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Packers Must Get It Right at Cornerback

The Green Bay Packers have had questions at the cornerback position for the past two or three seasons, depending on how you view 2015. 

They've spent three picks in the top two rounds in the last three drafts trying to address the position, two of which were first round (Damarious Randall) or very high second round picks (Kevin King).

Randall was the team's top corner last season based on takeaways (4) and games played (14).  And now he's gone.  The Packers sent him to the Cleveland Browns on Friday in exchange for quarterback DeShone Kizer and draft picks.

Now the Packers cornerback position group current consists of King, Quinten Rollins (coming off of a major injury) and a bevy of young players who are unproven.  Davon House is a free agent and has not yet been re-signed.

It all boils down to this: the cornerback position in Green Bay is once again front-and-center as far as team needs.

New Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst has to have a plan at the corner position if he's sending Randall away.  Whether it was because Randall isn't a fit in new Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine's defense or for other reasons, Randall's production still has to be replaced.

What exactly is that plan?  

Landing a free agent is no guarantee as we've seen in recent years.  Previous GM Ted Thompson was always unpredictable in dipping into the veteran free agent waters.  Will Gutekunst be more aggressive?  He better be because the team can't afford to stand pat or miss out on a player who can make a huge impact right away.

There aren't may big-names out there in free agency right now at corner.  Trumaine Johnson is one of the top players on the market but he's likely going to cost a pretty penny.  Adding a player of Johnson's caliber would, on paper, solidify the starting outside corner group, however.

Some conversations over the weekend suggested that the Packers are or should be interested in Johnson as well as Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.  Rodgers-Cromartie is 32 years old but still appeared to have some gas in the tank over the last two seasons, despite being suspended by his former team, the New York Giants, for arguing with his coaches.

Gutekunst has some options and we should get an idea quickly in the next few days as to how they're approaching filling this big need.  Assuming an outside corner is added, there would still be a need in the slot, as none of those currently on the roster seem ready to step into a full time role there so in essence, the Packers need at least two impact cornerbacks this offseason. 

There is a possibility that Gutekunst could make a trade, but it's unknown who that targeted player might be and what the Packers would have to give up to land a top-tier player.

However he does it, Gute has to get it right and find play makers who can step in on day one. 

Two seasons ago when Sam Shields was lost, the Packers were stuck shorthanded and without their best cornerback at the time.  They obviously weren't counting on losing Shields but he had missed time before and they could have foreseen the need for better depth.  Alas, come playoff time, they were so decimated with injuries that they didn't have what they needed against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC championship game. 

A team can never have too many corners.  The Packers have to realize how important this position is to have a lot of depth and players who can step up during the playoffs.  This next week is going to likely be crucial to the building of a defense that can help get the Packers to another championship game.  





Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (52) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Cubbygold's picture

Feels like it's an annual tradition for GBs defense to be decimated by injuries. Hopefully better luck this year, but I'd prefer gute sign multiple versitile CBs and draft one or two, rather than use most of the remaining cap to acquire johnson or butler.

I'd love to have a shutdown CB, just like I'd love to have a probowl caliber TE and Edge rusher. Sadly, GB doesn't have the money to spend their way out of their problems. Have to be smart with their cap space, and I think depth at CB is clearly the biggest weakness.

HankScorpio's picture

Generally speaking, the top of market contracts are given to players that won't live up to them. It's the same sort of thing as with Damarious Randall....being the best of the bunch doesn't change the absolute value.

So I'm good with some other team getting the top CB available while the Packers sign a couple of guys for less than top dollar. You want to go into the regular season at least 4 deep at CB. Right now, I think the Packers go 1 deep. So adding 3 more this off season is the goal.

John Kirk's picture

I think the Packers are 0 deep at CB right now. I assume you're counting Kevin King as the 1 deep? King wasn't good and he's injured on top of that. He's a .5, at best.

This team has never added a FA outside of their own on Day 1 since Ted arrived. I would be shocked if that changed this year.

