Unless you have been barricaded in a snow bunker on the continent of Antarctica the past two weeks, you know that the Green Bay Packers haven’t made any moves at the cornerback position so far in this year’s NFL free agency period. Oh, they did re-sign Herb Waters, the undrafted wide receiver free agent out of the University of Miami (FL) who the Packers converted to cornerback last training camp, but not sure that is going to get any headlines on the major sports outlet websites. Brian Gutekunst, the Packers new top personnel man, and Russ Ball, the Packers vice president of football operations, did surprise many by signing Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet, but all that did was get Fuller a nice raise and left the Packers scrambling to find help at cornerback. The Green Bay Packers cornerback position still needs to be addressed.
The Packers still have a chance to sign a free agent cornerback, but the longer they wait the harder it will be, with the list of available free agent cornerbacks dwindling by the minute. If you follow the local Green Bay sports news outlets, they seem to believe that Gutekunst and the rest of the new power structure of the Packers have a plan, one that won’t leave the Packers thin at cornerback, a position that after the Damarious Randall trade made their cornerback depth even thinner. For Packers fans, and especially quarterback Aaron Rodgers, they are hoping they have a plan.
If things stay status quo for the Packers this free agency period, the Packers will have no other choice but to look in this year’s NFL draft to find help at the cornerback position. It won’t be the first time in recent history that the Packers would have to do this. In 2015, the Packers used their first (Randall) and second (Quinten Rollins) round picks on the cornerback position. Then last season, the Packers used their top pick, the 33rd overall pick, on cornerback Kevin King. Randall is now with Cleveland, while Rollins, who has yet to show the play making ability he had at the college level, and King are both coming off-season ending injuries. King did show some glimpses of his ability last season, but he is far from a finished product.
There are still options, however. Davon House, who signed a one year deal last off-season with the Packers, could be brought back to add some experience to the inexperienced group and could be asked to mentor another high round draft pick. However, House too battled injuries last season and when he was healthy, his play wasn’t stellar by any means.
If the Packers do have to go the draft route to bolster their cornerback depth, it appears it could alter their plans at other positions. Many of the early mocks drafts had projected an EDGE pass rusher to the Packers, possibly UTSA’s Marcus Davenport or Boston College’s Harold Landry. If that is what Gutekunst was planning before free agency that will have to change without the Packers locking up a free agent cornerback.
There is also the wide receiver position that needs to be dealt with. The release of veteran wide out Jordy Nelson, the Packers now find themselves with a lot of unknown talent at the wide receiver position behind starters Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Had the Packers locked up one of the top free agent cornerbacks, they would have been able to look early in the draft to bring in a wide receiver prospect. But just like with EDGE pass rusher, that will be pushed down the Packers draft to do list, with needing to address the cornerback position right away.
As it was pointed out to me, a good pass rush can mask inefficient play at the cornerback position. At this point, Gutekunst has to be hoping that the signing of Muhammad Wilkerson will do just that, bolster the pass rush. Still, you can only hide poor cornerback play so much and as much as the Packers are hoping that new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is as good as they think, by no means is he a defensive magician.
If it is Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, or if he slides, Ohio State Denzel Ward, no matter who the Packers select with their first round pick, which it appears it will be a cornerback, that player will have to step in and perform right away. It is unfortunate that it has played out like this for the Packers, but that is the hand they have been dealt. Hopefully for the Packers and their fans, it turns out better than it currently looks.