This offseason, the Green Bay Packers have 14 unrestricted free agents of their own to make decisions on either before or during NFL free agency, which begins on March 15th.
Over the next few weeks, my “Re-sign or Let go & Prediction” series is back, where I will take a look at each of the Packers’ unrestricted free agents, laying out why Green Bay may try to re-sign them, why they would let them walk, and then I’ll make a prediction.
Next up, I will be taking a look at edge rusher Justin Hollins, who was claimed off waivers in the middle of the season after being released by the Rams. Be sure to head over to Twitter to vote for whether or not you think Hollins returns to Green Bay.
Why the Packers would re-sign Justin Hollins
This was a very under-the-radar addition mid-season, but one that had a positive impact for the Green Bay Packers. The depth of the edge rusher position was a concern prior to the season, and it became a very real issue when Rashan Gary went down, with Green Bay struggling to generate regular pressure. Hollins, however, was able to give the Packers some valuable snaps.
Hollins appeared in six games with the Packers and, during that span, was able to tally nine pressures, including three sacks. He also recorded six tackles and six stops. Hollins would rank 26th out of 104 eligible edge rushers from Weeks 12 through 18 in PFF’s pass rush win rate metric. He was also capable against the run, an area the Packers’ edge rusher position struggled with as a whole, ranking 27th in run-stop rate as well.
The edge rusher depth heading into 2023 is, again, something that will need to be addressed. The good news is that Kingsley Enagbare flashed quite a bit in his rookie season, but we don’t know when Rashan Gary will return, which leaves Enagbare and Preston Smith as the only viable options currently and at a position that typically has a four-man rotation.
Even with Hollins back, adding to this position in the draft should be on Brian Gutekunst’s to-do list. But, at a minimum, Hollins, who found some success against both the run and the pass, would provide a veteran presence at one of the game’s most important positions.
Why the Packers would not re-sign Justin Hollins
Not that Hollins is going to break the bank by any means, but the Packers, again, aren’t going to have a ton of spending power in free agency. And when it comes to deciding how they are going to spend the limited free agent dollars, another team may be able to easily out-pay the Packers, who may not be willing to allocate excess dollars to the third or fourth edge rusher role.
Another reason could be that the Packers simply decide to go another direction. Perhaps they will address this need early on in the draft. Or maybe they believe they can find similar production elsewhere at a lesser cost. These back-end roster spots are always being churned as general managers look for the biggest bang for their buck.
Prediction: Packers re-sign Justin Hollins
Even for the cap-strapped Packers, I would guess that a contract for Hollins is something they can fit on the books. 2022 was the final year of his rookie deal, and he was making $965,000 before he was cut by Los Angeles. Hollins also has ties with Joe Barry, going back to his time with the Rams, and played well in his system.
As already mentioned, edge rusher is one of the more important positions in the game, and the Packers are lacking legitimate depth at the moment. Until Gary returns, Green Bay has only two viable options in Smith and Enagbare. Then even when Gary is back, that’s still only three options in what is typically a four-man rotation. Other players on the roster include Jonathan Garvin, who was inactive in several games, and La’Darius Hamilton, who was primarily a practice squad player.
Adding to edge rusher should still be a fairly high priority for the Packers in the draft, but Hollins will give them a veteran to lean on in that rotational role in case Green Bay isn’t able to land someone who can be a regular contributor right away.