McGinn: Packers have the depth to deal
- On the current 90-man roster, 25 are locks to make the team, 12 are good bets, 31 are on the fence and 20 are long shots
- Teams must cut to 75 players by Aug. 30 and 53 by Sept. 3
If Ted Thompson is of a mind, and usually he isn’t, the Green Bay Packers might have a chance to acquire a draft choice or two 2 1/2 weeks from now when NFL teams reach the 53-man roster limit.
Thompson’s objective is to win the Super Bowl this season. To that end, he will keep the 53 best players and then protect himself with 10 players on the practice squad, most of whom will have been released by the Packers.
As probably one of the league’s best and deepest teams, the Packers stand a better chance than most to trade one or more surplus players for draft choices.
Offensive linemen are next to impossible to find this time of year, and with 26 starts on his resume and five-position versatility Don Barclay could be attractive to a less-endowed team than Green Bay if his number comes up.
It’s all speculation at this point, but what if a proven special-teams performer like Jayrone Elliott, a 6-1 corner like Robertson Daniel, a rugged run stuffer like Sam Barrington, a second-round wide receiver like Davante Adams or a talented young safety like Kentrell Brice wound up on the chopping block?
It’s far better to get a draft choice in return than to lose a capable player on waivers.
Packers Podcast: McGinn & Cohen analyze roster
This will be Thompson’s 12th roster reduction. The fact he has procured just two seventh-round draft choices – from the Jets in 2005 for tackle Steve Morley, from the Jets again in ’11 for guard Caleb Schlauderaff – in his tenure doesn’t reflect an aggressive, active general manager.
Mike Daniels, the team’s finest player last season, has been singing the praises of the Packers’ roster for most of his five seasons.
“It’s always been like that around here,” Daniels said this week. “Because they do a great job scouting. We have a lot of guys that are like backups that can start other places. We’ve been practicing against a lot of second-team (offensive linemen) and they’re better than some teams’ first guys.”
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A conservative categorization of the current 90-man roster would show 25 players as locks to make the final 53, 12 as good bets, 31 on the fence, 20 as long shots and two players headed for four-game suspensions to start the season. There were 24 locks a year ago at this time.
All teams must reach 75 players by 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30, and then 53 by 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 3. After 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, clubs may establish a practice squad of 10 players. In a new rule, four of the 10 players, two more than in 2015, are permitted to have two accrued seasons.
No player can participate on a practice squad for more than three seasons. A year of service on a practice squad consists of a minimum of three weeks.
For the fifth season, teams will be allowed to bring back a player from injured reserve. This year, however, teams don’t have to designate a player for return until the decision is made.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5 to 7)
Locks: Randall Cobb.
Good bets: Jordy Nelson, Ty Montgomery, Trevor Davis.
On the fence: Jared Abbrederis, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Geronimo Allison.
Long shots: Herb Waters, Ed Williams, Jamel Johnson, Harvey Binford.
Overview: Nelson can’t be a lock because he hasn’t been in pads for almost 12 months. Cobb has caught the ball better than last season and is the only cinch.
The Packers have kept five eight times in the last nine years. They’re not going to be keeping three quarterbacks like the past two seasons, and with Jeff Janis out four to six weeks following hand surgery he could replace the No. 3 quarterback as either the sixth or possibly seventh wide receiver.
Janis hasn’t made much progress on offense but he’s the best gunner and kickoff returner the Packers have. If Janis starts the year on injured reserve, he’d miss a minimum of six weeks.
Since returning from an eight-month old ankle injury Montgomery has been impressive in abbreviated appearances. Because Montgomery and Cobb have practiced as third-down backs, it’s possible Thompson would entertain the idea of keeping merely three running backs.
Davis is the fastest of the top receivers and has shown quick feet in and out of breaks. He must get stronger.
With Cobb taking backfield snaps, Abbrederis’ chances are enhanced because he’s best in the slot. He and Allison have been the most productive receivers in camp. Abbrederis might well have been the team’s most skilled wideout this summer, and more importantly has avoided injury.
At 6-3 ½, Allison is 2 ½ taller than Adams and probably as fast. Adams has good days and bad days. The Packers must decide if he’ll ever be able to separate on a consistent basis.
TIGHT ENDS (3 or 4)
Locks: Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook.
On the fence: Justin Perillo, Kennard Backman.
Long shots: Mitchell Henry, Casey Pierce.
Overview: Cook missed almost the entire offseason and the first two weeks of camp because of foot surgery. His blocking was marginal against the Browns, but the downfield receiving show he put on Aug. 9 in practice was eye-popping, to say the least.
Perillo appears quicker out of his breaks this summer, catches everything and has a knack for finding open areas. Backman hasn’t been as effective, but is more assertive than in a lost rookie season. Neither player is much of a blocker.