As to the article, just look at the "fix" this team used last year as a guide for this year. Yes, I understand Ted was supposedly still the GM, but I believe he wasn't for all intents and purposes. I believe Brian was part of the group of guys running this team.

Last year it was draft Kevin King in a trade down and sign Davon House. I wouldn't be surprised if what we do this off-season is as uninspiring as the "fix" of 2017. Ala, signing Tramon Williams and drafting Josh Jackson...and then another CB somewhere in the draft. In fact, that is what I think is most likely to happen.

Has the apple fallen far from the tree? I'm very skeptical and we'll know here over the next 3 days.

HankScorpio's picture

"This team has never added a FA outside of their own on Day 1 since Ted arrived. I would be shocked if that changed this year."

I hope it never changes. You say that like missing out on the "crazy money" of the "day 1 feeding frenzy" is a bad thing. I think it is a very good thing to never get involved with things described as "crazy" and "a feeding frenzy"

John Kirk's picture

Hank... We have a fanbase and a lot of it is represented here who believes the Packers "have a plan" and that plan involves going out and getting studs in FA. I was among that group until last night. I no longer believe that. Many here do thinking that trading Randall means a stud must be coming. It doesn't.

I don't think overspending all the time is a good idea. I do think NEVER being in on the 1st wave of FA is as foolish. We've drafted so poorly that the deficit has to be made up somewhere. Where are the studs coming from? Where? You're going to trust they come from the draft? That's why we're in this mess. Trades? Unlikely. FA is the one pool that we need to dive into to repair damage. Sadly, the pool is low on water and a dive in will break a neck. It's just a sucky situation all the way around. BIg QB extension on the horizon, little to no space, and a swiss cheese roster.

If you honestly believe doing what we've been doing is the way to go, I can't help you like you said you couldn't on the backup QB position.

HankScorpio's picture

"If you honestly believe doing what we've been doing is the way to go, I can't help you like you said you couldn't on the backup QB position"

The difference is that I didn't ask for your help.

I also didn't ask you to assign me a position on the direction of the team. I'll speak for myself, if that's ok with you.

John Kirk's picture

I didn't need to ask. Your position is crystal.

worztik's picture

The only FAs worth signing, in most cases, are those that are released due to salary issues. If players are released that are not cap casualties, there must be a reason for their release! Attitude, effort, unable to change with a new coaching staff or a locker room pariah may be coming a team’s way unless due diligence researching the player is done. That’s hard to do unless you are certain of a players release. Suh is being released on Wednesday... do we want him... NO! The new front office impressed me with the Kizer/Randall trade! A couple more under the radar moves like that one and we’ll be just fine when we add in our draft picks. The ideal would be to trade back into the 1st round so as to have two! That 5th year option is a valuable tool, in my opinion, especially if we happen to draft a QB or a game changer at another position. Just sayin’...

Hawg Hanner's picture

With money from Nelson and Cobb's contracts and passing on Burnett the Packers have plenty of money for FA's as well as taking care of AR.

holmesmd's picture

King certainly flashed last season as a rookie playing with one arm! He was there best tackler at CB and his range & speed were obvious. He certainly appears to be an above average CB in the NFL

CheesyTex's picture

Always are "ifs", but if they sign Mo Wilkerson and get ANY rush help from the sophmores then House, Williams, and Jackson would be more than uninspiring.

As someone pointed out in an earlier article, a Wilkerson, Daniels, Clark trio will command a double team up front making coverage a whole lot easier in the secondary.

With the experienced Williams and House, the pressure can be off Jackson early and -- if he has what it takes -- solidify the secondary.

Turophile's picture

Add one solid veteran CB

Add one fairly high draft pick at CB (I'm thinking round 2)

Add one developmental draft pick CB (round 5-7). Some combo of Hawkins, Goodson, House, Brown, Pipkins, Rollins, Waters, provide depth.

That should do it.

