The Green Bay Packers fell short in the NFC Championship Game once again, following an offseason that saw the front office emphasize the future over building around Aaron Rodgers. With the front office seemingly dedicate to a more all-in approach this spring, the arrival of NFL free agency becomes more interesting.
Green Bay won’t have much money to spend this offseason. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 NFL salary cap is dropping and that puts the Packers in a tight spot. They made a run at J.J. Watt, but could never come close to the lucrative deal he signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Even after the Packers make more cuts and restructure contracts for players like Rodgers and Za’Darius Smith, there will only be so much money for the front office to spend.
With that in mind, let’s examine five free-agents targets for the Green Bay Packers this offseason.
Green Packers sign Will Fuller
Green Bay nearly acquired Will Fuller before the NFL trade deadline, but the Houston Texans wouldn’t pull the trigger. It’s a decision that worked out well for the Packers and backfired on Houston. Weeks after, Fuller received a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s PED policy. Now the explosive receiver is looking to get out of Houston and with the Texans uninterested in using the franchise tag, Fuller will hit the open market.
The 26-year-old wants to use the 2021 season to build his value, ideally on a playoff contender with a great quarterback. Green Bay can offer him everything he is looking for, but money is the key. There aren’t a ton of teams with great quarterbacks and tons of cap space this offseason. Fuller could land a sizable contract with the New York Jets, but they won’t be contending. If he’s willing to sign a one-year contract for a lower salary, Fuller could explode with the Packers in 2021 and then cash in next offseason when the 2022 salary cap soars.
Dalvin Tomlin bolsters Green Bay Packers defensive line
Speaking of failed trades during the 2020 season, the Green Bay Packers offered the New York Giants a mid-round pick for Dalvin Tomlinson. New York passed on the offer, wanting to keep one of its team captains and hopeful it could retain him in the offseason. Given the team’s intentions to tag Leonard Williams and a potential pursuit of Allen Robinson, it feels like a safe bet to think Tomlinson will test the open market.
Tomlinson ranks in the 82nd percentile among defensive linemen since 2017, per Pro Football Focus and seemed to make strides as a pass rusher this past season with 28 total pressures. Green Bay made a late addition by signing Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Tomlinson is a superior player and much younger. If the Packers are going to spend big anywhere in free agency, it might be to pair Tomlinson with Kenny Clark. Put those two together with this pass rush and this front seven is scary.
Green Bay Packers land Troy Hill as No. 2 cornerback
Green Bay can’t afford to put Kevin King on the field as its No. 2 cornerback again and nickel corner Chandon Sullivan is also an alarming problem in this secondary. If the front office can address either spot in free agency, it will create more flexibility in the 2021 NFL Draft. Landing a top cover corner isn’t an option this spring, but some compelling options deserve attention.
Troy Hill played a majority of his snaps in the slot this past season and he shined in that role. But don’t think this 5-foot-11 corner can only operate in the nickel, he is just as comfortable on the outside. Opponents had a 74.3 passer rating when throwing in his direction, per PFF, vastly superior to Sullivan (92) and King (105.8). Given his familiarity with defensive coordinator Joe Barry, Hill could be a great fit for the Packers.
Delanie Walker signs with Green Bay Packers
When Delanie Walker became a free agent last offseason, he seemed like an intriguing free-agent option for the Packers. A three-time Pro Bowl selection (2015-’17), he could have been a serviceable weapon to add to the offense. But after battling injuries for two years, Walker opted not to risk playing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, he is planning a return for the 2021 season.
The expectation with Walker, who turns 37 in August, isn’t for him to be great. Instead, for a team that likes to use two tight ends, he could be another option for Rodgers. Marcedes Lewis should be Green Bay’s priority, given his role in the locker room and his skills as a blocker. As for Robert Tonyan, he’ll be back and should be counted on as the top pass-catching tight end. Walker, if he’s willing to take a veteran’s minimum deal to compete for a Super Bowl, could be a nice third option for this team and another great veteran to add to the locker room.
James White replaces Aaron Jones
It’s looking more and more likely that Aaron Jones won’t return to Green Bay next season. While the franchise tag seems like the best move from a team perspective, it’s something this organization rarely uses. So, with Jones departing, the Packers will need a back who can fill his role out of the backfield.
White played at Wisconsin and is reportedly very interested in returning to the state. The 5-foot-10 back isn’t much of a rushing threat, averaging just 3.5 yards per carry last season on 35 attempts. He is incredibly reliable as a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. In his final season with Tom Brady, White snagged 72 receptions for 645 receiving yards and averaged 9.0 yards per reception. Matt LaFleur would love adding him as a piece in this passing attack, serving as that checkdown for Rodgers. If you want to bet on the Green Bay Packers signing one free agent, if Jones leaves, it should be James White.