OFFENSIVE LINE (7 to 9)
Locks: G Josh Sitton, T David Bakhtiari, G T.J. Lang, T Bryan Bulaga, T Jason Spriggs, C JC Tretter.
Good bets: C Corey Linsley.
On the fence: G Lane Taylor, T Kyle Murphy, G-T Josh Walker, T-G-C Don Barclay.
Long shots: G Lucas Patrick, C-G Kyle Steuck, G-C Matt Rotheram, C Jacob Flores, T Josh James.
Overview: As long as Linsley doesn’t aggravate his three-month hamstring injury upon return, the top seven berths should be set.
The Packers didn’t give Taylor a two-year, $4.15 million contract ($600,000 guaranteed) on March 8 to cut him. Still, he needs to start playing with urgency again and rebound in a hurry from a lousy showing against Cleveland.
Versatility is valued. Gone are the days when the Packers would keep 10 linemen, and four years ago they opened with just seven. Taylor should be No. 8 but remember, he’s a guard only.
If the Packers keep nine, as they did a year ago, it probably comes down to Murphy, Walker or Barclay for the final spot.
Murphy is a sixth-round draft choice, and Thompson doesn’t cut many of them in the first year. A concussion cost him two weeks, but before that he showed better feet than expected and considerable toughness. He has ideal height (6-6 ½) and easily could get much heavier than his current 308. He’s a right tackle with a chance to play guard in time.
It was hard to evaluate the linemen in the opener because the Browns’ defensive line was so bad. Nevertheless, Walker had a serviceable night at right tackle for a big man who functions better at guard.
Barclay probably was better in the game than he has been in camp but still was responsible for the safety. All 73 of his snaps came at center.
Patrick, a rookie from Duke who wasn’t signed until June 1, didn’t miss a day’s work after suffering a major hand injury in camp. He’s playing pretty well with one hand and should gain a berth on the practice squad.
Rotheram was a considerable disappointment in his second season before suffering a biceps injury.
Locks: Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley.
Long shots: Joe Callahan, Marquise Williams.
Overview: Callahan showed a measure of moxie for a NCAA Division III free agent in his 43-play start against the Browns. He also was helped by receivers that made terrific catches of his bad balls. He’s too short (6-1) and too slow (4.98).
In his 43-snap second half, Williams flashed outstanding ability as a runner but also demonstrated just how far away he is as a passer.
RUNNING BACKS (3 or 4)
Locks: RB Eddie Lacy, RB James Starks.
Good bet: FB Aaron Ripkowski.
On the fence: RB Brandon Burks, RB John Crockett, FB Alstevis Squirewell.
Long shot: RB Brandon Ross.
Overview: If a No. 3 should be kept after the Lacy-Starks tandem, it’s be too close to call between Burks and Crockett.
Burks might stand just 5-8 ½ but he’s up to 213 pounds and pass-protected like someone 230 against the Browns. His speed is ordinary (4.56) but he showed acceleration between the tackles and burst to the corner. The comparisons between Burks and DuJuan Harris, another short back from Troy, are apt.
Crockett is more of an upright runner with improving hands and reliability traits. He’s 6-0, 217 and runs 4.57.
Ross can’t be ruled out, either. Cut by the Vikings in mid-May, he didn’t sign until June 13. His 4.43 speed sets him apart, and his 6.4 average led the Big Ten in 2015.
After missing too many blocks against Cleveland, Ripkowski doesn’t have the job sewed up to be John Kuhn’s successor. Squirewell, a converted D-lineman at Division II Newberry, actually blocked better in the game than Ripkowski.
Squirewell is a massive man (6-0, 265) with respectable hands and athleticism but not much speed (4.98). In comparison, Ripkowski ran 4.74. That can make a huge difference in the kicking game.
DEFENSIVE LINE (5)
Locks: DT Mike Daniels, NT Kenny Clark, DT-NT Letroy Guion.
Good bet: DE Dean Lowry.
On the fence: DT Christian Ringo, NT Brian Price.
Long shots: NT Tyler Kuder, NT Demetris Anderson.
To be suspended: DE-DT Mike Pennel.
Overview: With Pennel suspended for the first four games, the Packers could ill afford an injury. Anderson (calf) has been the only player sidelined.
Lowry looks the part of a 5-technique but hasn’t made enough plays yet to warrant his fourth-round selection, He ranks last among nine defensive linemen in the one-on-one pass rush drill with a 2-7-2 mark (.273). Minus Pennel, however, Lowry seems entrenched as No. 4.
Assuming the Packers keep one more, the choice at this point probably would come down to Ringo or Price.