2018 has King on one boundary. The veteran and round 2 draft pick man the other boundary and the slot. Beyond 2018, the veteran is replaced by a future years draft pick.

Nick Perry's picture

I think they need to sign Truman Williams, maybe a guy like Colvin, Gaines, or Breeland or a combination cap permitting. These are examples but I'd rather have a combination of the above players than Johnson.

Williams knows Pettines system and probably wouldn't cost too much. All of them are 26 years old except Williams so they're still young enough to play at a high level throughout the contract and they won't be raw like a rookie.

IF the Packers could sign 2 of those players plus Williams I think they'd be on their way. Sign one plus Williams and they can still add depth through the draft. Actually they'll need depth no mater what but it's a start either way.

dobber's picture

I think you're pretty much on the nose: we'll see a couple of mid-range CBs signed by the Packers. Maybe a Breeland. They might kick the tires on Rodgers-Cromartie, but he might be as pricey as they go. I just don't think they're going to put the capital needed to sign a Trumaine Johnson into one player.

Packmaniac's picture

I agree that multiple vet CBs are needed, whether via free agency or a combination of free agency and trade.

Lare's picture

Yes, the Packers need capable CB's. But getting them is only half the battle. In the NFL the other two main variables are availability and scheme.

Many would argue that one of the Packers main problems is the high number of players that are injured every year. You can have all the star players in the world but they don't do you much good sitting on the bench. You can't prevent contact injuries, but the Packers need to find some way to reduce the considerable number of muscle tissue strains they seem to experience each year (hamstring, groin, etc.). Doing so would help the overall performance on the field a lot.

Also, players need to be put in a position to perform at a high level. As we saw with Capers, expecting players to do what they couldn't do leads to lack of performance and communication. A prime example was making HHCD the on-field defensive captain when Burnett was injured. He simply couldn't do it and the defense was a disorganized mess.

I fully expect Pettine will take care of the second issue as long as he's given capable players to work with. Hopefully Gutekunst will help with that as this team not only lacks starters at several positions, it also lacks depth to help when (hopefully less) injuries occur.

Cubbygold's picture

Has GB stuck with the same strength and conditioning coach all these years?

EdsLaces's picture

T Johnson or Breeland please.

ARodforPresident2020's picture

We should have plenty of cap room. The first order of business should be to clear the dead weight off the roster. Jordy is the only one the I believe will take a restructured contract. Cobb and Bulaga are totally replaceable. I would offer Jordy and Clay restructured deals by adding an additional year or two for less money. If they decline so be it. This team needs two, if not three CBs added to the depth chart. Depending on un-drafted players is not going to cut it anymore. If I were Aaron I would not negotiate a new deal until I see what Gute's vision for the team is.

Packer Fan's picture

After last season, I never assessed Randall as a starter. Because who do you get, a first round talent playing to his ability, or the guy that plays poorly. And this doesn't even take into consideration of the thread that the veteran players wanted him gone.

And this has been building for a few years now on how TT builds teams. When Shields went down, TT should have picked up a veteran DB to fill in. We ended the year with a poor secondary. Last year, who ever thought House would be a lock down CB. And losing Hayward. This bodes bad for the coaches here not to recognize and use his abilities properly. But through all of this, trading Randall was probably the right thing to do. Start over.

I like Pettine. I can see him on the sideline leading the defense on the sideline and not up in the box. I sense a coach that will connect with the players.

Now what to do:
- Sign a good CB to neutralize the other teams best receivers.
- Draft a CB in the first three rounds.
- Hope that King's shoulder heals.
- Pick up a cheaper veteran CB. (A one year contract type of guy - maybe Tramon Williams)
- I don't expect any of the other CB's on the roster to develop into a starter. Because that is the way TT thought the last two years.

And yes, there will be needing cutting or restructuring of veteran contracts. Articles have suggested Nelson, Cobb, Matthews, Bulaga, Kendricks and Ryan. And yes, there will be cutting of veterans like Brooks and Dial that may enhance the roster.

