Even though the 2020 NFL season has yet to start, the cost-conscious Green Bay Packers must already be planning on how to spend their money in the coming offseason. The Packers will have 33 players reaching free agency next offseason, and many of them may not come back in 2022. Here, we will take a look at five free agent signings the Packers must make to remain competetive.
Free Agent #1- David Bakhtiari
If a team has the best offensive lineman in the game, it is vital for that team to retain him. That is the situation that Packers have with David Bakhtiari. Recently, Bakhtiari was ranked as the best offensive lineman in the game by CBS Sports, and his renown around the league continues to grow. Not only is Bakhtiari good, he is historically good. He is the first Packers’ offensive lineman to make consecutive All-Pro Teams since some guy named Forrest Gregg. The price required to keep Bakhtiari in Green Bay is going to be high, but it is a price that the Packers should be willing to pay. After all, he is protecting the blindside of future Hall of Fame quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
Free Agent #2- Kenny Clark
Kenny Clark has quietly become one of the premier interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Most impressively, he has done it in a 3-4 defensive scheme that usually limits the numbers of defensive tackles. However, many around the league consider Clark to be the second-best defensive tackle, behind only Aaron Donald.
Last season, Clark started all 16 games for the first time in his career. He matched his career high with six sacks, while setting career highs in tackles (62) and tackles for loss (nine). For his efforts, he was named to his first career Pro Bowl.
On a defense that struggled against the run last season, Clark was one of the few bright spots of the run defense. The free agents and draft picks the Packers made appear to have done little to improve the team’s ability to stop the run. It seems that the team is hoping for improvements from returning players. If that is the case, losing a force like Clark in the middle would prove to be detrimental to this team. They cannot afford to see him leave as a free agent.
Free Agent #3- Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones jetted his way onto the national scene last season when he led the NFL with 19 total touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,084 yards and had 474 receiving yards. All of this came after the 2018 season in which he led the NFL with 5.5 yards per carry.
Entering his fourth NFL season, Jones is just starting to meet his potential. He flourished under the run-first system of head coach Matt LaFleur, proving to be a pivotal member of the team. Jones’s slashing style of running, combined with the bruising style of Jamal Williams, proved to be a winning combination in Green Bay.
The Packers drafted AJ Dillon in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft. For many, this raised questions as to Jones’s future in Green Bay beyond this current year. However, in recent interviews, Jones has stated that he desires to be a Packer for life, which may indicate his willingness to take a little less money in order to stay put. In addition, Dillon’s style of running more closely resembles that of Williams, who is also a free agent next year. If anything, the addition of Dillon spells the end for Jamal Williams in Green Bay. In any case, whether the bruiser is Williams or Dillon, it is imperative to have a slasher with the talents of Jones to compliment the run game. There is no guarantee that the Packers would be able to get anyone close to Jones’s level in that department. This is one free agent they cannot afford to lose.
Free Agent #4- Kevin King
Kevin King has gone from a disappointing rookie to a crucial member of the Green Bay Packers defense. He began his career in 2017, playing in only nine games and recording no interceptions. In 2018, he only in six games and had one interception before suffering a season-ending injury. All that changed, though, in 2019.
King had a year many defensive backs would have loved to have last season. He played in 15 games, recording five interceptions and 15 passes deflected. He also recorded 66 tackles, more than his first two seasons combined. King also had his first career sack and three tackles for loss last season.
If King can stay healthy, he has proven that he can be an important contributing member of the Packers’ defense. King himself is proof that, oftentimes, defensive backs take a few seasons to develop. With the Packers in win-now mode, they cannot risk having to develop another starting back who might prove to be an easy target for opposing offenses. In addition, King will continue to improve as he enters his prime. The best is yet to come, and we should hope it is with the Packers.
Free Agent #5- Tyler Ervin
Okay, hear me out on this one. The Packers were having a bad year on special teams last year. It wasn’t just bad, it was historically awful. They had a net punt return total of -8 yards through 12 games. Something needed to change, and fast.
Enter Tyler Ervin. In the final four games of the season, Ervin returned six kicks for 160 yards and 11 punts for 106 yards, saving the Packers special teams. While a team’s kick returner rarely makes headlines, Ervin proved to be a vital member of the team, removing the concern over the return game.
The nice thing about Ervin is that, unlike the other players on this list, he will not command a huge contract. He is certainly an important part of this team going forward in 2020, and could remain so for years to come. With Jones, Williams, and Dillon ahead of him on the running back depth chart, he will not wear out his body on the offense. He is, though, vital to special teams, and was the unsung hero of the end of 2019.
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