Packers: Best and worst decisions of the offseason
By Evan Siegel
The Green Bay Packers had as busy an offseason as they have had since the Ron Wolf era. Here are the best and worst choices they made.
Best: Signing Adrian Amos to a four-year, $39 million contract
The Packers had about as bad a season at the safety position a year ago as you could possibly have. Late in the season, desperately limping through the year hoping Mike McCarthy could suddenly evolve into a modern coach, they were using none other than Eddie Pleasant as their best safety.
The Packers were in such dire need of help at the position that several draft experts expected them to draft safeties with both of their first-round picks in this year’s draft.
Signing Adrian Amos was an excellent move. Rather than pushing an insane amount of money into the future for an overrated player the way the Redskins did with Landon Collins, the Packers got one of the best safeties in the NFL for as much money as the clueless Oakland Raiders gave to Lamarcus Joyner.
Amos is a textbook gap filler and is excellent in run support. He is far superior to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in coverage and is going to be a huge part of the improved Green Bay defense.
Signing Amos gives the Packers an excellent anchor on the back end of their defense. Signing him then allowed the Packers to target their ideal safety in the draft, Darnell Savage Jr. out of Maryland.
Had they not brought Amos in, Savage would have been forced into way too many different roles in his rookie season. Between Amos and Savage, the safety position in Green Bay is extremely athletic, technically sound, and versatile. Amos might very well have been the best free agent signing out of any team in the entire league this offseason.
Worst: Letting Bashaud Breeland out the door
The Packers made a strange decision when they decided not to bring back Bashaud Breeland, who signed for a few nickels in Kansas City. Breeland was signed in the middle of the season and played pretty well for a secondary that badly needed his help. While Jaire Alexander has superstar-type potential written all over him, Josh Jackson wasn’t all that impressive in his rookie year and Kevin King cannot be counted on to stay on the field.
Tramon Williams has little to nothing left to offer the Green Bay defense, and should either Adrian Amos or Darnell Savage Jr. get hurt, Breeland has the type of skill set to move to safety in a pinch. It is also easy to forget just how well Breeland was performing before he had a strange foot injury that nixed his rich free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers.
Breeland is still a solid, starting caliber cornerback who could’ve formed a pretty strong tandem with Alexander on the boundary. With Jackson still figuring out his role in the defense, Breeland would have been a very useful commodity in the starting lineup. The Packers may find themselves missing him early on in 2019.
Best: Keeping Jimmy Graham
Jimmy Graham has gotten a bad rap this offseason. Packer fans, only a year after putting up billboards in and around Green Bay asking for him to be signed as a free agent, now want him to be cut before he spends another day as a Packer.
Graham did not perform particularly well last season, but it is worth noting that there is not a tight end in the NFL currently or historically that would’ve played well under last year’s offense.
Let’s be clear. Mike McCarthy couldn’t scheme open a wide receiver if it was 11 on four offensively. Graham still would have found himself without separation from defensive backs.
Under Matt LaFleur and Nathaniel Hackett, Graham will be much better in 2019. Plus, the Packers clearly hit all of their free agent targets and were able to afford signing two first-round picks. Cutting Graham would not have meant all that much to their overall free agent plans.
Worst: Not adding a middle linebacker
Before you point it out, drafting Ty Summers doesn’t count. Summers, best-case scenario, will be a special teams contributor this coming year and nothing more. While gifted athletically, he is an atrocious coverage player and won’t be useful for the defense this year.
Oren Burks did not have a good rookie season, and Blake Martinez, while decent, simply isn’t good enough to anchor a defense in the middle. Now that Josh Jones is itching to get out of town, Burks has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to take a huge second-year jump.
The Packers allocated the majority of their free agent resources to the pass rush instead of C.J. Mosley, which on the surface looks like the right decision.
But, the Packers were only a cheap deal away from securing Devin Bush Jr. in the draft. They then also passed on Germaine Pratt and Mack Wilson later on in the draft. The middle of the Green Bay defense has been a problem for ages, and it will once again be a problem this coming season.
Best: Hiring Nathaniel Hackett
Many people forget that the arrogant Green Bay Packers never felt they exactly needed an offensive coordinator to help, you know, coordinate the offense. As inept an offensive mind as Mike McCarthy was, it was not deemed necessary to add an offensive leader.
Nathaniel Hackett is going to help Matt LaFleur in his first year on the job. Hackett was not responsible for the Jaguars’ offensive demise last season. Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette‘s injury in large part were.
Hackett is respected in NFL circles and is going to be a sneaky good hire by the Packers. He has a diverse playbook with a number of different schemes that will feel like a million dollars once the Packers step on the field.
Hackett will win over countless Packer hearts the first time Aaron Rodgers drops back to pass, and on schedule, after five steps, hits an open receiver. The last time that happened in Green Bay, it was roughly under the Polk administration.
Worst: Passing on Parris Campbell
While Elgton Jenkins was far from a bad pick in the second round, the Packers had the opportunity to draft Ohio State’s Parris Campbell. The Packers are one Davante Adams injury away from being laughably pedestrian at wide receiver. J’Mon Moore doesn’t look like a pro, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown are complementary weapons at best.
The receivers are also all made up of the same type of skill set. They are all tall, lanky bodies without too much top end speed. Valdes-Scantling is the only one in the receiver group with any straight line speed.
LaFleur said it best during a press conference he gave during OTAs, arguing:
“The way I look at the receiver group in general, is it’s kind of like filling out a basketball roster. You need guys that have a certain area of expertise, and then it’s our job as coaches to put those guys in position where they can showcase that skillset.”
LaFleur, unfortunately, has a group of receivers that is far from versatile and will not be hard to game plan against.
Parris Campbell is the exact type of receiver the Packers needed. He tied Massachusetts’ Andy Isabella’s 40-yard dash time at the combine for the fastest registered, but doesn’t have as painfully thin a frame as Isabella or Marquise Brown.
Campbell can open up the playbook significantly with quick pitches, bubble screens, and can be lined up in the backfield. The Packers just don’t have the offensive ability at the position to truly scare defenses.