This off-season, the Green Bay Packers will be looking to upgrade some key areas. It won’t be an easy task for general manager Brian Gutekunst. Similar to many teams, the Packers are facing a tight situation with their salary cap. They have several areas that need upgrading, but not much money to spend. Gutekunst and Russ Ball, the head of the salary cap, will need to be creative. No matter how they do it, they need to shore up money to do so. One of those areas in need of an upgrade is the Packers defensive line.
Packers Defensive Line Looking for Infusion of Talent this Off-Season
The Packers defensive line has a standout in Kenny Clark. Only 25 years old, Clark is one of the better interior defensive linemen in the NFL. He will be entering his sixth season in the NFL when the 2021 season kicks off. So far, he has registered 18 1/2 sacks as a pass rusher. He has also produced against the run as well. Still, the Packers defensive line needs more talent to ease the pressure off of Clark.
Kingsley Keke could help with this. Last season, his second as a pro, Keke registered four sacks, as well as eight quarterback hits, in limited playing time. He showed he is capable of creating pressure from the interior of the Packers defensive line. Keke’s play has shown that he is ready for more playing time.
The third spot on the Packers defensive line is where Gutekunst will need to find talent. Dean Lowry hasn’t lived up to the contract he signed back in 2019. He was expected to take the pressure off of Clark, and replace Mike Daniels. However, that hasn’t been the case. With the Packers in need of salary cap room, Lowry and his contract could be at the top of the chopping block list.
Some have argued it would be better to keep him since the Packers are already thin at Lowry’s position. However, if they were to cut him, they would save 3.3 million dollars. Plus, they have seen what Lowry can, or in his case, can’t do. They need to get more talent on the Packers defensive line.
Free Agency is the Best Bet to Upgrade the Defensive Line
The Packers might look at upgrading the defensive line in the NFL draft. However, this group of interior defensive line prospects in this year’s draft isn’t too deep. The Packers will be drafting later in the first round and the prospects who could contribute immediately might be picked over.
The Packers defensive line isn’t the only position of need. Offensive tackle, as well as cornerback, are two other areas the Packers need help at. Those two positions have a good stock of early-round prospects in this year’s draft. It would seem more logical that Gutekunst would spend high-round draft choices on those positions before the defensive line.
Now that J.J. Watt has taken his talents to the desert, the Packers can focus on the other free-agent defensive linemen. There are some interesting names on the list of free-agent defensive linemen. Leonard Williams would be a nice signing for the Packers. However, his asking price will no doubt be too much for the cash-strapped Packers.
If Gutekunst and Ball can shore up at least some cash, there are some players that could help out Clark and the rest of the Packers defensive line. Here are some possible free-agent targets that the Packers might look at this off-season.
It was reported that the Packers made an offer to the New York Giants for Dalvin Tomlinson last season. However, the Giants balked at the offer. Now that Tomlinson is a free agent, the Packers might take a run at him again.
The Packers might have competition for Tomlinson though. At only 27 years of age and posting three and a half sacks last season, Tomlinson has a lot of good football still ahead of him. Still, if Gutekunst and Ball can make space, Tomlinson would be a nice weapon for new defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
It wasn’t too long ago that Kawann Short was one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL. However, Short has been bit by the injury bug in recent history. The past two seasons for the Carolina Panthers, he combined to play in just five games. With a big contract and dealing with injuries, the Panthers parted ways with Short this off-season.
At 32 years old, the days of Short registering 11 sacks, as he did in 2015, might be over. Still, if used properly, Short could still be a contributor to a team. Even with an injury history and being 32, he would be an upgrade over Dean Lowry.
From 2011-2019, Jurrell Casey was a very accomplished defensive lineman for the Tennessee Titans. During that span, he registered 51 sacks and 117 quarterback hits.
Last season, he played for the Denver Broncos. He played in just three games, didn’t register a sack, and had only two quarterback hits. Similar to Short, he is older, being 31 years old.
It might have been just a down season for Casey in 2020. If that is the case, he could be a nice addition to the Packers defensive line. However, it should be noted, it has been rumored that Barry will run a defense similar to Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. A defense that Casey struggled in.
Yes, the same Damon Harrison that the Packers signed late last season. Many will argue that since Harrison didn’t accomplish much of anything for the Packers last season that he isn’t worth re-signing for this season. Still, you have to look at the whole story.
Harrison didn’t sign with the Seattle Seahawks until October of last season. It very well could be that Harrison wasn’t in the best of shape when he signed with the Seahawks. After asking for and be granted his release, he was claimed by the Packers in late December. Joining a team, that runs a very different system than the Seahawks, so late in the season wasn’t an easy task for Harrison. While Harrison didn’t do much for the Packers, he wasn’t put in the best situation.
If the Packers were to re-sign Harrison, he would have a full training camp to get acclimated to Barry’s defense and also be in playing shape when the season starts. Harrison isn’t going to give you much as a pass rusher. However, with Clark and Keke providing the interior pass rush, Harrison could focus on stopping the run. Something the Packers have struggled at for quite a while. Plus, it is doubtful that Harrison will break the bank, and the Packers could get him for the veteran minimum.
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