Lots of questions and unknowns. We will know from BG how he will deal with it shortly.

RCPackerFan's picture

I was surprised like most to see them trade Randall. We have no idea if that will be a good trade or not. Clearly he fell out of favor with the coaches. I am wondering how much of this decision was McCarthy's vs Pettine's vs Gutekunst.

Regardless of whose decision it was, I think Pettine has a decent amount of say in what they are doing. He probably saw a guy that shied away from contact, and even though he stepped up the last 5 games or whatever, he didn't do enough the previous 2 1/2 years to warrant keeping. And his value would not be higher.
I like the fact that they got the first pick in the 4th round. That is a very good spot to be in as we saw last year. We ended up with Biegel, but there is a lot of talent left early in the 4th round. Essentially its like having an extra 3rd round pick.

I think they are going to go after at least 1 veteran CB. Also I think they will be drafting at least one within the first 3 rounds. I wouldn't be surprised if they drafted more then one in the first 4 rounds.

I am looking forward to seeing what a few players currently on the roster may do next year. I don't want to rely on them but am looking forward to seeing what they may provide. Rollins, Pipkins and Waters. Both Pipkins and Rollins bring toughness that I think Pettine likes. Waters I have no idea what he brings but more then a few thought he could have been a starter until he got hurt.

Things are changing in GB, so lets just be patient and see what happens.

stockholder's picture

Right , be patient! They won't dump anyone until they see A-rod on that field again. I don't believe Randall would have been dumped, if Rollins,Pipkins or even Waters were ready to contribute more. The avg. CB makes at least 12 mil. in the nfl. The packers have never been one to over-pay that position.

Razer's picture

...Things are changing in GB, so lets just be patient and see what happens...

I wonder if the Randall trade ever would have been a consideration under TT. His loyalty to his picks was legendary. I like that Gutekunst pulled the trigger. Presumably, he did this under the advice of the coaches and in the face of Ted's typical practice. Indeed, things are changing in Green Bay.

dobber's picture

I don't mean to disparage your comment, but I just don't worry about what TT might or might not have done. He's history and the people at the top of the food chain in GB have their own legacies to build. I agree, though: if anything, this kind of move might be signaling to those who are worried about TTs influence that Gutekunst has his own plan and his own way of doing things.

RCPackerFan's picture

I really wonder who made the decision on it.

Was it Gutekunst? Like you said Thompson may never have cut him because of his loyalty to his draft picks. Perhaps Gutekunst didn't feel he was worth the ups and downs that he has had.

Was it McCarthy? After the season McCarthy talked about Randall needing to stay focused or whatnot. It sounded like McCarthy fell out of favor of Randall.

Was it Pettine? Who is bringing in a new defensive scheme and new style of play and didn't like what he saw from Randall on tape?

Maybe it was all the above too? Pettine may not like the way he plays, and McCarthy may not have liked his attitude. Also Gutekunst decided that the deal he got was worth the trade.
I had heard that the Packers considered drafting Kizer last year at 33. So they got him plus essentially got the first pick in the 4th and 5th rounds. The first pick in the 4th round can be very valuable. If they keep it they essentially have an extra 3rd round pick. Or they could trade back and pick up more picks (not that they need them).

We are already seeing the differences between Thompson and Gutekunst. Free agency should get interesting starting today.

jww061356's picture

Guess I never heard about the veterans wanting to let Randall go at the time, but I am not surprised. I say it goes like this:
1) Get one front line corner in FA (Gaines, Breeland, Johnson).
2) Get a depth corner(Tramon Williams) that can start effectively in a pinch
3)Restructure Nelson and move him to the slot.
4)Restructure Cobb
5)Bundle some picks to get us an additional pick in the top 101. Take those five picks and go Edge,CB, TE, WR, and OL, with the idea that at least the first 3 of those are impact players.
6)Leave Bulaga along for now, but look for his replacement.
7)Maybe Justin Pugh?

jh9's picture

Personally, I don’t care who they sign or how much they pay as long as we get a CB who’s capable of shutting down the best receiver on the opposing team.

