It is shocking, and some might say also bizarre, that the Green Bay Packers have agreed to ship their top playmaking cornerback from last season, Damarious Randall, to the Cleveland Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer. It isn’t just that they have agreed to ship their top playmaker, who also is a former first-round draft choice, but that they would ship out a player at a position that is already razor thin. The deal leaves the Packers in dire need of cornerback help. Adding a veteran cornerback should be on top of the Green Bay Packers to do list in free agency.
The Packers needed to provide competition for last season’s backup quarterback, Brett Hundley, but it’s not clear that giving up a player at one of your thinnest positions was the right thing to do. But Packers new top personnel executive Brian Gutekunst must have had his reasons. The most likely scenario was that head coach Mike McCarthy had grown tiresome of Randall, especially after the incident against the Chicago Bears last season, and didn’t want Randall to return.
It is hard to believe that a coach such as McCarthy would allow his feelings to get in the way when it comes to a player, but it appears that could be the case. Nothing against Kizer, who might turn out to be a very capable quarterback in the NFL, but it appears the return the Packers received in the trade isn’t nearly as much as they gave up. Depth at pass rusher was already a need, and most likely that will be the position they will have to look at in the front of the NFL draft. However, cornerback has now shot up the list, maybe being as vital as pass rusher. But drafting more cornerbacks isn’t going to cut it for a team with a star quarterback like Aaron Rodgers and aspirations of going back to not only the playoffs, but the Super Bowl. That is why adding a veteran cornerback should be on top of the Green Bay Packers to do list in free agency.
A Veteran Presence Needed
Cornerback is a very tough position for rookies to stand out at. Sure, New Orleans Saints Marshon Lattimore did so last season, but that is a rarity. The chances of the Packers finding a cornerback that could do what Lattimore did last season are very low. To go along with that, the Packers cornerbacks still on their roster are already young; another young cornerback feeling his way out can’t give new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine much faith.
Right now, the Packers cornerback with the most years in the NFL is cornerback Demetri Goodson, a player who wrecked his knee in 2016 and because of the injury, didn’t play at all in 2017. Even when healthy, Goodson was primarily a special teams contributor. On the depth chart, Kevin King (who has less than a year of experience, a shoulder injury cut his rookie season short), Quinten Rollins (he too had his season cut short by an injury, which was only second season in the league), and undrafted free agent Lenzy Pipkins are at the top of the Packers cornerback depth chart. Names that aren’t going to cause fear in opposing wide receivers.
The Packers are high on King, especially his size, but it isn’t a slam dunk that he is going to be a top cornerback in the NFL. Rollins, a former second-round pick, is coming off a season-ending injury. Even before he was injured, he struggled and wasn’t nearly the playmaker he was in college. Pipkins showed some ability last season when he was forced to play, but depending on Pipkins to contribute would be a very dangerous move by Pettine and the Packers defense.
The Packers need cornerback help, a rookie to provide depth would be fine, but the Packers need a veteran presence opposite of King. The team needs somebody who can play against the opposing team’s top wide receiver. They might need two veteran cornerbacks, but at this point, the Packers should be happy with just one. There are options available, but Gutekunst, whose first major move was trading their best playmaking cornerback, will need to show that he isn’t like his predecessor, Ted Thompson, and that he is willing to make moves in free agency.
Plenty of Choices Available
Even with Richard Sherman agreeing to a deal with the San Francisco 49ers, there are still quality free agent cornerbacks who are available. Bob McGinn, a long-time Packers beat writer who now writes at his own website, suggested that the Packers will be pursuing former Los Angeles Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Johnson became expendable when the Rams traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib, moves that didn’t go unnoticed by Packers fans who have wanted the team to be aggressive like the Rams have been this off-season.
Johnson will cost a lot; there isn’t much doubt about that. If the Packers balk at Johnson’s expected high price, they could go after former New England Patriot Malcolm Butler, former Buffalo Bill EJ Gaines, or former Philadelphia Eagle Patrick Robinson. Two free agent cornerbacks would be best, but at this point, with the Packers lack of history of signing free agents, one veteran free agent cornerback would be a win for Packers fans.
A Move Is Needed
It’s difficult to imagine the Packers relying on a second-year cornerback at one of the starting boundary positions and a rookie on the other side, especially if they truly have aspirations of getting back to the Super Bowl. Johnson should be their top target, but if not, Butler could be the next man up.
Packers fans are hoping that Gutekunst will be more aggressive. With the trade that sent Randall packing, the Packers cornerback position needs some aggressive work.
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