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Packers Should Address Secondary in Free Agency

If you have watched the Green Bay Packers play football in the past few seasons with any regularity, then you know the team is in desperate need of an upgrade at cornerback.

Dating back to 2011, the pass defense has been a major issue. To be fair, it hasn't always been the secondary’s fault. In 2014 and 2015, the defensive backs actually played pretty well. A lot of yards were still given up, but the defense was respectable and found a way to get takeaways.

Yet, in the 2015 playoffs, the secondary enabled Larry Fitzgerald to take a short pass and go who knows how many yards to essentially win a game in overtime in the divisional round. That game against the Cardinals was one Green Bay should have won, but it just couldn’t get off the field.

It was the same story in the 2016 NFC championship game. The Packers defense was literally shredded, from start to finish. It was ugly and the problem still persists.

The Packers did their best to address the secondary last season, using their top two picks on defensive backs for the second time in three years. Kevin King, a corner was the first, followed by Josh Jones, a safety.

Both had their moments, although King was limited by injuries from the start. He showed promise in coverage and against the run. If he can stay on the field, he will be part of the solution and at least one of the starters.

The starter on the other side of him next season is still a big question. Damarious Randall is one candidate and a pretty good one after a nice 2017 season. The third-year man isn’t a lock-down corner by any stretch, but he definitely improved, intercepting five passes and breaking up nine others.

Randall’s coverage skills still leave something to be desired, but he’s one of the few guys in the secondary that produced last season. Ideally, he may be better in the slot, which can also highlight his tackling ability as a former safety, but depending who’s on the roster, he could be the other starter.

There are some other potential candidates in house that could earn more playing time like Lenzy Pipkins, Josh Hawkins or Quinten Rollins, if he can get healthy.

More than likely though, one of the Packers top three corners next season is not on the roster and the best way to find him, might be in free agency.

We all know what Green Bay has invested in the position. Since 2015, the Packers have used one first-rounder and two second-round picks on corners. Those picks yielded King and Randall, however, if the secondary is going to get better right away next season, some veteran talent would help.

And I am not just talking about Davon House. He was alright and if he wants a modest deal, then sure, bring him back. But in terms of finding a starter in free agency, I am thinking much bigger.

Of course, the talent pool is a little thin and the money might get kind of ridiculous, but the Packers have to at least try to find a starter on the open market. A guy like Malcolm Butler would do just fine.

There are a lot of other guys on the market, but only a few Pro-Bowl caliber guys and Butler is one of them. The other is Trumaine Johnson, who will surely be too expensive for Green Bay.

On first thought, Butler might be too. Yet, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be worth it. He’s talented, hungry and a winner. And he’s one guy the Packers should seriously consider. In four seasons, one which he basically didn't play, he has eight interceptions and 50 passes defensed. He would also provide immediate help in the seconary. 

If not Butler, fine. But it has to be somebody. Green Bay needs help at corner and it needs it now. Another draft pick would be nice, but there are already too many young guys to develop. It’s time for a veteran, even if the Packers have to spend out of their comfort zone.

__________________________

Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (53) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Ryan Graham's picture

Could not agree more. I would prefer to work something out with Trumaine Johnson, guaranteed number one corner that the defense eill be able to lean on week in and week out. Granted he would be expensive, it's necessary move. The locker room needs veteran leaders across the board, particularly on defense. With the right maneuvers this deal can get done. Hell - if Ted thought Shields was worth 10M+ then Johnson, Butler, or other need to have their agents called.

OrganLeroy's picture

It's still early in the overall FA process, but I've read that it's pretty unlikely Johnson leaves the Rams, he wants to stay and mgmt wants him to stay.

stockholder's picture

That was the thinking behind House. You 'd be better off letting Shields comeback. No to Butler.

Chris Peterson's picture

Hell, get Butler and Shields. I just worry about Sam seeing as he basically hasn't played for two full seasons. Don't think you can rely on that. Sign him to an incentives laden deal and hope he pans out. But get another guy too. You really can never have enough good corners, ever.

