Green Bay Packers: Potential roster cut additions in free agency
By Kenn Korb
Kyle Williams, DL, Buffalo
This position just opened up a fresh hole on the roster for the Packers with the news on Letroy Guion’s latest suspension. Even without that, adding a guy like Williams would be a strong move; with it, it becomes even more valuable.
Williams has long been an underrated force on the Buffalo defensive line. Though they’ve had a slew of bigger names added through the draft (Marcell Dareus) and free agency (Jerry Hughes, Mario Williams) over the years, he’s been a constant stalwart no matter the scheme.
That part matters immensely, by the way; while the defense there struggled mightily when switching between the vastly different styles of Jim Schwartz (mainly 4-3 base looks with a focus on forcing pressure through the front four) and Rex Ryan (3-4 base with tons of exotic blitzing to force pressure), he’s succeeded.
Despite his always-quality play (since 2008, only twice has he graded less than an 82.7 in PFF’s grading metrics, and those were still at-worst average seasons), it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Bills move on from him. With Ryan being fired, the team has yet another regime, and those tend to bring changes; older players with large cap hits often find themselves on the chopping block, and Williams (33 years old, $8.3 million cap hit in 2017) would definitely fall in that group.
Also relating to that cap hit: Buffalo needs to free up money if they’re gonna participate in free agency. They have around $21 million free as of now, and that’s after making a handful of moves already. A decent portion of that will go towards draft picks, so there really isn’t much available to spend on quality contributors — and that’s before thinking about re-signing players like Zach Brown or Lorenzo Alexander.
There may seem to be less onus for big moves with a new coach, but GM Doug Whaley isn’t exactly sitting on a frozen throne; the way 2016 went down can’t have him feeling all that secure in his job within the Buffalo power structure, so major moves could be necessary to keep him around beyond this year. When GMs feel the heat, they have a tendency to make bold (and usually risky) moves; if he’s going to do so, he needs more capital to work with first.
Should Williams reach the market because of that, Green Bay should immediately be phoning his agent. Even without the Guion suspension, adding another quality veteran to pair with Mike Daniels takes some of the onus off the young guys. Plus, it would give the team someone much better suited to handle nose tackle responsibilities than anyone Green Bay has had since the early days of B.J. Raji.
Williams could be the sort of pickup which would end up rivaling the impact of players like Jared Cook, Julius Peppers, or even Charles Woodson, and if the Bills do decide to move on, Green Bay should waste no time in trying to bring him in.
Alternative Option: Ricky Jean-Francois (DL; WAS)
Few potential cut candidates would be able to have the impact of someone like Williams, but if Buffalo keeps him there could be other options (albeit with lower ceilings).
The Guion problem makes the team need some sort of talent added however; though he is slated to return after a month, the four games he misses would find Green Bay rolling out a group of Daniels, Kenny Clark, and Dean Lowry (with maybe other young names like Brian Price and Christian Ringo in the rotation). It would be risky to go in with a group whose second-longest-tenured player is Ringo, and he’s entering his third year after just 77 snaps in his career so far.
Jean-Francois has never been elite (or even above-average) in his career, but he has been at least average in all but his rookie season. He’s been durable (only missed 6 games in 6 seasons, all in 2013), and can be available rotation player.
It might be a good idea to just move on from Guion entirely anyway (this is now two of the past three years where he’s been suspended to start the year due to prior PED use), and Jean-Francois could step into his role as veteran leadership. Looking at Guion’s individual performances with the Packers, he’d be a definitive upgrade (two of Guion’s three Packers years graded poorly per PFF’s metrics; the other was just average).
Whether as a hedge against having too much onus placed on the young guys for 2017’s first few games, or as a full-on replacement for Guion, adding Jean-Francois would be a nice move.
Washington would still need to release him obviously, but it could happen. They have a defense needing a major talent boost and not all that much available cash. Jean-Francois doesn’t cost all that much, but pursuing higher-end talents could mean they need to make room for them however possible. Even if it means letting a decent talent like Jean-Francois hit the market again.