Packers’ interest in Ahmad Brooks a sign of desperation

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 05: Patrick Willis
SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 05: Patrick Willis /

The Green Bay Packers have shown a glaring weakness at outside linebacker this preseason, and the team is responding by bringing in a veteran free agent for a visit.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Packers are set to bring in free agent outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks on a free agent visit Tuesday afternoon. The interest in Brooks comes after the Packers got a glimpse of just how uncertain things are at outside linebacker.

Clay Matthews and Nick Perry are the undisputed starters at outside linebacker. While this is one of the better pass rushing tandems in the NFL, the depth behind the two stars was negligible at best. Both Matthews and perry are injury-prone, and cannot be relied to be the entire force of the pass rush on every down.

Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell, and Vince Biegel are the only other outside linebackers on the roster. Elliott has made little progress towards being a more consistent pass rushing threat, but has kept his place on the roster due to recent strong special teams play. Fackrell, last year’s third round draft choice, is looking like one of Ted Thompson‘s worst draft picks since he was hired in 2005.

Biegel was part of a vaunted Wisconsin Badger defense in college next to fellow pass rusher T.J. Watt. Biegel has been dealing with as nagging foot injury stemming from a fracture he suffered in May. All in all, the Packers have a special teams player, the worst outside linebacker in the NFL, and a rookie who hasn’t played a snap in the preseason backing up two injury prone linebackers.

Ahmad Brooks is being brought in to shore up things in the front seven. Brooks was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006 and spent two seasons with the team before being signed off of waivers by the San Fransisco 49ers. In the bay area, Brooks developed into a star off the edge.

Brooks was a key cog in the 49ers’ playoff teams that featured some of the best defenses in the last decade. Part of a front seven that included Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith, and Ray McDonald, Brooks became the team’s best run defender, and a valuable pass rusher against mobile quarterbacks like Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers.

Brooks was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013, and has twice been named a second-team All-Pro. The Packers are clearly desperate to add a player like Brooks to their linebacker corp, as they currently lack any depth whatsoever to spell Matthews and Perry. Ted Thompson missed several opportunities to solve this problem before the preseason, as cheap free agents such as Connor Barwin and Elvis Dumervil were available.

The interest in Brooks is also against everything the Packers tend to do with their personnel moves. Brooks doesn’t fit the Packers defensive scheme in the slightest. While Brooks is used to playing in a 3-4 defense, the Packers like to use their linebackers in coverage as much as possible, something Brooks is very poor at. The Packers have made efforts to get faster and younger on defense, two things that Brooks does not provide.

If the Packers do indeed pick up Brooks, it will suggest that the team has lost any faith that Fackrell will develop into anything resembling an NFL-level player, run out of patience with Elliott and are clearly worried about the injury Nick Perry suffered in the team’s last preseason game against the Broncos.

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For now, the Packers are paper-thin at outside linebacker. While adding Brooks would help solve this problem in the short term, it is clearly a sign that the Packers realize the problem on their hands. The jury is still out on Vince Biegel, but for now, the Packers are asking for every sack to come from their two starters at outside linebacker.