With the NFL draft less than a week away, the Packers are surely assessing every possible position on the roster. However, inside linebacker is one that poses a lot of questions. As of right now most of the room is young or unproven. Is it a position the Packers address early in the draft, or could they seek other avenues?
Second Year Jumps
As of right now, the Packers look to be riding on the fact that Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin will take big second-year jumps and solidify themselves as starters. Although they both seem capable of being full-time starters, the Packers know better than anyone that hoping for a jump at inside linebacker can be risky. The Packers seem to have been waiting for Oren Burks to take the leap for the past two years. However, no such escalation in play has occurred. Barnes’ and Martin’s rookie campaigns were great and if they both can take the leap the defense should be sound in the middle if both are needed to play.
Another reason there are some questions around the position is that it’s unclear exactly what Joe Barry wants to do with the defense. If he plans on using more of a hybrid safety in the middle then it becomes unnecessary to invest more capital into the middle linebacker position.
If Joe Barry does choose to use more traditional middle linebackers, then it may serve useful to add some help behind Martin, Barnes, and Burks. Although there are not many great options available, names like Kwon Alexander and C.J Mosley stand out. Both are veterans that are coming back from injury but have good football left in them. Alexander is a free agent who was not signed during the first wave of free agency. Mosley would need to be acquired through trade, but rumors are swirling that the Jets would be willing to part ways for a third-round pick. Financially, Mosley doesn’t make sense, but if the Packers could get Alexander for a low price tag they should pull the trigger.
Perhaps the most likely form of adding an inside linebacker would be to draft a young talent in the draft next weekend. The Packers, if they feel the need, could address the position as early as the first round. A player like Zaven Collins could make an instant impact in coverage and against the run. An athletic player like Collins definitely fits the mold for the kind of players Brian Gutekunst has drafted the last few years.
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