If the defense isn’t significantly better this year and helps the Packers be in serious contention for the Super Bowl, I think Aaron Rodgers will walk away.

IMO, we can’t afford to waste another year being happy just to make the playoffs.

Cubbygold's picture

12 can't walk away for 4 years.

jh9's picture

AR's contract has only two years left. I believe if he feels the Packers aren't doing enough to win it all now, he'll ask for a trade next year.

Cubbygold's picture

He can ask, but GB can hold him to his contract and then place the franchise tag on him after that. Rodgers has some leverage, he could go full baby like Bell did in Pittsburgh last year, but at the end of the day he's not able to hit FA until hes 38

jh9's picture

If it comes to a pissing contest, the Packers would be making a mistake.
If a franchise QB wants out, how are you going to force him to play well?

It would be better to trade him and get some great draft picks than get nothing at all.

dobber's picture

If the QB has just signed a big contract, you're right: there isn't much the team can do to compel him to play well. Right now, though, #12 is on the end of his very affordable (for an elite QB) deal. If a new deal doesn't get done, he needs to come back in 2018, at least, and show he's still ARod if he wants to get that last big extension/ guarantees on 2019. If you'll recall, ARod's 2014 (the year after he broke his collarbone last) was one of his better recent seasons. It will all depend on the pieces around him and their health, of course, but I expect he'll play well this year (assuming nobody falls on him again).

jh9's picture

AR will give us his best this year, and he'll expect the same from his teammates and the organization. After 2018...

Cubbygold's picture

Name one hall of fame QB who intentionally played poorly because he didn't get his way. I don't think that list will be very long. Regardless of if 12 is happy or not, he's a competitor and will be playing to win.

I don't disagree with you, just pointing out that 12 can't actually leave for another team for 4 more years. Because of this, it's in his (and the teams) best interest to strike a deal that makes him happy while allowing the team to compete for a superbowl.

John Kirk's picture

He could just retire like Favre. His contract is for 2 more seasons. Yes, they can tag him but I wonder if next CBA will have stronger provisions for applying the tag so teams don't just use it over and over like happened to Cousins.

The team appears to hold the cards but in many ways the player holds the power. Aaron is smart and would be able to manipulate his way out if he wanted to. He watched Brett do it.

Razer's picture

If GB pulled the franchise tag routine on Rodgers after all his years of service - I would leave the team. With all this time and history, if we can't come to terms with Rodgers then we should let him pursue his finale.

stockholder's picture

It's about the money. Their all great actors now. Money more than a ring.

Cubbygold's picture

Guess tommy never got that memo

Razer's picture

Let's hope that Gutekunst doesn't let the CB position persist as a need like Ted did with DLine, Safety, RB, LB and TE. How he handles the CB situation will be telling on how he sees the Packer's window for another championship.

I also hope that the personnel responsible for pumping Randall and Rollins as top 2 picks in 2015 are no longer with the organization. Since I see us drafting a CB in the first round to start the secondary rebuild (again), I don't want continued bad advice influencing the picks.

There isn't much in FA at a price that is reasonable. Maybe Rodgers-Cromartie can be had at a fair number - if he has anything left. I can see them resigning Davon House for need. Beyond that, we need to draft a starting ready corner and concentrate on a pressure defense to do the trick.

dobber's picture

DRC is a curious point if only in the fact that he has many of the traits the Packers might be looking for: speed (he can still run), length, and experience. His price tag might be reasonable and the commitment is likely to be short. They just have to look into the issues that went on in the NYG locker room last season and his place in it (he was punished for his actions by the team at one point).

Handsback's picture

Green Bay will probably get two corners in the draft and maybe even a FS. The issue at hand is experience and while they have many on their existing many are really NFL quality? So they will have to find another CB in the FA market. The who, how, and when, will be figured out shortly I suspect.

