I’ll start off by saying that we have no idea what free agency is going to look like this year. The Green Bay Packers — along with just about every other team — are going to have to make a number of roster moves to clear cap space before they can even consider making any additions.
As I’m sure everyone is well aware, and I’ve discussed it quite a bit recently, but the salary cap in 2021 is set to drop from 198.2 million down to the $180 million range, reportedly. And according to Over the Cap, this puts the Green Bay Packers about $28.2 million over the projected salary cap.
So step one before we even consider a free agent signing is getting under the salary cap, and if you’re wondering how the Green Bay Packers go about doing that, in a recent article, I highlight 11 potential moves that they can make this offseason.
But I digress. If, and when, the Packers get under the salary cap, there could be the opportunity for them to land a veteran player, who otherwise may have been unavailable to them during a normal offseason. With the salary cap set to plummet, the top players are still going to get their pay-days, but the middle class is going to be squeezed into shorter, cheaper deals.
Again, I discussed this in another article, and back in November after Green Bay extended David Bakhtiari, GM Brian Gutekunst alluded to something similar:
“The players that might become available to us during the March period may be a little different than it has in the past, and we want to have some flexibility to do those things if we can,” Gutekunst said via the Wisconsin State Journal. “So I think (our approach) is a combination of that. We’ve always believed that we’d like to take care of our own first — that’s very important to us. But we’d also like to have some flexibility to see what the market might bring in March.”
If this does in fact happen, we still shouldn’t expect the Green Bay Packers to go on a spending spree by any means, and they still won’t be able to sign a top-tier free agent. However, if they can make an addition or maybe even two, then they should absolutely do everything they can to land a cornerback.
Green Bay has several positions to address this offseason, but none compares to finding another boundary corner to play alongside Jaire Alexander.
Sure, offensive tackle is on the list, but they still have Bakhtiari and Billy Turner. They could also use another edge rusher — assuming Preston Smith is cut — but even without him, Green Bay still has Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary. Of course, we can once again put receiver on the list, but it’s far from a top need. And finding Kenny Clark some help is a must as well.
There are others that I didn’t mention, but you get the idea. Despite numerous draft picks on the position in recent years, the cornerback room in Green Bay is awfully thin.
Kevin King has played his final snaps with the team, and Chandon Sullivan is primarily a slot corner. This leaves KeiVarae Russell, Josh Jackson, Ka’dar Hollman, and Stanford Samuels as the only other options currently on the roster.
Now, if the Packers don’t make a free agent move or tend to another position, there is always the draft. But waiting for the draft to address a need is a very risky move. For starters, this isn’t a deep cornerback class at all. And second, we have no clue who is going to be available, which could lead to Green Bay over-drafting — which can lead to a bust — or not addressing the need until the mid to late rounds.
At that point, relying on a mid-round pick to come in and potentially be a Day 1 starter could spell trouble. Or if he’s not ready, then Green Bay will be relying on Jackson, who has struggled over his short career, or the inexperienced Russell, Hollman, and Samuels.
With that said, of course, there are plenty of examples of mid and late-round picks who have found great success in the NFL. However, that isn’t something you want to bank on either–that’ll cause issues.
So with the draft being such a crapshoot and cornerback being such a major hole to fill, at least securing a veteran in free agency who can provide some stability is the prudent move–and I also want the record to show that even if the Packers sign a free agent, I still want them to use at least one pick on the cornerback position in the draft.
With us having absolutely no idea how free agency is going to play out or how the market is going to be affected by the shrunken salary cap, I’m not going to guess who might be might or might not be in the Green Bay Packers price range. But below is a list from Spotrac of some of the names that are available:
Patrick Peterson, AJ Bouye, Richard Sherman, DJ Hayden, Jason McCourty, Brian Poole, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes, Bashaud Breeland, Mike Hilton, Terrance Mitchell, Kevin Johnson, and Ronald Darby, to name a few.
As I mentioned at the beginning of all of this, the first step is getting under the salary cap and if the Green Bay Packers are then able to dabble in free agency, signing a cornerback so that they don’t have to rely 100 percent on the draft makes the most sense.