No matter what the front office does between free agency and the draft, the Green Bay Packers seem to always struggle to put together an elite secondary. That could be changing now that the defense will have a whole new look under recently hired defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.
The only guaranteed starter throughout the defensive backfield is cornerback Jaire Alexander. Cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Carrington Valentine will undoubtedly see lots of playing time, too, but Green Bay won't refrain from bringing in more competition.
With cornerback Keisean Nixon and safeties Darnell Savage, Rudy Ford, and Jonathan Owens hitting free agency, there could be a significant difference in personnel next season.
GM Brian Gutekunst made it clear the Packers are willing to make a bold move this offseason.
"I don't think we'll shy away from adding any impact players if we have to push [cap space] down the road," Gutekunst said last week. "This is about winning and trying to win a championship. If it's something that makes sense, we'll do it."
Here are three bold offseason moves that could move the needle and make the Packers elite in pass coverage.
Trade for Derwin James
The safety position will reach a new level of importance for the Packers next season.
"We've been more middle-closed defense with a safety in the middle of the field than probably most people in college football," said Hafley about his defensive scheme at Boston College on Next Up.
Up until just last year, Derwin James was a premier player at his position. That's what landed him his massive four-year, $76.5 million extension with Los Angeles. He had a bit of a down year, though, and with the Chargers sitting at an estimated cap space of negative $44 million, it's possible he could be on the move.
It's hard to pinpoint his trade value, but with the Packers having five picks in the first three rounds (two seconds and two thirds), they could certainly afford to make a bold move.
Sign Stephon Gilmore
Since Gilmore is already 33 years old, this move would likely be more of a band-aid than a full-time solution, but with Hafley looking to implement a lot more press-man coverage, there might not be a better option.
Gilmore has been extremely consistent throughout his career, and last season, he gave up four touchdowns, 53 completions, an 82.7 passer rating, and made two interceptions (per Pro Football Reference). He was also on the field for 94% of the Cowboys' defensive snaps.
The former Defensive Player of the Year and five-time Pro Bowler hits free agency this offseason with an expected yearly value of $11.1 million—a little pricey for the Packers, but at his age, it wouldn't be more than a two- or three-year contract. A little maturity among a relatively young cornerback group wouldn't hurt, either.
Trade for Justin Simmons
Simmons seems to be a rumored trade candidate every offseason, and while the Broncos haven't pulled the trigger yet, they could be in for a major rebuild now that Russell Wilson is out the door. That leaves the Packers with an opportunity to capitalize by trading for one of Denver's best players.
He has one year left on his four-year, $61 million contract, which brings his trade value down a little, but that means he could possibly be acquired for a third-round pick. That's value the Packers can afford to let go of.
Simmons is arguably coming off his best season accolade-wise, getting Pro Bowl honors and being named second-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. What's best about Simmons? He'd fit perfectly into the new defensive scheme.
"He's best as a single-high free safety, but there really isn't a whole lot that Simmons cannot do," noted Dalton Miller of Pro Football Network.