Shoring up the linebacker spots
The linebacker corps has seen a lot of names rotate in and out, like Oren Burks, James Crawford and Antonio Morrison. Consistency is one of the keys to success in any defense, and the Packers have had very little of it the past few years.
With Jake Ryan tearing his ACL before the season, he didn’t have a chance to prove he deserved a contract extension beyond 2018. It would be a good idea to explore the Packers options in terms of linebacker, particularly in the middle, and search for edge-rushing talent in this deep 2019 draft class.
MLB Denzel Perryman (Los Angeles Chargers)
The final of the three players to watch from the Chargers, Denzel Perryman was a second-round pick that has shown impressive instincts and athleticism in the short time he’s had to show it. Perryman has been stung by the injury bug in each of his four seasons, playing in only 42 of 64 possible regular season games.
In those 42 games, Perryman had 226 tackles including 18 for loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and two interceptions. The bug wouldn’t quit chasing Perryman though, as he was placed on IR for 2018 with a knee injury in November.
With his injury history, the Chargers may cut their losses and move on from Perryman to take their chances in this year’s draft. If that happens, Green Bay should take a second look at him and see what Mike Pettine thinks of Perryman playing alongside Blake Martinez.
MLB Cory Littleton (Los Angeles Rams)
Cory Littleton is another undrafted player on this list that may go unsigned on Los Angeles’ high-cost roster. Mostly a special teams player in his first two years, Littleton has been featured as a starter in all 16 games for the Rams this season, earning a second-team All-Pro designation and a Pro Bowl vote along the way.
In 2018 alone, Littleton totaled 125 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. His frame is large and solid, and his technical handwork made him a standout on special teams, including five blocked punts since the start of the 2017 season.
Littleton’s name has earned more notoriety in 2018 than Perryman’s due to his clean bill of health, and that could earn him a contract extension with the Rams next year. If it doesn’t, the Packers may need to consider moving on from Jake Ryan for him.
EDGE Dee Ford (Kansas City Chiefs)
A first-round pick that has been the epitome of hot and cold, Dee Ford has flashed signs of greatness since he was drafted, but really made an impact when he became starter in 2016. Since then, he’s played in 37 games and made 25 sacks.
Something the Packers have needed for a long time is somebody who creates turnovers, and Ford is very capable of that. His seven forced fumbles in 2018 is tied with J.J. Watt for the league lead.
Ford had one season derailed by injury, cutting his 2017 season short at five games before being placed on IR. It’s likely the Chiefs re-sign him, but if the price is too high, the Packers may need to evaluate a bid for him to help Green Bay’s pass rush become more lethal in 2019.
MLB Jordan Hicks (Philadelphia Eagles)
Now that we’ve reached the end of the list, we can conclude that there is a common denominator of almost every player on this list; questionable health. Jordan Hicks is no different, having only played one full season, ending two on IR, and being in-and-out during the 2018 season.
In this time, though, Hicks has been a game-changer. In the 12 games of 2018 Hicks played in during the regular season, he collected 91 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Hicks also shows great aptitude in coverage too, snagging seven interceptions in his first four years, with five in 2016. He has not had an interception since then, though.
The former third-round pick may yet earn an extension with the Eagles, as he has gotten healthy just in time to be named a starter for the playoffs. Packers fans will want to see how that plays out, as his well-rounded mix of instincts and ability create a potential target for the offseason when free agency picks up in earnest.