Packers' 53-man roster projection: Little room for undrafted rookies?
GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers compile their initial 53-man roster at the end of training camp, their magic number might be 56.
That’s three more than the NFL-mandated limit, but rarely have the Packers been forced to keep just 53 players out of camp. A year ago, center Corey Linsley started the season on the physically unable to perform list, while defensive tackle Mike Pennel was serving a four-game suspension. Their unavailability opened up extra jobs.
The same will happen this summer. Defensive tackle Letroy Guion (four games) and receiver Geronimo Allison (one game) will start the season serving suspensions. Cornerback Demetri Goodson provides value on special teams but is rehabbing from a torn ACL last November and could be kept on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, delaying another roster decision.
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Those circumstances were reflected in this projection of the Packers' 53-man roster. How closely it reflects what the true roster will resemble this September depends on performance and injuries.
Ted Thompson has kept at least one undrafted rookie in each of his previous 12 seasons as general manager, but 10 draft picks with an influx of free-agent activity means there are fewer spots available than usual. The best candidate this year might be punter Justin Vogel.
Quarterbacks (3): Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
The Packers are likely a year from losing Hundley in a trade, and the thinking here is they’ll groom Callahan — who has a believer in Mike McCarthy — to be Rodgers’ eventual backup. They could try to sneak him onto the practice squad, but were burned last year when the New Orleans Saints claimed him on waivers. Callahan was a surprise addition to the initial 53-man roster last year, and his chances might be even better this summer.
Running backs (4): Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Aaron Ripkowski
If the Packers try to sneak one of their drafted rookie tailbacks onto the practice squad, seventh-rounder Devante Mays figures to be the best bet. He has limited college film with just one full season at Utah State, and his size and speed warrant further development. A strong preseason from all three rookies might force the Packers' hand, enticing them to keep each on the 53 and compensate at another position. Another thing to keep in mind is McCarthy’s stated preference for two fullbacks to be on the active roster, and Joe Kerridge remains a holdover from last season.
Tight ends (3): Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, Richard Rodgers
Once a position that held no fewer than four players at one time, it seems clear the Packers will keep three on their initial roster for the second straight year. McCarthy wants to play more sets with multiple tight ends, so everyone here will get snaps.
Receivers (7): Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre
The Packers will have to tinker with their receiver depth chart once Allison returns from his one-game suspension to assume a role as No. 4 wideout. Special teams will determine the final receiver jobs, which should be music to Janis’ ears. Expect the Packers to keep seven receivers, and the final two spots to be up for grabs between Davis, Yancey and Dupre once Allison returns.
Offensive linemen (9): David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Jahri Evans, Lane Taylor, Corey Linsley, Jason Spriggs, Don Barclay, Kyle Murphy, Kofi Amichia
Behind the starters, backup jobs are up for grabs. It’s anyone’s guess in July who will take those jobs over the next month, but Barclay’s experience, Murphy’s versatility and Amichia’s athleticism could earn roster spots.
Defensive linemen (6): Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Ricky Jean Francois, Montravius Adams, Brian Price
The Packers have kept five defensive linemen each of the past two years. They could consider themselves short on the depth chart with Guion starting the season on a four-game suspension, though it seems unlikely Guion will have a job when he returns. Don’t be surprised if Price makes a run at a job.
Inside linebackers (3): Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Joe Thomas
This number is deceiving. In reality, Josh Jones likely figures more as an inside linebacker than a safety in his rookie season, and Morgan Burnett might be the same. The Packers' inside linebacker position should be in its best shape in years.
Outside linebackers (5): Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott, Vince Biegel
The Packers probably prefer to keep six players at a position so thin on experience, but difficult decisions have to be made. They’ll hope Matthews and Perry stay healthy, Fackrell and Elliott take a jump and Biegel contributes on defense as a rookie, even if all three things happening might be far-fetched.
Cornerbacks (5): Davon House, Kevin King, Damarious Randall, LaDarius Gunter, Quinten Rollins
For all its 2016 tumult, the Packers' cornerback depth chart enters camp in decent shape thanks to free agency and the draft. Now it’s a matter of players performing up to their capability. The Packers are high on Herb Waters, who could be kept as a sixth corner if they want to pad their secondary.
Safeties (5): Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett, Kentrell Brice, Josh Jones, Marwin Evans
Brice replaces Micah Hyde as the third safety. Most of Jones’ snaps will come in the box as a subpackage linebacker, but he can play either safety spot.
Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, Justin Vogel, Derek Hart
The punting job is Vogel’s to lose. Ditto for Hart at long snapper. Both enter camp as the lone player at their position, but both can be easily replaced if they don’t meet expectations.