Packers in position to pursue Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

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

Why the Green Bay Packers should pursue free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Green Bay Packers registered interest in the free agent cornerback shortly after he was released by the New York Giants. The Packers are short on corners and are in prime position to land the veteran defensive back.

The Packers are dangerously thin at cornerback, with only Kevin King being the team’s certain commodity at the position. After King, the depth chart is horrifyingly thin.

Quinten Rollins is entering his fourth year after a dismal last two seasons, and if the season started today he would be penciled in as the starter opposite Kevin King.

After Rollins, the Packers only have Lenzy Pipkins, Herb Waters and Josh Hawkins. All three were undrafted free agents who are merely emergency defensive backs. Pipkins made the final roster last year after impressing just enough during the preseason to earn a spot on the bench. Waters was a wide receiver at the University of Miami and has not played a down in the NFL due to injury.

Hawkins ended up playing a significant number of snaps during the playoffs in 2016, and was regularly abused by opposing receivers. Further complicating things, Morgan Burnett left to sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, further thinning out the defensive backfield. Green Bay will likely be forced to draft at least one cornerback and sign or trade for another.

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At safety, the loss of Burnett is fairly insignificant. Josh Jones is ready to step in and be the starter at strong safety, while Ha Ha Clinton-Dix aims to bounce back from a terrible season a year ago as he looks for a new contract. Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans are still solid options as backup safeties, but Jones’ skill set suddenly creates a new problem.

Jones was not drafted to be a coverage specialist. A downhill player, he is a strong run defender who can fill a gap missed by a linebacker. He is also a talented rusher from the slot and gives the Packers their first defensive back in years who can actually make an open field tackle.

Jones will likely see some time at middle linebacker next to Blake Martinez as defensive coordinator Mike Pettine looks to play to his strengths as much as possible. Because Jones is a run-defending specialist and the team has no cornerbacks, the Packers will need to devote almost all of their remaining resources to acquiring players who can cover.

This is where Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie enters the picture. The 31-year-old has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best slot defenders and possesses rare speed on the boundary even in his 30s.

Rodgers-Cromartie is looking for his fifth team after being cut by the Giants in a salary dump. The Packers showed interest in him shortly after free agency kicked off, but the veteran cornerback has made it clear that he is taking his time with his decision.

After taking a visit with the Redskins, Rodgers-Cromartie remains unsigned and a prime candidate to become a much-needed stopgap starter for the Packers. Green Bay could also play him at safety, where his career could be sustained a little while longer instead of burning him out on the boundary.

The Packers need all the cover guys they can get, and Rodgers-Cromartie would be the first step towards securing a talented veteran who could play several different roles for Pettine. Green Bay could bring in Rodgers-Cromartie and still draft a cornerback with its first-round pick, allowing the veteran to play the slot position.

They could stick him on the outside opposite of King and look for help in the slot through the draft, possibly from Derwin James out of FSU.

Regardless of whether or not the Packers sign Rodgers-Cromartie, the team will have to draft at least one cornerback as they look to improve from being ranked 23rd in the NFL in pass defense last year.

The arrival of Pettine was a huge deal for the Packers. The defense inexcusably hadn’t improved for the seventh year in a row under Dom Capers, and the team finally made a change.

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Muhammad Wilkerson will help the team’s promising defensive line and will improve the non-existent pass rush, but until a major overhaul at the cornerback position is made, the defense will still be in shambles.