As a product of the 1980s, there are a lot of things that are stuck in my memory from that era. One of those memories is “blue light specials”. Kmart, a department store currently on the brink of extinction, used to roll a big mobile flashing blue light to a certain part of their store. Then a voice came over the store loudspeaker and announced an item that was on a sale, a “blue light special”.
At this point in NFL free agency, NFL teams are currently looking for their own “blue light specials”. Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst made a splash at the start of NFL free agency. He signed four free agents to big money deals. But now, with the market pretty depleted, Gutekunst is now looking for his “blue light special”. There are a couple of free agent bargains that the Packers could look to bring into the fold.
Free Agent Bargains Still Available for Green Bay Packers
The free agent players that are still available are still available for a reason. Injuries, lack of production, or considered too old, whatever the reason, they find themselves still looking for work. But as they say “one man’s trash, is another man’s treasure”.
Finding good free agent bargains isn’t always so easy to find. General managers not only need to look for a player who can still play, but also that will fit into what their team is doing. For Gutekunst and the Packers, they will also need to find somebody at the right price. A lot was written about the Packers salary cap situation back in March. While the panic button was first hit, it appears the Packers still have some room to sign one or possibly two more free agents. Of course, both would have to come at the right price.
We have zoned in on two possible free agent bargains. If one or both are signed, they would join the newly signed Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos on the defensive side of the ball. While both probably aren’t long-term answers, they could be key contributors for the Packers next season.
Shane Ray, Outside Linebacker
The Denver Broncos selected Ray 23rd overall in the 2015 NFL draft. The Broncos drafted Ray believing he could take pressure off their standout pass rusher Von Miller. But unfortunately for the Broncos and Ray, that never came to fruition.
In his first two seasons with the Broncos, Ray’s play gave the Broncos some hope he would be that player. He combined for 12 sacks in his first two seasons. In his second season, he started eight games for Denver. But then injuries derailed Ray’s Broncos career. In 2017 and 2018 he only played in just 19 games. While he started 17 games in 2017, he didn’t make one start for the Broncos last season.
Ray would become the odd man out after the 2018 NFL draft. The Broncos used the fifth overall selection to select defensive end/outside linebacker Bradley Chubb out of North Carolina State. With spending a fifth overall pick on Chubb, and Miller at the other starting pass rushing position, Ray was left to backup duty. That is when he was actually healthy, which wasn’t too often last season.
Ray will have to show he is healthy, but he has what a lot of teams are looking for. That would be the ability to rush the passer from the edge. Although the Packers signed both Smiths to bolster their pass rushing, there is still room in the Packers outside linebacker rotation. Kyler Fackrell had a career season in 2018 with 10.5 sacks, but he hasn’t shown consistent pass rush ability year in and year out. The other outside linebacker is Reggie Gilbert, an undrafted free agent who had a disappointing 2018 season after showing promise in the preseason.
Ray wouldn’t be asked to be a starter in Mike Pettine’s defense. But he could be a nice piece in the Packers outside linebacker rotation.
Eric Berry, Safety
It is hard to believe that a player who has been to five Pro Bowls and been voted to three First Team All Pro teams could be a part of the free agent bargain list. But the 30-year-old Berry finds himself on this list.
But after overcoming Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a torn ACL and most recently a heel injury, Berry finds himself wondering if he will be on an NFL team’s roster in 2019. His past injuries will turn many NFL teams off, but there is still a chance that Berry can be an effective player in the right situation.
The Packers could be that right situation. Amos no doubt will start at one of the safety positions, but the other starting safety position for the Packers is up for grabs. Former second-round pick Josh Jones has struggled in pass coverage. His best position looks to be as an undersized linebacker. If that is where Pettine plays him next season, the Packers will still need help on the backend of the defense. If Berry is healthy, he would be a nice player opposite of Amos.
The Packers still, and probably should select a safety high in this year’s draft. But even if they do select one in the first or second round, Berry would be a nice stopgap player until that young safety is ready to take over.
If Berry is truly healthy and can show he can produce even at close to the level he once played for with the Kansas City Chiefs, Berry might be one of the best free agent bargains this off-season.