Razer's picture

Shields has the bad pumpkin and is concussion prone. He may be too stupid to accept the whole brain injury thing but NFL teams will shy away from such a history.

dobber's picture

I can't believe he wants to play again. I wonder if he's burned all his $$....

worztik's picture

Dob... I’ve never had millions of bucks to blow through but, give me a $50.00 bill and I’ll show ya some foolish spending!!!! Just spendin’... ;-€)

OrganLeroy's picture

I know fans need something to talk about this time of year, but your odds of winning the lottery twice in the same week are better than Sheilds coming back to GB, let alone getting an offer from anybody. 4 concussions with the last one sidelining him for an entire season!

worztik's picture

I do NOT believe Doc McKenzie or whomever would ever sign off on Shields medical issue!!! Maybe some of the education for these players could entail visiting DEMENTIA WARDS at rest homes and seeing the abysmal lives people with brain disfunction are all about! Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Chronic Brain Disease and brain TRAUMA rob people of everything! And I mean everything that’s important to being a viable human being!

After a vehicle accident where I was rear-ended, I have had 4 spinal fusion surgeries (NOT fun) and I have screws, rods and plates in me back from C2 - T2... (that involves “8”vertebrae... C=cervical; T=Thoracic) and that’s a big portion of the total spine. I think Manning had similar, however, much less of the same kind like C2 - C3 or C3 - C4, probably the latter! I thought he was an UTTER FOOL to risk coming back from that and luckily he survived! He could be a quadriplegic if hit hard or wrong but, defenses PLACED HIM ON THE GROUND! in general.

I mention my health issues because I at least am able to think (my wife will debate that!). I would do all the surgeries again in order to avoid brain issues! They do not transplant brains... yet... so hold on to what you have and walk away from football and lead a normal life Sam!!! If another team signs him... that team should be held responsible for his care... forever!!!! I speak of what I know...

dobber's picture

If you bring in a Sam Shields, you can't count on him to play very much. He's a ticking time bomb. You have to have a contingency player to cover him when he goes down (note that he has never played a full 16-game season in his career...and much of that was before the concussions set in).

Pettine, MM and Gutekunst need to sit down and make a plan for what kind of player they need in the secondary. Are they going to play a lot of zone? Press man? Find those players. If they're going to play press man, they could just as easily bring House back for depth and either draft a CB or ride with a younger physical guy like Pipkins. Whatever happens in 2018, much of it rides on the health of King. If he can't play and stay healthy, they're essentially building the CB position from scratch.

flackcatcher's picture

MM and Gutetkunst with Pettine and Philibn are having meetings, that's for sure. With both sides of the ball so intertwined these days, it would be nuts not to. With QB1 contract coming up, a lot of the FA money is not going to be there. Pretty much draft or bust (Ugh). When I look at the secondary since 2010 I just cringe. Any luck this group has seems to be bad. Can we get a couple of years where this group stays healthy, for once. I joke about it, but the wave of injuries to a single position group year after year is unreal. Being a GM is hard enough, but how to overcome is a large part of the job. TT never got enough credit for that over his tenure. Agree on Shields and King. We don't know if Rollins will make it back from his latest groin injury, so a healthy King is necessary. Knock on wood.

CheesyTex's picture

I hope Gutekunst reads your posts.

dobber's picture

I hope he DOESN'T!!!

Dude's got better things to do than troll fan sites... ;)

stockholder's picture

I understand we need Depth, if not better. But The Patriots have such a success with their players, cast offs, and COACHING. After Bennett I wouldn't sign anyone from the Patriots. I know were hoping for a charles Woodson. But let's stay away from the question marks.

Madfan's picture

Without a doubt, the Packers should sign a free agent CB provided he is a solid starter. Plus veteran leadership is badly lacking.

I'd include Fuller on the list.

