The Packers need to upgrade the ILB spot. We all know this by now.
Green Bay has been reluctant to take a shot in free agency to fix this multi-year weakness, trying just about everything else conceivable in the process. They held onto reliable-if-not-dynamic veterans past the point they likely should have (A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones).
They’ve used draft picks and slowly elevated those players into larger roles (Sam Barrington, Nate Palmer, Jake Ryan). They’ve used undrafted options (Joe Thomas). They even moved their best defensive player into the spot (Clay Matthews).
Nothing has worked.
Those aging players showed their age, and their skills degraded beyond usefulness. The draft picks have been no higher than the fourth round, and none have shown enough to be seen as much of an improvement over what those aforementioned aging veterans brought to the table.
And despite praise for the original idea of moving Matthews, it wasn’t as positive as initially perceived; Matthews managed a meager rating by PFF standards (65.1 overall; #40 of all non-edge-rusher LBs) while his effectiveness was drastically hindered in all facets (46.8 in run defense, 74.8 in pass rushing).
Green Bay needs to stop fooling around, step up and finally make a bigger investment here. A player like Trevathan would be a major step in that direction.
Trevathan is a young (25) and impactful player coming off possibly his best year as a part of a Denver defense that could be considered amongst the better units we’ve seen in recent years.
He was ranked #10 among non-pass-rushing LBs in the league by PFF (86.6 overall). He provides established value in all areas of his game and would be an immediate, massive upgrade on what the Packers have been rolling out at their ILB spot (87.8 run defense, 81.9 coverage).
His price-tag is likely to be somewhat unsavory due to his level of play – as well as the bump players on Super Bowl-winning teams tend to seek and receive – but Green Bay has the cap space (around $20 million at this point) to make a deal happen if they so choose. It also can help matters that inside linebackers are one of the positions that tend to be undervalued on contracts at this point.
If Green Bay is serious about fixing this yearly weakness – one that gets targeted every year by opposing offenses – a player like Trevathan would be the best available option in terms of both production and age.
Secondary Option: Brandon Marshall
Denver has a ton of players that could leave in free agency; they can’t pay everyone. They have to expect to pay truckloads for Von Miller and have a handful of other key defensive players that they must consider retaining.
Without massive discounts all around, I can’t see how Denver keeps both Trevathan and Marshall in at inside linebacker despite strong play from each.
Trevathan would likely be considered the better player, but Marshall isn’t that far behind; his overall PFF rating is right behind Trevathan (83.3 to 86.6 overall) and he actually grades out as a better pass rushing option (75.5 to 67.9).
The problem with Marshall would be he is a restricted free agent, which makes it harder for him to be brought on due to the ability to tender him and match any offers he receives.
My guess would put him at a second-round tender, meaning Green Bay would give up their second-rounder this year should they offer a contract and it isn’t matched. For a young, productive player like Marshall at the biggest weak point on the team, that sounds like a worthwhile investment.
Next: More options at inside linebacker