Johnathan Hankins could provide a Ryan Pickett-like anchor to the defense
By: Mark Prott
2017 NFL Free Agency has left many open lockers available in the home team’s locker room over at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. While as a fan I’m pleased with the resigning of Nick Perry, bringing back Davon House and the tight end additions of Martellus Bennett and Wisconsin’s own Lance Kendricks, there is no denying that the Packers thus far have lost a number of players who logged substantial meaningful snaps for them last year and enjoyed a good amount success in the past.
The departures of T.J. Lang, Micah Hyde, Jared Cook, and Eddie Lacy all come to mind. In all the above mentioned cases I believe the Packers’ front office made the right call to not overpay and match the market prices each player received, or in Cook’s case what he will receive.
However, NFL Free Agency is not over. Almost a week into free agency, there still remains valuable options out there that could help the Green Bay Packers offset the loss of and dare I say even improve their team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. It all depends on how active General Manager Ted Thompson decides to be in the second and third waves of the NFL Free Agency Period.
With league wide salary cap space shrinking after the first week of massive contracts being doled out, it only makes sense that the contracts players receive now will be much more reasonable and team friendly, which is exactly what Ted Thompson likes. Let’s take a look at players out there who could fit in the Packers’ plans.
JOHNATHAN HANKINS: DL
Still only 24 years old, the 6’2 320 pound Hankins is probably about as sure as a bet as anyone left on the free agency market to become a major contributor to whoever lands his services. Hankins is best known for his solid run defense but also is capable of providing some pass rush at defensive tackle as evidence by his 7 sack season in 2014. It’s difficult to not compare him to former Packer Ryan Pickett as both players are also Ohio State alums. Pickett proved to be one of Ted Thompson’s best free agency signings. Could Hankins be next? A starting 3 of Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Johnathan Hankins in the defensive line sounds awfully nice to me. As the old saying goes, it all starts in the trenches.
ZACH BROWN: ILB
It bothers me that I have not heard any connection of Brown with the Packers in the free agency period. Coming off a 149 tackle 4 sack season in 2016 in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, Brown’s production is off the charts when compared to the likes of Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, and Joe Thomas. Still only 27, and owner of a 4.50 second forty in the 2012 NFL Draft, Brown would bring much needed speed and play making ability to the middle of the Packers’ defense. What’s there not to like here?
CONNOR BARWIN: OLB
Recently released OLB Connor Barwin would be a great fit for #Packers 3-4. 26.5 sacks over last 3 years and wouldnt count against comp picks
— Brew City SR (@BrewCitySR) March 10, 2017
Barwin is another player that would make a lot of sense for the Packers. While it was time to move on from Julius Peppers, his 7.5 sacks of production needs to be replaced at the outside linebacker position. The 30 year old Barwin could fit the bill and would likely love to get back to playing 3-4 outside linebacker after being miscast in Philadelphia last season as a defensive end.
MORRIS CLAIBORNE: CB
While Claiborne carries a substantial amount of risk given his injury history and not so long ago label as a top 10 bust, there is no denying his talent and upside at only 27 years old would be appealing. By all reports he had a good year in 2016 for the Cowboys when he was on the field, which is something that cannot be said for any of the Packers’ cornerbacks in 2016.
ADRIAN PETERSON: RB
I’ll admit when reports surfaced that Eddie Lacy was signing with the Seahawks, my knee jerk reaction was that the Packers need to sign AP immediately. My emotions have now cooled but I’m still intrigued by Peterson. Yes, he is about to turn 32 years old and he did look awful in very limited playing time in 2016 but let us not forget that Peterson ran for 1,485 yards in 2015 when he was last healthy. And if there’s one guy to defy the odds at his position and be a successful running back into his 30s, I cannot think of anyone more likely than Peterson. Plus, how sweet would it be to make the 2018 Super Bowl held in Minnesota with Peterson sporting green and gold?
JAMAAL CHARLES: RB
Rumors are out there that the Packers could be a landing spot for Charles. I think it would be a struggle to find a player in recent years with worse injury luck than the 30 year old Charles. You almost have to think he could be due for a bounce back year free of major injury. If so, he could be a high upside signing which could add an extra electric dimension to the Packers’ backfield. Fun fact: Charles’ career 5.5 yards per carry average is best in NFL history for a running back. Not too shabby.
Just now on NFLN, @RapSheet said the Packers are a possible landing spot for Jamaal Charles.
— Jason B. Hirschhorn (@by_JBH) March 14, 2017
DEANDRE LEVY: ILB
Maybe it’s just the Wisconsin football homer in me but Deandre Levy has always been a player I wanted to see in the green and gold. I admire the passion he plays with and much like Jamaal Charles his last two seasons have been a total loss due to injury. So there’s obviously risk here, which is why a 1 year prove it deal would be what the Packers would be looking for in this case. Levy even has a believer in Lions GM Bob Quinn despite being released. “I think he can be the same player he was a couple years ago. It looks like to me, he was getting healthier and healthier as the weeks went on when he came back. That’s what we envision’’
NICK MANGOLD: C/G
Report has surfaced that teams are interested in the recently released 33 year old former All-Pro center making the switch to Guard. Count the Packers among teams that should be interested if Mangold does indeed agree to make that switch. Mangold strikes me as the perfect 1-2 year veteran stopgap starter the Packers could use this year as they potentially draft their guard of the future in the upcoming draft.
DARRELLE REVIS: CB/S
All recent criminal charges have been dismissed stemming from Revis’ recent bar altercation. Add in his renewed desire to prove doubters wrong, the Packers’ documented interest in signing Revis in 2015, and the fact that the Packers sorely need another play-making veteran presence in the secondary and it’s easy to see that Revis starts to make a lot of sense. The veteran cornerback could be used much like Micah Hyde was last year and similar to how Capers employed Charles Woodson all over the field in the latter stages of his time in Green Bay.
Darrelle Revis tells me he's lost 10lbs since last season, he's working w/ a new trainer and has changed his entire nutrition plan.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 15, 2017
OTHERS TO CONSIDER: OLB Elvis Dumervil, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Brandon Carr, CB Brandon Flowers, ILB Gerald Hodges, OLB Erik Walden