Packers safety Raven Greene in line to benefit from Josh Jones' departure
GREEN BAY – The more the Green Bay Packers saw of safety Raven Greene, the less it seemed they needed to see of Josh Jones.
After two-plus years, the Packers decided to part ways with Jones, a second-round pick in 2017. The Packers announced they had waived him with a non-football injury designation, the result of Jones having missed the past week with an undisclosed ailment.
Jones first announced the news Sunday morning on Twitter, saying, "It's been real Green Bay. The Packers just informed me of my release."
It’s possible the Packers would have made the move earlier had Jones not been ill because Greene had clearly won the “dime” linebacker position and veteran Ibraheim Campbell, signed Aug. 8, was waiting in the wings to compete for the same position.
Coach Matt LaFleur deferred to general manager Brian Gutekunst when asked why Jones was released, but said Jones did everything the team asked of him. LaFleur made it clear he likes the options the Packers have at the dime linebacker position.
“We’re excited about Raven,” LaFleur said. “I.C. has had his past history here last year and he’s working hard to come back. But Raven’s done a tremendous job in that role and we’re really excited about his development.”
Greene, signed as an undrafted free agent last season, has picked up where he left off in December when his season was cut short by an ankle injury. A regular on special teams, Greene was pressed into duty at dime linebacker when the Packers started running low on safeties.
In three games in ‘18, he had three tackles, a sack and a pass break-up. In three exhibition games this year, playing as a traditional safety and as a dime linebacker, he had nine tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up.
“I’ve gotten a good number of snaps and that’s helped me in understanding this defense,” he said. “I feel like I’ve carved out a spot contributing in any way they need me. I’m just trying to add value to the room.”
The Packers had picked up Campbell on waivers from the New York Jets shortly before Greene started to fill in last year, so when Greene got hurt, Campbell stepped in. A former starter for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in Cleveland, Campbell was even better than Greene, totaling 20 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass break-up in three games.
However, in that third game, he tore his ACL and was lost for the season.
An unrestricted free agent, Campbell rehabbed during the offseason and then signed with the Packers knowing he wasn’t ready to practice yet. The Packers put him on the physically unable to perform list, which is where he’ll probably stay through the cutdown to 53 this week.
If Campbell remains on the list, he would have to miss a minimum of six weeks before being eligible for the 53-man roster. He would not be able to practice during that time.
The Packers will go into the regular season with Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage and Greene plus one or two others from a safety group that includes Will Redmond, Chandon Sullivan and Natrell Jamerson.
Jones, 24, started five of the Packers' final six games last year and finished sixth on the team in tackles with 60.
In his time as a deep safety, Jones had assignment issues with Pettine and Dom Capers before him, both of whom used Jones at a hybrid inside linebacker to take advantage of his size and speed near the line of scrimmage. His status as a safety became more uncertain after the Packers upgraded the position by signing Amos in free agency and trading up in the first round to draft Savage.
Jones reportedly asked for a trade during the offseason and decided not to attend OTA practices during the spring. He attended the mandatory minicamp but did not participate because of a hamstring injury.
Jones was scheduled to make $849,856 in total earnings this season. The Packers will gain about $350,000 in salary-cap space due to his release but will be on the hook for $304,711 of his pro-rated signing bonus next year.
With three open roster spots, Gutekunst claimed a linebacker off waivers from Baltimore and signed a pair of rookie free agents.
The addition of Ravens veteran inside linebacker Nicolas Grigsby gives Pettine some relief at an injury-decimated position. Grigsby has played in only 23 games in four seasons in the NFL, serving mostly as a special teams player, so it’s unlikely he’s in line for a starting job.
But with Oren Burks (chest) and Curtis Bolton (knee) sidelined, the only options to play alongside Blake Martinez are rookie Ty Summers and first-year pro Brady Sheldon. There’s a chance Burks could be back for the season opener, but he hasn’t practiced for more than two weeks and would be hard-pressed to play a lot.
Bolton was performing well and might have been able to help, but it doesn’t appear he’ll be back anytime soon, if at all this season.
Gutekunst also signed a pair of undrafted rookie free agents: linebacker James Folston and cornerback Jocquez Kalili.
Folston, a 6-foot-3, 233-pound former defensive end from the University of Pittsburgh, had short stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Tennessee Titans before joining the Packers. He had been making the transition from end to outside linebacker in the NFL.
The 5-10, 185-pound Kalili, who played his final two seasons in college at UNLV, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on May 12 and was released on Aug. 4.
Folston started just five of 43 games played in four seasons at Pittsburgh, totaling 47 tackles (30 solo), 3 1/2 tackles for loss and 1 1/2 sacks. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.83 seconds, had a 40 1/2-inch vertical leap and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times at his pro day.
Kalili walked on at Arizona in 2014 but transferred to Mesa Community College in '15 and UNLV in '17. He appeared in 18 games and finished with 64 tackles, five pass break-ups, three forced fumbles and an interception. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds.
Lengthy injury report
The Packers returned to work Sunday and they were without 13 players due to injury.
Among those who were not previously sidelined prior to the Oakland Raiders game Thursday night in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were left tackle David Bakhtiari, outside linebacker Rashan Gary, guard Cole Madison, receiver Allen Lazard, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, safety Mike Tyson, fullback Malcolm Johnson and Bolton.
LaFleur has said he will no longer speak about injuries, so it's unclear what was causing some of the players to miss practice.
Bakhtiari said after practice he was nursing something minor and Gary said he avoided serious injury after getting his head snapped back in the Raiders game but did not offer a timeline for his return.
St. Brown suffered a right high ankle sprain and could miss six weeks. Also in the game, Gary and Lazard appeared to suffer upper-body injuries and Madison and Tyson appeared to suffer lower-body injuries.
Also sitting out practice were cornerback Kevin King (hamstring), cornerback Kabion Ento (hamstring), tight end Jimmy Graham (finger), outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert (knee) and Burks.
Four Packers did return to practice: Martinez (unspecified), cornerback Ka'Dar Hollman (stinger), fullback Danny Vitale (calf) and tight end Jace Sternberger (concussion).
LaFleur had the team practicing in pads after two days off. The team is scheduled to practice Monday and Tuesday before playing the exhibition finale Thursday against Kansas City at Lambeau Field.