Roster Holes Packers Must Fill Ahead of Training Camp
The biggest question surrounding the Green Bay Packers heading into training camp is whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers will report. The reigning NFL MVP hasn't been with the team at all this offseason and has been the subject of trade speculation since the draft.
Packers CEO Mark Murphy recently stated that there have been no developments.
"I would just say there's nothing new to update on the issue," Murphy told reporters.
If Rodgers doesn't show, Green Bay will have to identify a new starter for the 2021 season, presumably either Jordan Love or Blake Bortles. Even if he does, the Packers have a few holes that will need to be filled before Week 1.
Here we will examine the three most pressing areas Green Bay needs to address in the coming weeks.
The Packers have one of the league's most reliable left tackles in David Bakhtiari. Unfortunately, Bakhtiari suffered a torn ACL in late December and could miss time to start the season.
In June, Bakhtiari told the Pat McAfee Show that he was roughly midway through his recovery.
"I'm about at the halfway point," Bakhtiari said.
Yosh Nijman could be an early-season option, though he's never made an NFL start. Green Bay could also toy with the idea of moving Elgton Jenkins or Jon Runyan to tackle, though that could weaken the interior of the line. Rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman is another alternative, though the former Mississippi tackle has no NFL experience.
If the Packers aren't happy with their internal options, they may have to seek outside assistance. Two-time Pro Bowler Russell Okung remains unsigned, but he has only played 13 games over the past two seasons combined.
Regardless of whether it's Rodgers, Love, Bortles or someone else under center in Week 1, the Packers must ensure that they can protect the blind side while Bakhtiari works his way back from injury. Adding to the list of options before camp would make a ton of sense.
Interior Defensive Line
Green Bay has one quality starting defensive tackle in Kenny Clark. The 2019 Pro Bowler was again solid in 2020, finishing with two sacks, 42 tackles and 12 quarterback pressures in 13 games. Defensive ends Dean Lowry (three sacks, 36 tackles, zero missed tackles) and Kingsley Keke (four sacks, 21 tackles, three missed tackles) are also strong, if underappreciated starters.
However, the depth along the defensive front is questionable, and Green Bay could use more talent in the rotation. The Packers ranked 21st in yards per rushing attempt allowed last season, and a heavy rotation of run defenders could help address the issue.
Unfortunately, the 2021 draft wasn't particularly deep in defensive-line talent. The Packers waited until the fifth round to take a down lineman, when they selected Florida's Tedarrell Slaton.
There are a few free agents of note, including Geno Atkins and Jurrell Casey. However, the Packers have just $5.7 million in cap space and may be better off examining the undrafted free-agent market.
Inside linebacker has been a problem area for the Packers for a couple of seasons, and it has played a role in Green Bay's lackluster run defense. The Packers tried to address the issue by adding Christian Kirksey last offseason, but he was dumped after just one season.
2020 undrafted free agent Krys Barnes took over a starting role last year and looks to be a defensive centerpiece this season. However, the UCLA product was credited with seven missed tackles in 2020 and allowed an opposing passer rating of 118.4 in coverage.
Barnes and Martin are serviceable starters, but it would behoove Green Bay to add at least one more starting-caliber linebacker to the rotation. Depth is also a concern.
The free-agent market is limited to the likes of Kwon Alexander—who suffered a torn Achilles in Week 16—and former Packer B.J. Goodson. If Green Bay can find a way to bolster its linebacking corps ahead of camp, though, it would be a wise decision.