Chris Peterson's picture

Fuller would be good. Probably not as expensive.

dobber's picture

I'm curious about David Amerson, who was cut by Oakland a couple days ago. Good athlete, good size, won't break the bank. I don't know what the added story is there...

flackcatcher's picture

It's strictly a cap issue in Oakland. Cook may be headed out the door too. (I resign him if I were the Packers GM. His agent might be more 'flexible' this time around.) A lot of teams in the NFL are having the exact same problems as Green Bay. Big time player eats up a lot of future money, so your room to sign FA players is cut. Such is life in today's NFL.

Chris Peterson's picture

I thought that too. Go get him now. Don't have to wait for new league year.

OrganLeroy's picture

Fuller is going to be VERY expensive and we don't need that, check out all the info online @ FA CB's, there are several young, talented vets coming free in March.

worztik's picture

Yup!!!

worztik's picture

I too like Fuller!!! Even if he played fer Da Bears!!!

CAG123's picture

What you guys need to understand is BB slime ball treatment of Butler could eventually help the Packers or any team that tries to sign Butler. You take a guy coming off a so so (still top 20) season and sit him in the SB with the lasting image we have of him is getting burnt in the AFCCG that will make him more affordable than Johnson and Fuller both coming off great seasons but the one I feel like will produce with a vengeance next year is Butler who already plays scrappy with a chip on his shoulder (being undrafted and from a small school) he’s going to want to stick it to BB for giving up on him and giving that fat contract to a player coming from a division rival. We’ve seen that those chips never go away.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

I was thinking this too. If the Packers get back to the SuperBowl there is a big chance they will face the Patriots. Bulter would have so real motivation in that case.

That said I'd rather have Kyle Fuller. Less baggage.

Razer's picture

We have no choice but to address the secondary in FA. Our secondary in average at best and thin on depth. With free agency opening the door to losing Burnett and Davon House we become even thinner on talent. So either, we pay our free agents, bring in someone else's FA or we go into next season with draft picks and leftovers.

The secondary is a hot mess. King's shoulder injury will still be an issue next season. So, that leaves us with Randall, Clinton Dix and maybe Josh Jones as the only real starting talent on the roster. The draft alone won't fix this weakness.

OrganLeroy's picture

King had surgery on his shoulder there's no way you can make that statement that his shoulder is still going to be an issue, by that logic, every player who has any type of injury this year would still have issues next year.

ShanghaiKid's picture

Ordinarily I’d agree with you, but King had shoulder issues going back to college it’s not like it’s the first time he’s struggled with it. There’s definite cause for concern.

Razer's picture

Shoulder joint injuries are tricky and in a business where you need to used your shoulder to hit that's a problem. I am not wishing him ill but surgery, recovery, rehab then strengthening will take time.

CJ Bauckham's picture

My understanding was that King has played through this injury since college and never had it fixed properly, until now

dobber's picture

I think TWill had the same issue in 2011, had it fixed, and it hasn't been a problem since.

CheesyTex's picture

TWill would still be a useful and cost effective piece to add.

dobber's picture

In essence, they need to decide where they feel they can draft positions that can contribute early and where positions really can't be reliably manned by rookies. Obviously that's going to be a function of depth/quality in the draft and just how poor the current personnel on the roster happens to be.

There are always exceptions, but RB, OL, ILB and even S and CB can seem to be positions where rookies step in and play significant roles on good teams right away. We've seen more WRs have good rookie years recently, but those are almost always top-of-the-draft players.

I think the FA strategy needs to be married with the perspective of where they feel they can reasonably find draft help that can play a role early.

cuervo's picture

Agree.......if memory serves correct, I've seen stories that the Packers NEED to sign FA wide reciever, FA CB, FA edge rusher, FA OL, and re-sign Burnett or replace him with a FA.

If they can accomplish 1/3rd of that, Russ Ball should have a statue right next to Vince's. With 20-22 mio in cap space, the Packers simply don't have enough cash to do what we'd all like them to do.

