These are the free-agent pass rushers that make most sense for the Packers to go after in free agency. Olivia Reiner, PackersNews
By the end of 2018, Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was finding any salve he could to patch up the back end of his secondary.
After the trade of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on Oct. 30, cornerback Tramon Williams was moved to help stabilize the spot. Then Jermaine Whitehead was released Nov. 6. Kentrell Brice played through injuries all season. Ibraheim Campbell and Raven Greene ended their seasons on injured reserve.
Without question, the Packers can use plenty of help there in 2019.
Williams will turn 36 on March 16 and is expected to move back to corner. Brice is a restricted free agent, and it’s likely the team will allow him to test the open market. Campbell, also a restricted free agent, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in December.
Enter the draft, where general manager Brian Gutekunst has four picks in the top 100, three in the top 50 and two in the first round. And perhaps within that group he’ll find that help in Nasir Adderley, an intriguing prospect out of Delaware.
Adderley – cousin of former Packers cornerback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Herb Adderley, who was first-team All-Pro five times in his nine seasons with the Packers – didn’t work out at the recent NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis due to a high ankle sprain. He was on site to give interviews and go through medical testing, and his March 22 pro day will be important for evaluators.
But the film doesn’t lie, and Adderley dominated at the Football Championship Subdivision level for the Blue Hens for the past three seasons.
A converted cornerback who could still drop into the slot to cover running backs or tight ends if needed out of a base defensive alignment, Adderley has caught the attention of NFL scouts because of his 11 career interceptions.
“He’s an interesting kid because of his range and on-ball production,” a college scouting director for an NFL team told PackersNews.com.
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NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Adderley to Cincinnati’s Jessie Bates III, the No. 54 overall pick out of Wake Forest a year ago. The two are the same size (6-feet, 200 pounds) and Bates intercepted six passes in college. In his rookie season for the Bengals, Bates had three interceptions and seven passes defended.
“(Bates) is a little more instinctive and takes better angles but this kid flies around with more urgency and recklessness,” the scouting director said of Adderley. “He has some versatility, for sure.”
And that is what is needed in Pettine’s defense. Pettine used free-agent pickup Eddie Pleasant and Josh Jones down in the box as quasi-linebackers (and Whitehead before that), but Adderley would fit the deep cover role.
“So trying to complement that with a true middle-of-the-field safety, I look at Nasir Adderley from Delaware, who I think would be a perfect complement skill-set-wise who can play in that deep middle and range and make a bunch of plays,” NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
That range was developed because after Adderley's freshman year he asked to move to safety in order to get on the field.
“I felt like I could help our team a lot more because I feel I'm a visual learner,” Adderley said at the combine. “If I see a formation, I'm able to know what plays are coming out of that formation. I feel like I could offer a lot at safety because I'm a physical football player. I love contact and I love to be able to be an eraser on the back end that can allow the whole defense to play aggressive as a whole."
Naturally, there were questions about Adderley’s ability to move from an FCS school to the NFL, if his speed and ability could translate. It’s why he kept quiet about the high ankle sprain and participated in the Senior Bowl in late January – to prove as best he could in that week of practices that he measured up. It was only afterward that he revealed he was suffering from the injury. And he said his lackadaisical attitude toward schoolwork early in high school kept him from getting Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I) offers early, not his ability to play at that level.
"I think that's something everyone wants to see coming from an FCS guy, will he stack up against FBS competition,” Adderley acknowledged. “But once again, why I'm so confident is because I feel the reason I wasn't at a FBS school was because of my mistakes.”
Not only would Adderley’s ability in the secondary fit in Green Bay, but so would his experience on special teams. The Packers had one of the worst special teams groups in the NFL in 2018 and had no capable player to consistently return kicks.
“I've done it since my freshman year and I've been on everything since,” he said. “I've been on kickoff, kick return, punt return, gunner on punt, and it's been great. I just love being able to affect special teams because special teams is a huge part of the game. That's something I look to take advantage of."
He’s done it through his time at Delaware, moving from corner to safety for more playing time. And he believes he can do it in the NFL as well, wherever he’s called upon.
"I'm going to play wherever,” he said. “I like to play in the post. I like to come down in the box. I like the blitz. I wasn't asked to blitz often. That's something I feel confident I can do as well."