Since '61's picture

The Packers should take a serious look at Rodgers-Cromatie. He was due to make $6-7 million with the Giants this season. If they can sign him for about the same or less he would be worth it.

Then maybe a one year deal for Tramon Williams plus draft a CB or 2 combined with King, Hawkins, Pipkins, and Waters we might have enough for depth and experience and not break the bank.

We'll see what happens this week. Thanks, Since '61

Razer's picture

I think this is the most reasonable approach. Between Davon House, another good vet and a top CB draft pick we should be okay. I would also like to see us stock the pass rush to take some of the pressure off of the secondary.

Since '61's picture

Razer - I agree, House could be another veteran FA that we sign for experience and depth. I think Cromartie is better than House but House and Williams could work out fine as well. IMO, this is the week when we'll find out how aggressive Gute will be at signing FAs. Thanks, Since '61

dobber's picture

If they decide that House and Williams are guys they want, they should be able to get them for next to nothing. DRC might be a guy to look at...maybe Breeland. If they go into 2018 with King, a draft pick, House and Williams as their top 4 CBs, I'll be concerned.

Since '61's picture

Dobber - as usual we're on the same page. I would be concerned as well unless Hawkins, Pipkins, or Waters shows something during TC. I'm hoping for Breeleand and/or DRC. We should know soon, one way or the other.
Thanks, Since '61

Fordham Ram's picture

Rather than Cromartie, I've been thinking about Darell Revis who is a legend in the Jet organization and played for many years under Pettine during his best years. Nobody would throw it his way. It was called Revis island. He's only 32 as well and knows Pettine's system. A combo of him and Wilkerson would who also was brought up in Pettine's system would be fine additions, if Revis isn't washed up, as they could help teach as well as play.

Royalty Free GM's picture

Some of you guys sound like Randall was a great player and we will miss him?! He was one of the main reasons our defense gave up so many points. So it was about time to get rid of him and finally DO something to this horrible secondary we have had so many years. I hope Rollins goes too.
Reform our weak secondary and slowest receiver group now. No more status quo.

It still amazes me how soft some of people are here.
Even small changes likes this gets you out of your comfort zone.
Hold on to your hats and be ready for some big signings.

Downvote if you agree.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Besides disagreeing with you on Randall's play there are other reasons to hate this move and it's timing.

1. it stinks of MM pushing around the new GM
2. It shows the failure of MM and his choosen coaches to get value out of yet another high defensive draft choice. That count is adding up.
3. it stupid from a timing stand point:
- Guys like Johnson now have even more leverage if negotiating with the Packers
- Kizer might have been had for free after the draft
4. It shows the Packers still think they should be in Backup QB development game. Which is a poor use of their time, and they suck at it.

mrtundra's picture

Since Gute swapped Randall for Kizer, he will have to shore up the DB corps, especially the CBs. Getting a CB, or two, in FA is a must now. Getting some in the draft is a necessity, as well. We have needs at Pass Rusher, at TE, OL and WR. Will those needs be met or will Gute throw the dice and say we need the guys we have right now to step up. I say what guys are those? I can now see Derwin James being the target for GB in the 1st round. I can also see that either Jordy or Cobb, or both, may be gone to free up cap space to sign players in FA. I hope our Scouting department has been busy hunting down solid players no one else took notice of.

holmesmd's picture

Does anyone know why we didn’t resign Sam Shields?! That sure would have helped a lot! Wouldn’t cost much and Sam was our best corner for a long time! So the Rams sign the guy?! WTH?!

John Kirk's picture

I think it's safe to say we didn't do what many expected at the CB position. Get ready for a reach at 14 and possibly in Round 2 trying to scramble to "fix" it.

Holding out hope for lower tier guys like Webb from Baltimore, Amukamara, and DRC.

Jimmy Graham just filled a hole that should've never been open had they signed Cook. That led to Marty B. which led to Jimmy G. Getting it right with Cook would've saved a lot of time and effort.

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