it’s opposing running backs in between the tackles or tight ends and wide receivers in between the numbers, the Green Bay defense hasn’t been able to stop much as of late and rank 24th in rushing yards allowed per game with nearly 128.

Someone who takes quite a bit of the blame for these issues is Blake Martinez and he has for the last few years. Now, by no means does this all fall on Martinez’ shoulders as there are other reasons and culprits for this poor play, but let’s just say Martinez isn’t doing much to help the situation.

A hot button topic amongst Green Bay Packers’ fans since the offseason has been whether or not the team should re-sign Martinez who is in the final year of his contract. And based on what we’ve seen in 2019, moving on and spending that money elsewhere may be the better option.

In recent years we’ve seen a lot of change on the defensive side of the ball but one of the few constants has been Blake Martinez. He’s developed into the quarterback of this defense and in 2017 and 2018 he would start in all 32 games while totaling a whopping 286 tackles with a forced fumble and six sacks. Through Green Bay’s nine games this season, Martinez is already closing in on 100 combined tackles.

Although those are certainly eye-popping tackle numbers, as we’ve seen, an important aspect is where those tackles are being made. And far too often with Martinez they are taking place downfield rather than at the line of scrimmage.

At 6’2″ – 237 pounds, Martinez is undersized for an inside linebacker and struggles to shed blockers once he is engaged. But he also doesn’t have the speed or athleticism to be effective in coverage either. Truthfully, he might just be another guy.

For a little more insight into Martinez’ performance, Jack Wepfer of the Packers Wire had this to say about what we’ve seen from him this season:

"“Inside linebacker Blake Martinez also had another rough game. Yes, he led the team in tackles (12 total, five solo), but his limitations were on full display: he’s an undersized inside linebacker with passive run-stopping instincts and less-than-ideal speed in space.”"

Similarly, Bob McGinn of The Athletic would add this on Martinez after his game in Los Angeles:

"“He (Martinez) gets people down, but not where a good defense needs them down…In coverage, his play is equally ineffectual. He drifts, he’s a limited athlete and he’s slow. Maybe the coaches think command of the defense makes him untouchable. If not, Goodson, Burks and rookie Ty Summers all are available.”"

And lastly, in Ben Fennell’s weekly film breakdown for The Athletic, he had this to say:

"“Martinez is a good tackler, which is tough to debate, but his functional usage can be debated. He struggles to fight off blocks and doesn’t keep himself clean on the second level.” Fennell would later add this, “he has only one forced fumble in 446 career tackles and isn’t making enough contact in opposing backfields. There have been instances where Martinez was perfectly free and unobstructed but didn’t make the play.”"

There is no questioning Martinez’ reliability as he rarely misses a snap and as Fennell mentioned, he is a solid tackler but the contract that he might be looking for in free agency could be too steep for the Packers. For one, while Ted Thompson is no longer the GM, Green Bay doesn’t historically pay big money for inside linebackers.

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Second, Martinez has said in the past that he sees himself as a top linebacker in this league and would like to be compensated as one. For context, some of the higher per year contracts at the position include Bobby Wagner at $18 million and C.J. Mosely at $17 million. Then from the $11 to $14 million range, there are names like Jaylon Smith, Luke Keuchly, Kwon Alexander, and Myles Jack. Which to put it simply is just too much money for what Martinez provides.

Even if we take another step down from there with Alec Ogletree, Eric Kendricks, and Dont’a Hightower who are in the $8.5 to $10.5 million range, that is still questionable amount in my opinion but Martinez could easily earn that or more on the open market. With it looking more likely that the Packers will bring back Bryan Bulaga and still have to give contract extensions to David Bakhtiari and Kenny Clark, with less than $18 million in cap space for 2020, paying Martinez like a top 10 inside linebacker doesn’t seem feasible, especially considering his play.

Now, the dilemma with letting Martinez walk is that they don’t have a reliable option currently on the roster that can fill in next season. Despite the Packers’ defensive struggles recently, Oren Burks still can’t sniff the field and B.J. Goodson is a one-dimensional run defender. They would need to find Martinez’ replacement elsewhere.

Two players in the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft that Ben Fennell believes could step in and make an impact are Kenneth Murray of Oklahoma and Dylan Moses of Alabama. Also, some notable free agents this offseason include Danny Trevathan and Kyle Van Noy.

Next. Offense will have to keep Christian McCaffrey of the field. dark

Only time will tell how this ends for Blake Martinez and the Green Bay Packers as there are a number of moving parts which include finding a replacement and the cost to keep Martinez as we’ve already discussed, amongst other things. And who knows, maybe GM Brian Gutekunst feels differently.

However, with how this year is playing out, the Martinez era in Green Bay could be over after this season and the Packers will have to address the inside linebacker position this offseason which is something many fans thought they should have done prior to the 2019 season even beginning.