Tag: NFL free agency

Packers Free Agent Target: Muhammad Wilkerson

Should the Packers be aggressive in pursuit of muhammad wilkerson if he becomes a free agent?

 

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By: Mark Prott

The hiring of new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine should bring optimism and excitement to the Packers fan base. While Pettine will not be able to fix everything, with the help of GM Brian Gutekunst, Pettine could put the pieces together to create a formidable defense.

Simply put, the 2018 defense needs more impact players if the Packers are serious about contending for the Super Bowl. Enter Muhammad Wilkerson.

Wilkerson, still just 28 years old, has shown that he is capable of being one of the most dominating defensive lineman in the game. His 12 sack season in 2015 and 44.5 sacks total over a 7 year career prove he is a force to be reckoned with.

He also likely has played his last game with the Jets. Over the past two seasons Wilkerson’s play has not lived up to his five year, 86 million dollar contract signed in 2016. It’s why the Jets are willing to part ways.

Signing Wilkerson would be not be without risk.  But then again, a certain guy named Charles Woodson was also a big risk signing back in 2006 and we know how that turned out. Wilkerson also would not command nearly as large of a contract as he signed in 2016 on the open market anymore.

The fit with the Packers makes sense on multiple angles.

The Packers with a healthy Aaron Rodgers at the helm are almost a lock for the playoffs next season. And like it or not, it’s human nature that playing on a winning team would probably light a new fire under a player that’s been playing on an awful team the past two years. A change of scenery to a winning organization might be all that is needed for Wilkerson to regain dominating form.

Wilkerson would also be reunited with his old defensive coordinator. Pettine coached Wilkerson with the Jets from 2011-2012 and should know first hand what type of impact the 6’4 305 pound lineman could have in his defense.

“He can be a dominant inside rusher on third down and a dominant defensive end on early downs,” said Pettine in a 2012 interview. Sound like something the Packers’ defense could use? Look no further than what the signing of the 31 year old defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who recorded 14.5 sacks this season, did for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense.

A defensive line including up and coming defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a Pro Bowler in Mike Daniels and Wilkerson would give the Packers a formidable trio in the trenches. Add in a selection of an outside rusher with the 14th pick in the upcoming NFL draft and suddenly the Packers’ pass rush and defense as a whole could become a strength.

Any spectator of the 2017 version of the Packers dreadful defense could legitimately argue that the lack of a consistent pass rush was the most glaring need on defense. Coverage is still important, but great quarterback play can still beat great coverage if given enough time. There is talent in the secondary, but the Packers desperately need a better pass rush.

The Packers decided coverage was their most important need in the 2017 NFL draft. They used their first 2 picks on Kevin King and Josh Jones. Both players have talent and potential, but their play on the field created little improvement over the 2016 defense. The pass rush was not addressed by Ted Thompson last off season. It will be up to his successor,  Gutekunst, who should make it his new number one priority.

The NFL Draft will and should always be the ultimate source of acquiring talent but free agency must be utilized. Gutekunst thankfully agrees. Potential impact players like Wilkerson will hit the open market soon. Then it will be time for the Packers new decision maker to put his words into action.

 

Green Bay Packers' Best Remaining Free Agency Options:

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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

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.

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.

OTHERS TO CONSIDER:  OLB Elvis Dumervil, RB LeGarrette Blount, CB Brandon Carr, CB Brandon Flowers, ILB Gerald Hodges, OLB Erik Walden