What happens with Cobb, Nelson, Matthews, and to a lesser degree Bualga will determine how active they can be in free agency. Currently we have too much money tied up in older underperforming vets, which most teams contend with...except the Pats.

Tundraboy's picture

I wouldn't mind a top of the draft wide receiver one bit.

worztik's picture

Jimmy G signs for 5 years for $127.5 mil... nice!!!

Ryan Graham's picture

This is not good news

worztik's picture

It is for AROD...

worztik's picture

NOT nice!!!

worztik's picture

Being sarcastic, again!!!

4zone's picture

Stupid. And that's $137.5 Mil not $127.5 Mil.

worztik's picture

Stupid??? Who you callin’ stoopid??? What’s 10 million among friends??? Is the signing stoopid or is it me your down on??? Just askin’....

Handsback's picture

What do the following have in common?
Patrick Robinson-Phi
Tramon Williams-AZ
Rashaan Melvin-Ind
Nickell Roby-Coleman-LAR
Kyle Fuller-Chi
TJ Carrie-Oak
B yron Maxwell-Sea
Brent Grimes-TB
Ross Cockell-NYG
Prince Amukunar-Chi
All of these guys are CBs that are UFA and rated better by NFL scouts than Malcom Butler. So there are a lot of guys that can play and I suspect Green Bay may sign one of these dudes. Very surprised that Tramon Williams was the second rated UFA....

4zone's picture

If you get a Pro Bowl caliber player in Free Agency, what's wrong with paying him Pro Bowl Money. We are paying CM3 insane money for good by not great production.

CheesyTex's picture

What's wrong is getting him to play like a pro bowler after he gets the contract...

TXCHEESE's picture

There will be cap casualties to be had down the road, that should provide some veteran depth. The Pack has a #14 pick this year, and I think there should be some young cheaper talent available there. I don't necessarily think they need to go out an blow the wad on a high dollar corner, just some solid depth. King has a good chance to turn it on next year. One full year in the system and in the weight room and he could be a real stud.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

In the NFC. .except for Tampa Bay, Washington, Chicago and Maybe Detroit.

EVERY TEAM IS A CONTENDER NOW IN THE NFC!!

ALL OF YOU NEED TO GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR REAR ENDS.

Player v. Player our team is not much better then any of the nfc teams and the coaching isnt much better then anyone else's either.

There is nothing not even Aaron Rogers that sets this team apart from any other team.

OH, WE CAN BE CONTENDERS....CONTENDERS. LOL....

Do you think New England is saying we wanna be contenders? Really?

GLM's picture

Sam should not come back to football...period....it's sad that his career has been cut short, but it'simply not worth the risk.

Tundraboy's picture

Agree. And we should be looking elsewhere.

Packer Fan's picture

The Pack have questions with both Randall and King. Can't go into season with questions and drafting a CB isn't a firm answer. We know how well things went last year with getting House and King and with questions. Disaster again. Sign a FA. Get a piece that works.

Riverboy's picture

Bring

Riverboy's picture

If the Packers decide to add a CB via free agency, bringing back Shields back would be a disaster. He couldn't stay on the field three years ago. Butter was benched for Super Bowl LII so lots of questions there and he's only 5'9". Prince hasn't picked off a pass since 2015. The better options at CB would be Colts 6'2" Rahsaan Melvin whose coming off his best season as a pro. Bears' former 1st round draft pick Kyle Fuller had a bounce back season in 2017 after an injury-plagued 2016. Both are young and coming up on their second contracts. Both had better 2017 grades than either Butler or Prince. The other option is to take Iowa's Josh Jackson in the 1st round. He may be better than any of the affordable UFAs. That would allow the Packers to use cap money to bolster their defensive front 7.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

All I know is this year the Packers cannot make a mistake.

1. We have to keep the right players and cut
the ones we dont need
2. Sign the proper needed free agents
3. Hit on all our draft picks

This team cannot afford to have some hits and some misses.

dobber's picture

I think you've just succeeded in identifying how every team looks at its off-season.

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