Big plays could propel Packers cornerback Kevin King to big payday
GREEN BAY - Kevin King didn’t just lead the Green Bay Packers in interceptions last season. He had five, more than double anyone else on the team.
They came in big moments, too. A game-turning, one-handed pick in the end zone against Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in Week 2. A bobbling interception as he fell in the end zone against Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in Week 7. A jumped route in the snow against New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones.
King was the biggest playmaker in the Packers’ secondary last season. With Jaire Alexander in the same secondary, he was not considered its best player.
As far as King is concerned, that’s just people's opinions.
“Look,” King said Friday, “I ain’t got no problem with that. People are going to think what they’re going to think, but when you’re out there on that field, it’s two number ones. It’s going to be hard to go to the left side. It’s going to be hard to go to the right side. The film is going to speak for itself for sure.
“Ja has established himself as one of the elite corners in this league, and I’m right there too. A few more healthy seasons, one more healthy season, and I’m going to establish myself as well.”
Health is a major factor that can’t be overlooked. Since Alexander entered the league as the Packers’ first-round pick, No. 18 overall, in the 2018 draft, he has missed only three games. He started all 16 last season.
King, the first pick in the second round of the 2017 draft (33rd overall), played in fewer than half the games in his first two seasons. He finally stayed healthy last season, missing only one game because of a shoulder injury. It’s no coincidence his improved health led to more plays.
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When he’s been on the field, King has always shown a lot of potential as a cornerback. He is 6-3 with 32-inch arms and a 4.43 40, a rare combination of size, length and speed. On and off the sideline because of injuries, King had only one interception through his first two seasons, not unlike Alexander having only three interceptions in his first two.
Then King erupted for five picks last fall. He was among a dozen players in the league with that many interceptions.
“It was definitely good just for me to finish a season,” King said, “and playing most of the games for the most part. It felt good being out there. Now we’ve just got to be consistent with it, just hone in on my technique and do that every play down in and down out.”
The consistency, King said, is the next step in his development. If there’s a reason Alexander is considered the better cornerback, it may be because for all the big plays King makes, he still allows too many. King said his focus this season is not allowing big plays, staying focused for each play in a game without any lapses.
If he does that, while staying healthy and continuing to show he’s a playmaker, King could be heading toward a big payday. There aren’t many cornerbacks in the league with his athletic potential, pedigree and playmaking ability. Another season with 15 games played and five interceptions would cement his market value entering the final year of his contract.
Another validating season is even more important considering what could happen to the open market next spring. With salary caps declining because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Packers won’t be the only team with less cash to spend on players. King said he has discussed the business side with his agent, but he keeps coming back to the same conclusion.
“Once I get on the field,” he said, “I keep myself ready, then that light is going to light itself. The market is set. They’ve got a few guys that are going to set that bar right now in this position, so another good year, and the film will speak for itself.”
No 'Hard Knocks'
The NFL and HBO have an agreement that can force teams to participate in the “Hard Knocks” training camp series — but a team can avoid it if they have a first-year head coach, had made the playoffs in at least one of the previous two seasons or have appeared on the show in the last decade.
The Packers weren’t eligible last year thanks to it being coach Matt LaFleur’s rookie season, and they won’t be in the mix in 2021 because of the playoff run in 2019. But LaFleur was asked if he’d ever volunteer his squad for the show since friend and Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay did just that this year.
“I personally would rather not have all those cameras in the building, if I have anything to say about it,” LaFleur said Thursday.
COVID-19 list remains unchanged
No Packers moves appeared on Friday's transaction wire Friday, including no one going on or off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
That still could change before the Packers' first practice Saturday morning, but as it stands they could be without kicker Mason Crosby, longer snapper Hunter Bradley, tight end Jace Sternberger, defensive lineman Treyvon Hester and linebacker Greg Roberts.