Free Agents Packers Should Pursue After 2021 NFL DraftMay 12, 2021
Free Agents Packers Should Pursue After 2021 NFL Draft
One of the Green Bay Packers' top weaknesses in 2021 could be their offensive line.
The Packers are relying on a handful of young offensive linemen to replace Corey Linsley at center, and they need to be patient with David Bakhtiari’s recovery from the season-ending knee injury he suffered at the end of 2020.
Green Bay tried to address its offensive line needs by adding Ohio State's Josh Myers in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. Myers could help reinforce the interior at guard or center, but the team could still be vulnerable at offensive tackle.
If the Packers want more security for Aaron Rodgers, they could approach the free-agent market, where there are a few notable names still available.
It would also help Green Bay if it looked at the defensive line, which it did not address until the fifth round of the draft.
As always, there will be discussion about surrounding Rodgers with more weapons, but it may be hard to find some quality at running back or wide receiver on the free-agent market.
Charles Leno Jr.
Green Bay could take a swing at an offensive tackle it is more than familiar with.
Charles Leno Jr. was recently let go by the Chicago Bears, and if he landed in Green Bay, he would provide some needed security while Bakhtiari gets back to full strength.
Even if Bakhtiari is completely healed by Week 1, it may take him some time to get back to game speed, and that may hamper the protection for Rodgers.
With Leno, Green Bay has to measure how much it wants to pay the seven-year pro. He earned $8.9 million in 2020, per Over the Cap. The Packers have $2.6 million in available cap space.
Green Bay could attempt to work out a one-year deal with Leno. That would allow the Packers to have more experience on the outside while they develop Jon Runyan Jr. and Elgton Jenkins on the interior.
If the Packers have confidence in Bakhtiari’s recovery process, they could look elsewhere on the free-agent market, but it would be wise to at least reach out to Leno to see if a cap-friendly deal could be maneuvered.
The Packers could take another swing at the fences with Geno Atkins if they attempt to bolster their defensive line.
In 2020, Green Bay only had one player record more than five sacks, and Kenny Clark was the lone defensive tackle to earn multiple takedowns.
Outside of Clark, the Packers do not have much quality on the interior pass-rush, which may lead them to the free-agent list.
In four of the last six seasons, Atkins recorded nine or more sacks. He did not have any in eight appearances for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020.
Similar to Leno, the Packers would have to do some salary-cap gymnastics to add a player of Atkins' caliber. He made $11 million last season.
But if the Packers feel like they need more help to chase down the best quarterbacks in the NFC, Atkins could be worth a long look.
Green Bay needs a pass-catching running back to take some pressure off Aaron Jones and replace what Jamaal Williams brought to the team in 2020.
Williams, who departed for the Detroit Lions in free agency, had 31 receptions on 35 targets in his last year in green and gold.
Jones brought in 47 catches on 63 targets, but the Packers need to decrease a bit of his workload in the passing game to ensure he can be most effective in the ground game.
If A.J. Dillon's pass-catching skills are not up to par, the Packers could look to Dion Lewis, who has 191 career receptions.
Lewis is only a few years removed from his career high of 59 receptions that he earned with the Tennessee Titans in 2018. He featured in a pass-catching role with Derrick Henry as the main ball carrier in that offense.
Lewis could function in the same role alongside Jones and be a third-down pass-catching back who can spell him and make up for Williams' contributions.
Statistics obtained from Pro Football Reference.