B.J. Goodson's limited role faces uncertain future in evolving Packers defense
Third in a series on the Packers' unrestricted free agents and their likelihood of remaining with the team.
GREEN BAY - In the ever-evolving job description of inside linebacker, there remains a role for the predominant run defender.
B.J. Goodson filled that spot in the Green Bay Packers' defense last season. With a thin depth chart, the Packers traded for Goodson before their opener at the Chicago Bears, conditionally swapping seventh-round draft picks with the New York Giants.
Goodson filled a niche role on the Packers' defensive front, playing 254 (33.8 percent) snaps last season. He started nine of his 15 games, finishing with 37 tackles.
The Packers rarely used Goodson in coverage, instead dropping a third safety in the box to line up alongside Blake Martinez. When the Packers played their traditional base 3-4 defense extensively, Goodson was on the field.
Here’s a look at Goodson’s situation as he enters free agency:
Age next season: 27.
Initially acquired: Trade from New York Giants, Sept. 3, 2019.
Stats: 37 tackles.
Argument for: The Packers need more inside linebackers, not fewer. They also need inside linebackers who specialize in defending the run. Goodson isn’t the swiftest defender, but he’s ideally built at 6-1, 242 pounds. When he played, Goodson was an active tackler. He had five tackles apiece against Detroit and Washington, the latter in just 14 snaps. He also had six tackles against Oakland, which was his highest snap count of the season. Most importantly, Goodson provided special-teams value. A former fourth-round pick (109th overall), Goodson is still young enough to have a good football head. As a run defense specialist in a league that prioritizes coverage linebackers, his price tag isn’t expected to be high.
Argument against: Goodson’s role might be defending the run, but he played 39 snaps (71 percent) when the Packers loaded up in base defense in the NFC championship game, and that didn’t prevent the San Francisco 49ers from running all over the field. He also provides little in coverage, forcing the Packers to add an extra defensive back on the field regularly. Even if the Packers need to bolster their numbers at inside linebacker, they are in most dire need of linebackers who can run and cover. Goodson doesn’t help them there.