Which Roster Spots are Up for Grabs by Packers Rookies?
Now that Ted Thompson has gathered the 90 men from which he will choose the 2016 Packers, this summer’s intrigue will surround the new additions and their chances of making the cut. With a veteran nucleus and an impressive cast of young players from the 2013-2015 drafts, the Packers boast one of the best rosters in the league. Each of the newcomers faces an uphill battle, but as always Ted will do whatever he can to keep his draft picks and will likely sign at least one undrafted rookie.
Lets take a position-by-position look. With a 53-player limit and assuming 3 specialists (K, P, LS), we have 50 spots to work with.
Roster spots: 2
Locks: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
The Packers seem to have confidence in Hundley based on their decision to let Scott Tolzien leave, so it would seem that any new guys are fighting for a practice squad spot at best.
Roster spots: 4-5
Locks: Eddie Lacy, James Starks
While Ripkowski might not quite be a lock, it’s tough to see a scenario where he does not make the team. With Kuhn seemingly not in the plans, the best guess is that John Crockett and the rookies will duke it out for one spot. UDFA Don Jackson is speedy and looks like Crockett’s main competition. These two will need to bring their best every day in what should be a compelling camp battle.
Roster spots: 5-7
Locks: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery
Wide receiver is arguably the deepest position on the Packers roster, and in addition to the 4 locks above, speedy 5th-rounder Trevor Davis is highly likely to make the roster. That leaves Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, and a host of undrafted rookies led by Geronimo Allison to fight for the 6th and maybe 7th spots.
Jeff Janis’ shoulda-been-legendary performance against Arizona and his impressive height-speed combination give him the leg up on Abbrederis, who has limited upside and a body that does not seem built to last in the NFL. The Packers like to keep 2 or 3 receivers on the practice squad, and this season looks no different as they have a number of players they will want to retain the rights to.
Roster Spots: 3-4
Locks: Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers
The Jared Cook signing now looks like a complete no-brainer , and could prove to be one of Thompson’s best moves in years. With a draft that offered few options and no obvious answers on the roster beyond Richard Rodgers, who should really be a red zone specialist, Thompson knew he had to strike. And strike he did, even if he frustrated Packers fans by waiting weeks to do so. Hopefully we are debating a long-term extension for Cook next offseason.
With relatively mediocre depth behind the two locks, the Packers would be well-advised to keep only three tight ends. Intriguing but mostly unknown (not a good thing for a second-year player) Kennard Backman probably has the early lead, but the player who shows the most at camp and in the pre-season will earn this spot.
The Packers were glad to get Mitchell Henry back from the Broncos, and Justin Perillo earned enough trust from his coaches to get some playing time late in the year. The only newcomer of note is David Grinnage, who brings an ideal frame but limited athleticism. So, there are options for the third TE spot, just none that really get your blood pumping.
Roster Spots: 8-10
Locks: Josh Sitton, TJ Lang, Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley, JC Tretter, Jason Spriggs, Lane Taylor
Ted Thompson seems to have finally learned the painful lesson that quality depth on the offensive line is essential for any team hoping to compete at the highest level. Although the future beyond 2016 looks a bit murky with numerous pending free agents, the present at offensive line looks fantastic. With an established starting 5 backed up by versatile Tretter, promising Spriggs, and the recently re-signed Lane Taylor, Mike McCarthy finally has a line that will allow him to rest easy at night.
Behind those 8 locks, the Packers have a number of young players they would surely like to keep. Josh Walker is massive and has shown promise at guard, while 6th round pick Kyle Murphy will be given a chance to develop. Matt Rotherham has earned some praise from coaches but would likely need a homerun of a summer to make the team. Don Barclay was brought back for some reason, but hopefully it won’t come to that. This looks like the strongest Packers offensive line group since at least 2003.
Roster Spots: 6-8
Locks: Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Letroy Guion, Datone Jones, Mike Pennel
Picking the number of D-Linemen the Packers will carry is a bit of a moving target, given Mike Pennel’s 4-game suspension and McCarthy’s plan to give Datone Jones some playing time at OLB. The best guess is they will keep 6 on the opening day 53.
So, there figure to be two roster spots available to newcomers and practice squad players. Christian Ringo has an inside track on a roster spot, as the Packers paid extra to keep him on the practice squad last year and seem to have big plans for the undersized DE. As a 4th round pick, Dean Lowry possesses great height and should have a good chance at making the team, even if this writer is less than impressed after extensively researching the subject (5 minutes of YouTube footage).
The Packers would really like another unknown to develop into a player, preferably one with some heft to fill the hole Pennel will leave early in the season. Candidates include UDFAs Brian Price and Tyler Kuder, and street free agent BJ McBride. The best bet is Price, who has an impressive size-athleticism profile but comes with character concerns. If no one steps up, the Packers will probably keep the locks, plus Ringo and Lowry.
Roster Spots: 5-7
Locks: Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell
The Packers will look to build on what was a solid year rushing the passer in 2015 at OLB, another position with a good deal of depth for this year but major questions beyond. Clay Matthews will be returning to his best position and will look to form the bookends the Packers imagined when Peppers signed. Behind them, however, there is plenty of playing time available.
Fackrell will need to work on strength and might be a year away, but as a 3rd rounder he will make the team and get some playing time. Jayrone Elliot was productive and has the familiarity of the coaches, but he will have to fight off former Bronco Lerentee McCray and UDFA Reggie Gilbert for the last roster spots.
The Packers would also be smart to sign Mike Neal to a cheap contract to provide depth. Looking back, Ted probably could have signed both Neal and Perry for the bloated $5 million contract he gave Perry.
Roster Spots: 3-4
Locks: Jake Ryan, Sam Barrington, Blake Martinez
With Blake Martinez hopefully set to take over 3rd down duties, the Packers seem set with these three main ILBs, but they will certainly hope that either Carl Bradford can salvage his career or one of the UDFAs proves worthy of a roster spot. Manoa Pikula has terrific speed for the position, but his lack of size might be a fatal flaw. Beniquez Brown was arguably the top UDFA at the position and is known for his feel for the game, but he boasts neither the requisite size nor athleticism to hold up inside.
The guess here is the Packers keep only 3 ILBs in favor of an extra DL or OLB, move on from Bradford, and bring one or both of Pikula and Brown back to the practice squad.
Roster Spots: 6-7
Locks: Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins, Micah Hyde, Ladarius Gunter, Demitri Goodson
The Packers have the makings of a superb young secondary, lead by suddenly-veteran Sam Shields and a trio of promising second-year corners (Randall, Rollins, Gunter) that brought a major influx of athleticism and play-making to the defense. Hyde will provide cover in case of injury or hiccups in development, but his future might lie at safety. Goodson will need to show improvement this year, but the fact that he is suspended 4 games means he will surely survive the final roster cuts.
Fighting for jobs are Robertson Daniel, a 2nd year player with ideal size and athleticism, and UDFAs Makinton Dorleant and Randall Jette. The most likely scenario involves Daniel making the roster and the best of the rookies making the practice squad.
Roster Spots: 3-4
Locks: Haha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Chris Banjo
With Hyde providing depth and no clear candidates to make the roster at this point of the offseason, safety looks like the easiest position on the roster to predict. Perhaps UDFA Kentrell Brice or newly-signed Jermaine Whitehead will prove worthy of a roster spot, but the Packers look ready to roll with their top 3 Safeties.