Packers moving on without Kamal Martin and Ka'dar Hollman
GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers are a team that values its draft picks both before they use them and after.
Normally, they give their picks every chance to hang around, but they decided to cut ties with 2020 fifth-round pick Kamal Martin and 2019 sixth-round pick Ka’dar Hollman Monday on their way to reducing their roster to the NFL-mandated 80 this week.
A source confirmed both moves were made Monday ahead of the 3 p.m. Tuesday deadline for reducing rosters.
ESPN was first to report the Martin release and SportsTalk 790 in Houston was first to report the Hollman trade.
In the case of Hollman, the Packers were able to recoup a seventh-round pick from the Houston Texans, according to an NFL source. The pick is not conditional.
The Texans own the Packers’ sixth-round pick, which they received in a trade for receiver Randall Cobb.
Martin, on the other hand, was waived, a notable outcome given he was pegged as the starting inside linebacker coming out of training camp last year. But considering the right knee injury he first suffered early in his final season at Minnesota and the problems he has had with it since, it was logical.
The 6-3, 240-pound Martin had surgery on his knee in December of 2019 and again the first week of September last year. During camp this year, he had problems with the knee on Aug. 3 when he got hurt in a one-on-one pass-rush drill. He missed six days of practice and the first exhibition game against Houston.
He returned to the practice field last week and was in uniform against the New York Jets Saturday, playing 27 snaps on defense and 11 on special teams.
Martin looked explosive on a blitz in which he hit Jets quarterback Mike White, but he struggled in coverage and finished with two tackles and an assist. He has been behind starters Krys Barnes and De’Vondre Campbell and backups Ty Summers and Oren Burks on the depth chart since the start of training camp and his chances of making the 53-man roster were in question.
On Sunday, inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said Martin was rusty against the Jets, but he was hopeful he would start to come around after missing a big chunk of practice. A year ago, Martin was one of the surprises of training camp and it appeared as though he would start the opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
But he tore cartilage in his knee and was put on injured reserve after surgery. He returned in Week 6 and started for injured veteran Christian Kirksey. He missed a game due to being on the reserve/COVID-19 list but started four more games before Barnes and Kirksey settled in as the starters the final month of the season.
Martin finished the season with 23 tackles and a sack.
The 6-foot, 196-pound Hollman played 108 snaps from scrimmage and 145 snaps on special teams last year in 14 games. He made his first career start last year against Jacksonville when starters Jaire Alexander and Kevin King were injured
Jaguars third-string quarterback Jake Luton threw at him a few times, but he didn’t allow any touchdowns or completions of 20 or more yards in a 24-20 victory. Hollman had three tackles and eight pass breakups for the season.
Hollman ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds on his pro day at Toledo and the Packers used him at times as a gunner on special teams. The Packers are deep at corner this year with the addition of first-round pick Eric Stokes and fifth-round pick Shemar Jean-Charles and the emergence of Kabion Ento.
In addition to waiving Martin and trading Hollman, the Packers also released tight end Daniel Crawford.
They have three more moves to make before the 80-man deadline.
Part of the challenge for coach Matt LaFleur is making sure he has enough players to face the Bills on Saturday in Buffalo. LaFleur held out 32 players against the Jets, only a handful of whom were injured, and it’s possible he will hold around 30 out this week.
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That gives him around 50 players to get through the game, which is pushing it.
“There’s going to be some guys that will be suited up but might only play if we're forced into that situation,” LaFleur said. “I just think this for where we're at as a football team, it's important for our young guys to get the exposure that they need so we can make the best decision for our team moving forward.”
Undrafted safety Christian Uphoff has gradually been working his way into roster contention and made a big splash against the Jets with a couple of impressive special teams plays, including one in which he went through two blockers to tackle punt returner Braxton Berrios.
Uphoff, who played at Illinois State, is doing exactly what defensive passing game coordinator Jerry Gray tells his younger players, which is make plays on special teams if you want to earn more playing time on defense.
“To me in game, that's a big-time play,” Gray said. “So, I think the thing that we have to do is keep giving him more reps. Hopefully, this Buffalo game we will actually give him more reps.”
Uphoff is competing with Vernon Scott, Henry Black, Will Redmond and Innis Gaines for two or three spots behind starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. After suffering some nerves in the first exhibition game against Houston, he felt perfectly at ease against the Jets.
“I was pretty nervous,” Uphoff said of the Texans game. “I didn't feel comfortable. But then the second game, I got out there and I was like thinking to myself, I'm like, ‘Dude, you're just playing the game, like, no reason to get all nervous.’
“So it was a lot more fun second game. And I felt like I was playing a lot more freely.”
On Sunday, general manager Brian Gutekunst made reference to an adjustment the team did to outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith’s contract
According to a source who has viewed the change, the Packers changed the payment schedule on the $14.76 million the team converted to a signing bonus in March to create cap room. Instead of Smith receiving the payments in equal amounts over the course of the regular season, he received a large chunk of it right away.
The move did not add money to Smith’s deal, change his salary-cap number or push money into future years. It just allowed him to get his hands on most of the money right away instead of in weekly payments.