Michael Cohen and Aaron Nagler discuss the Packers' initial cutdown to the 53 man roster heading into the 2017 regular season. (Sept. 2, 2017)
After months of public backing for their thin crop of outside linebackers, the Green Bay Packers are finally taking actions that admit the contrary: a need for reinforcements.
Four days after agreeing to a contract with veteran pass rusher Ahmad Brooks, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers, general manager Ted Thompson made two moves to further overhaul the position. First he claimed edge rusher Chris Odom off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons, and then he traded outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott to the Dallas Cowboys for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2018.
With Elliott and Kyler Fackrell serving as top backups at outside linebacker this offseason, the Packers lacked strength on the edge of their defensive front. Both are dynamic athletes, but too often get pushed off the ball. Adding Brooks and Odom helps fortify the Packers' outside linebacker rotation not only in the pass rush, but also against the run.
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Odom, especially, is a stronger edge defender than Elliott. At 6-4, 262 pounds, Odom outweighs Elliott by 10 pounds. He’s spent most of his career in a three-point stance and was a defensive lineman in Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s 4-3 defense. With the Packers, it won’t be the first time Odom has stood up in a two-point stance, but it will be relatively new.
“It’s something I can easily adapt to and get used to,” Odom said. “My playing style, I can set the edge on the run, and I can get after the quarterback. Those two alone make a complete defensive end, outside linebacker type. So I believe that’s what I bring to the table, and that’s what I will continue to do in my career.
“I think my strength helps, but I think it’s more than that. More than just strength. I think it’s just more good instincts and being strong at the point of attack.”
If Odom stays on the 53 at least two weeks, he’ll face the Falcons when the Packers make their first road trip of the season to Atlanta. It’s similar to last season, when the Packers claimed running back Jhurell Pressley after the Minnesota Vikings released him. The Packers had a trip to Minnesota scheduled for Week 2, but they released Pressley one week after he was claimed.
Such is the unpredictable reality for players at the bottom of 53-man rosters, but Odom figures to have a better chance of lasting longer in Green Bay. The Packers tracked Odom since spring and hosted him for a visit in April, two weeks before the draft, where he met with associate head coach/linebackers Winston Moss.
Odom, a high school teammate of 2017 No. 1 pick Myles Garrett, eventually went undrafted out of Arkansas State. He quickly showed his potential this preseason. In 161 snaps he led all NFL defensive linemen with 17 tackles. He also had two sacks and four tackles for loss, and one quarterback hit that forced an interception.
While the body of work was impressive, Odom’s final preseason outing Thursday might have earned his spot on a 53-man roster. In 69 snaps against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he finished with eight tackles, one sack and a batted pass.
“They contacted me throughout the draft,” Odom said. “They definitely had an interest in me before the draft and after the draft. So it looks like they just continued to have an interest in me just to see how my preseason went, and I guess they believed in me and liked what they saw. That’s why today happened.
“So I’m really excited to be a part of the Packer organization, and I can’t wait to get to work.”
The Packers finalized their deal with Brooks, signing him to what a source said was a one-year deal. He had agreed to terms with the Packers Aug. 30, but the club waited until Sunday for strategic reasons.
To make room for Brooks, the Packers placed offensive lineman Don Barclay on injured reserve. By carrying Barclay on the 53-man roster for 24 hours after the cutdown Saturday, the Packers now have the option of designating him for return after eight weeks. Had they put Barclay on injured reserve Saturday, he would have been lost for the season.
The move also explains why the Packers kept both Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick, a pair of guard/centers who had filled the void at backup center while Barclay recovered from a right ankle injury. The Packers apparently felt Barclay would need more time to recover from the injury he suffered in the exhibition opener against Philadelphia Aug. 10.
Either McCray or Patrick will be the backup to Corey Linsley in the season opener against Seattle on Sunday. The Packers now have nine offensive linemen on their roster.
Dozens of players around the league changed teams Sunday in a matter of minutes, while those who went unclaimed began to negotiate potential practice squad contracts with teams of their choosing.
Right away, the Packers took a hit. The gambles by Thompson to release quarterback Taysom Hill and defensive tackle Brian Price came up snake eyes when both players were claimed on waivers.
Hill, an undrafted rookie from Brigham Young, is bound for New Orleans after the Saints claimed a Packers’ quarterback for the second consecutive year. In 2016, the Saints snagged Joe Callahan on Oct. 14 after the Packers released him in hopes of re-signing him to the practice squad. Callahan wound up spending two weeks in New Orleans and a month with the Cleveland Browns before ultimately returning to the Packers.
Callahan, the Packers’ fourth quarterback from camp, cleared waivers andl re-signed as a member of the practice squad. He is the third quarterback behind Aaron Rodgers and Brett Hundley.
In addition to Hill, the Packers also lost Price, who was claimed by the Cowboys. Had he cleared waivers, Price planned to stay in Green Bay as a member of the practice squad.
Price narrowly missed a spot on the 53-man roster after losing a tight position battle with three-technique Christian Ringo, a 2015 sixth-round draft pick. The 6-3, 318-pound Price served as Kenny Clark’s primary backup at nose tackle and showed real promise as a run stopper along the interior.
By keeping Ringo, the Packers opted for a more polished pass rusher.
Meanwhile, the Packers might not be finished plucking players who have been cast off the 49ers' defense.
The Packers are hosting defensive end Quinton Dial on Monday, a source said. Dial, who played at Alabama, was released by the 49ers on Saturday.
Dial, at 6-5, 318 pounds, has an ideal frame to play five-tech defensive end. A fifth-round pick out Alabama in 2013, Dial was a two-year starter for the 49ers. He has 78 career tackles and 4.5 sacks.