Packers can’t rely solely on the draft to find upgrade at cornerback

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie /

The Green Bay Packers will almost certainly address the cornerback position in the 2018 NFL Draft, but they must first add some experience to the secondary.

It has been an exciting start to free agency for the Green Bay Packers. New general manager Brian Gutekunst has delivered on his promise to be more aggressive, and it’s hard not to be impressed with the acquisitions he’s made so far.

Spending big on Jimmy Graham comes with its risks, and the signing has drawn mixed reactions from the fan base. But Graham is dominant in the red zone and gives the Packers a clear upgrade at tight end.

The Muhammad Wilkerson deal feels like a complete win-win. The former New York Jet didn’t cost much money, and is on a low-risk, one-year contract. The upside is obvious. At his best, Wilkerson can be dominant up front. And he’s done it before working with Mike Pettine as his defensive coordinator.

Whether you like the Graham and Wilkerson signings or not, and agree or disagree with releasing Jordy Nelson, there’s one question everybody is asking.

Where, oh where, are the cornerbacks?

Now let’s not get carried away. It’s March 16 as I write this. This is no time to panic. But Gutekunst has a lot of work to do.

After trading away arguably the team’s best cornerback in Damarious Randall, the sense of urgency increased.

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Currently the Packers are relying on second-year Kevin King, who has just nine games of NFL experience to his name and is coming off shoulder surgery. Behind King on the depth chart are the likes of Quinten Rollins, Demetri Goodson and Lenzy Pipkins. To say the Packers need help at cornerback would be an understatement.

King has all the tools to become a fine player in the NFL. The second-round pick played well when healthy last year, but he must now prove he’s 100 percent after a history of shoulder issues.

Something the group lacks is experience. Davon House is a free agent, and the answer isn’t as simple as re-signing him to a one-year deal.

The draft is loaded with talent at the position, and the Packers could use their 12 picks to land two or more corners in the early rounds.

Outside of the obvious first-round names like Denzel Ward and Josh Jackson, the Packers will have options on Day 2 and beyond. Lombardi Ave’s Ryan Sanville wrote about a number of cornerbacks Gutekunst could consider on the draft’s second day.

But before April’s event, the Packers must add some experience in free agency.

The big-name corners like Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler and Aaron Colvin have found new homes. As Lombardi Ave’s Joe D’Aloisio pointed out, names like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and E.J. Gaines are still available, but the Packers will need to act fast.

Maybe Gutekunst will make a strong move to sign Tyrann Mathieu. His ability to play various positions in the secondary, including slot corner, would give the defensive backfield a major boost.

Gutekunst won’t panic, and nor should he. He has a plan.

There is still plenty of talent available in free agency, but the Packers have to get it right. Gutekunst has shown he’s not afraid to spend money on players he believes will help the team.

The Packers have shown interest in Rashaad Melvin, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN, but they will need to beat a number of teams to his signature.

The offseason is young, but it’s become clear that fixing the cornerback position is far and away the team’s biggest priority. With the NFC North welcoming Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel to an already-strong group of pass catchers, it’s all the more important to find secondary help.

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Gutekunst will have a plan at cornerback. His decisions in the coming days and weeks could ultimately determine how close the Packers are to returning to the big game next February.