The NFL free agency period has kicked off. Several big-name free agents have already inked big-money deals with new teams. While other free agents, like Aaron Jones, have re-upped with their current teams. The pool of available free agents is starting to be picked over. But that doesn’t mean teams can’t still find quality help. The Green Bay Packers are one team that will be looking for mid-level free agents to bolster their roster.
Mid-Level Free Agents Might be Enticing for the Packers
It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Packers fans that they weren’t a part of the first surge of free-agent signings. Even with re-doing several contracts of current Packers players, the salary cap is still tight for the defending NFC North champions.
With Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball having a tight budget to work with, the Packers will now focus on mid-level free agents. The mid-level free agents they target might not be the more well-known free agents fans were hoping for. Still, if the mid-level free agents the Packers might land could still help bolster the Packers 2021 roster.
Here are some possible mid-level free agents that could contribute to the Packers in 2021.
Joe Haeg, Offensive Tackle
Depth at offensive tackle is a major question going into 2021 for the Packers. Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a knee injury late in 2021. He will spend this off-season rehabbing and it is unknown when he will be ready to go in 2021.
With Bakhtiari out, the usual starting right tackle, Billy Turner will be expected to hold down left tackle until Bakhtiari is ready to go. Ricky Wagner, a mid-level free agent pick up in 2020, saw time at right tackle in 2020. But the Packers cut him this off-season to shore up some money.
The Packers could turn to undrafted free agent Yosh Nijman for depth but he is very raw and unproven. One name to keep a name on is Joe Haeg. Haeg is a former fifth-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2016. He played for the Colts from 2016-2019 starting 35 games.
He signed as a free agent in 2020 with the eventual Super Bowl Champions Tampa Bay Buccanneers. Last season, he played in 12 games, starting three of them. He has seen time at both left and right tackle, making him a good candidate to be a backup swing tackle.
Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle
Kawann Short was a player we recognized earlier this off-season when discussing possible free-agent defensive tackle targets for the Packers. The top target we highlighted was Dalvin Tomlinson. However, he signed a free-agent deal with the Minnesota Vikings. It was assumed that Gutekunst was in the “conversation” for his services when he signed with the Packers NFC North foe Vikings.
While Short has battled injuries in recent history, he was once a top interior defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers. It is doubtful he will ever reach the success he once has with the Panthers, but he still could be a valuable piece for the Packers defensive tackle rotation. Rotating with Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry (who looks like he will be kept, surprisingly), and Kingsley Keke, could avoid wear and tear on his body and allow him to be productive.
Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback
It isn’t a secret, the Packers need cornerback help. Kevin King appears to be on his way out and the depth behind him is at best suspect. The Packers very well could spend a high draft pick on a cornerback, something they have done in the past. But to expect a rookie to come right in, start from day one, and produce right away, is a very dangerous bet. A bet that you wouldn’t expect from a team who was, for the second year in a row, a game away from reaching the Super Bowl.
Patrick Peterson would seem the perfect fit. However, it is doubtful, even at an older age, that the Packers can afford him. A.J. Bouye and former Packer Casey Hayward are other possible candidates, but again, the money will be an issue.
One cornerback that could be a match is veteran Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes was a standout cornerback for the Vikings from 2013-2019. But by the time his tenure came to an end with the Vikings, he was struggling.
But after signing as a free agent with the Colts last off-season, he had a career resurgence. He started 16 games with the Colts and had two interceptions and produced a solid season.
The Packers have an in with Rhodes. His position coach with the Vikings was Packers current defensive backs coach/pass game coordinator, Jerry Gray. Under Gray, Rhodes had some of his most productive seasons. Signing Rhodes and spending a first or second-round pick on a cornerback could be the ticket for the Packers.
Rodney Hudson, Center
Center doesn’t seem to be a need for the Packers. Yes, they lost Corey Linsley in free agency this off-season. But they do have options to fill in for Linsley with guards Lucas Patrick and Elgton Jenkins able to play the position.
But with questions about who will start at right tackle to start 2021, there could be a need at center. If Matt LaFleur and Adam Stenavich decide that their best option is to move Jenkins over to right tackle and keep Patrick at right guard, there would be an opening at center. That could leave a hole at the center.
It was quite a shock when the Las Vegas Raiders cut ties with their starting center Rodney Hudson. A former three-time Pro Bowler, Hudson has played at a high level. While he wouldn’t be a long-term answer for the Packers, if Gutekunst and Ball could get him on a short-term team-friendly deal, he could be a good pick-up for the Packers while they wait for Bakhtiari to recover.
No Inside Linebacker or Wide Receiver Free Agents Projected to Packers
For you Packers fans that are hoping for mid-level free agents who play inside linebacker or wide receiver, it is doubtful that they will arrive.
Inside linebacker seems like a position in need of help. However, Gutekunst and the Packers have shown that they don’t invest much in the position. The Packers seem very high on current inside linebackers Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin. To go along with that, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry has been given, deserved or not, credit for developing unknown talent at inside linebacker. If the Packers are going to bring in an inside linebacker, it will be late in the draft or an undrafted free agent.
A lot of Packers fans have clamored for more wide receiver help for Aaron Rodgers. But it is pretty apparent, Gutekunst and LaFleur are high on the wide receivers they currently have on the roster. To go along with that, Devin Funchess, who sat out last season because of COVID concerns after signing a free-agent deal last off-season, will be returning for 2021.
If you are expecting help in free agency at these positions, you might be disappointed. Once again.
Embed from Getty Images