Searching for a cornerback isn’t anything new for the Green Bay Packers. Since 2015, the Packers have selected a total of five cornerbacks, in either the first or second round in the NFL draft. Kevin King is a part of that five-player group. A former second-round pick from 2017, King will be heading into free agency. The chances of the Packers re-signing him seem pretty low at this point. That will leave the Packers searching once again. While Jaire Alexander is locked in at one of the starting cornerback spots, the other is a major question mark.
Jaire Alexander Looking for a Partner at Cornerback
General manager Brian Gutekunst found gold in 2018 when he selected Jaire Alexander with the Packers first-round pick. In his three-year career, Alexander has started 42 games. He has four interceptions during that span. But interceptions don’t tell the whole story of Alexander and how truly great he has become.
His four interceptions are actually pretty exceptional if you look at what Jaire Alexander has done in his three years career. In three seasons, Alexander has become one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. The past two seasons, opposing teams have gone out of their way to avoid throwing to his side. That is why he has a lower interception total. If offenses would throw more his way, there isn’t much doubt that his interception total would be higher.
Not only is he an elite cover corner, but he has also become reliable when it comes to supporting the run. At 5’10” 196 pounds, he isn’t the biggest corner in the NFL. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from coming up and making a hit when needed. He has made himself into a very well-rounded cornerback.
While Jaire Alexander has locked down one of the starting cornerback spots, the Packers are still searching for an answer opposite of him. King was expected to be that player. However, injuries have prevented him from doing so.
In his four-year career, King hasn’t played a full regular-season schedule. He has played in just 41 games, starting 36 of them. An array of injuries have forced him out of action. When healthy, he has shown glimpses of why he was a second-round pick. But the injuries have made him undependable. While he could still return, it is doubtful, which will leave the Packers once again in the cornerback market.
Looking for a Bargain on the Free Agent Market
This off-season won’t be a very normal off-season in the NFL. Because of the pandemic, it appears the NFL will be lowering the salary cap. That will force teams to make tough decisions as well as shying away from being players in free agency. The Packers will be one of those teams.
The Packers have already started to trim salaries. They recently released offensive tackle Rick Wagner and linebacker Christian Kirksey. That isn’t the end of it either. Along with cutting players, they are expected to restructure contracts. They already worked with David Bakhtiari in regards to reworking his deal.
If this off-season was “normal”, the Packers could look at a couple of big-name free agent cornerbacks. Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman are both players who would be solid options opposite Jaire Alexander. However, their asking prices might be too much, even in the expected difficult market.
Still, if Gutekunst and the Packers do decide to look for help in free agency, there might be a couple of options. Those options being veterans who are willing to play for less and sign one-year deals.
Two players that fit that mold are A.J. Bouye and Josh Norman. Both Bouye and Norman are looking to prove their best days aren’t behind them. If Gutekunst and Russ Ball, the head of contract negotiations, can get them at the right price, they could be options.
Finding Jaire Alexander Some Cornerback Help Through the Draft
The most probable route for Gutekunst to find help for Jaire Alexander will come via the draft. That will be a blow to Packers fans who are hoping that the Packers would look to upgrade inside linebacker and/or wide receiver early in the NFL draft. Gutekunst has proven he doesn’t value either position, so cornerback, once again, will be the most probable position.
WalterFootball.com has several prospects ranked where the Packers will be selecting in the first round. South Carolina Jaycee Horn, Georgia Tyson Campbell, and Central Florida Aaron Robinson all might be available when the Packers are on the clock. Another name to keep an eye on is Asante Samuel Jr.. His father was an interception machine with the New England Patriots and his name has appeared in recent mock drafts.
Drafting a prospect high might help the Packers down the road. But after once again being one game from the Super Bowl, the Packers need help now. Gutekunst has talked about not wagering the future, but the Packers are so close, it would seem logical to do everything possible to find help immediately.
In a perfect world, the Packers would sign a veteran cornerback, as well as select one in either the first or second round.
Not Much Help from the Current Group
Unfortunately for the Packers, they don’t have much to choose from on their current roster. That failure falls on Gutekunst’s shoulders.
In 2018, the same draft Alexander was selected in, Gutekunst spent a second-round pick on Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson. It was a pick celebrated by most, including us. However, Jackson has been a major disappointment.
In his three seasons, Jackson has played in 42 games, starting only 15. Last season, he found himself at the bottom of the Packers cornerback depth chart. If not for being a second-round pick, it is highly likely the Packers would have parted ways with Jackson by now.
Chandon Sullivan had a strong 2019 season, but last season he suffered a disappointing season. If he would have played better in 2020, he might have been an option. But his struggles as the nickel back, make many wonder if he will even have a spot in 2021.
Ka’Dar Hollman is a former sixth-round pick from 2019. However, the former Toledo product is still very raw and has seen little playing time on defense. Depending on him to see a lot of playing time in 2021 would be a major risk.
Gutekunst has a lot of work to do this off-season. Cornerback help looks to be at the top of his list. Something that he and the Packers should be accustomed to.
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