Size limits Ringo (6-0 ½, 300) to 3-technique, and probably only in sub defenses. Even then, the Packers need to decide if teams would exploit him in the run game. With his long arms (33 inches) and 4.93 speed, Ringo has had moments rushing and ranks second in one-on-one’s (6-6-1, .500).
Price (6-2 ½, 318) has dropped 15 pounds since June and has had a good camp. Despite being a nose tackle, he leads in the one-on-one’s (7-3-3, .654). He needs major hand and footwork development coming from Texas-San Antonio, but his run defense has been solid.
Kuder, a rookie free agent from Idaho State, might be a practice-squad candidate because of his ruggedness and OK pass rush (6-7-1, .464).
LINEBACKERS (9 to 11)
Locks: OLB Nick Perry, ILB Jake Ryan, ILB Blake Martinez.
Good bets: OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Julius Peppers, OLB-DE Datone Jones, OLB Kyler Fackrell.
On the fence: ILB Sam Barrington, ILB Joe Thomas, OLB Jayrone Elliott, OLB Lerentee McCray, ILB Carl Bradford, OLB Reggie Gilbert, ILB Beniquez Brown.
Long shot: ILB Derrick Mathews.
Overview: Matthews and Peppers can’t be locks because of the NFL’s threat to suspend them if they don’t submit to interviews over PED allegations. With them, the Packers are loaded outside, with all eight players having a legitimate shot to stick.
Jones hasn’t done much to hurt his chances in his first full camp standing up, and Dom Capers also has plans for him from a three-point stance on some passing downs.
Fackrell, a third-round choice, isn’t going to be cut. He’s athletic, fast and has an innate feel for rush. But, at this point, he’s basically a finesse player who isn’t doing much as a rusher or on special teams.
Fackrell and Elliott are winless in 11 reps in one-on-one’s, and Perry is a meager 0-10-1. Perry was handed the starting job over Peppers, but Elliott might be in trouble unless he can start beating tackles again off the edge. He has been almost invisible in too many practices.
McCray, the former Broncos special-teamer, leads outside linebackers with a 3-5-3 record (.409) due in large part to an effective bull rush. He has a special-teams personality and would be a tough cut.
Gilbert, a rookie free agent from Arizona with 14 sacks as a defensive lineman, probably has played better than Fackrell, the other West Coast rookie. “Really good rusher,” one scout said after watching the Cleveland game. “Has a knack. Hustler.”
Ryan and Martinez appear to be the front-runners inside but Barrington really hasn’t been heard from yet. The staff needs to see if Barrington is the same player after undergoing major foot surgery last fall.
Thomas, Bradford and Brown are in close competition for what might be just one spot.
Without his 10-pound weight gain in the offseason, Thomas wouldn’t have had a chance. With it, he has been able to strike with more authority.
Bradford seemed almost to have been written off as a fourth-round bust. He showed improvement in camp, then might have been the team’s best linebacker in the Cleveland game. If he plays another game or two at that level, he can’t be counted out.
Brown, the rookie free agent from Mississippi State, doesn’t pass the eyeball test but has been a pleasant surprise. His resourcefulness enables him to be around the ball a lot.
Mathews, a late add-on (Aug. 2), is small (5-11 ½, 230) but a big hitter and can’t be counted out.
SECONDARY (10 or 11)
Locks: CB Sam Shields, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Morgan Burnett, CB Damarious Randall, CB Quinten Rollins.
Good bets: S Micah Hyde, CB Ladarius Gunter.
On the fence: S Chris Banjo, CB Robertson Daniel, CB Josh Hawkins, S Kentrell Brice, CB Makinton Dorleant, CB Warren Gatewood.
Long shots: S Jermaine Whitehead, CB Randall Jette, S Marwin Evans.
To be suspended: CB Demetri Goodson.
Overview: Seven positions are all but spoken for, but pitched battles remain for what probably will be the No. 5 and No. 6 cornerbacks and the No. 4 safety.
Goodson, a much-improved player and mainstay on special teams, figured as the No. 5 but he’ll miss a month on suspension. If Daniel is next in line, it isn’t by much over rookie free agents Hawkins (East Carolina), Dorleant (Northern Iowa) and Gatewood (Alcorn State).
Daniel has ideal size (6-1, 203), 4.46 speed and the ability to sit square and play press coverage. He also has been a fixture on several starting special-teams units.
Hawkins isn’t tall (5-10 ½) but has 4.39 speed and challenges veteran receivers on a daily basis. He’s been a pest.
Dorleant, with the same height and speed as Hawkins, looked good early but just returned after missing about two weeks with a hamstring injury.
Gatewood, a late bloomer throughout his athletic career, was signed July 20. He’s raw but has better size than his rookie counterparts and might be more physical.
Banjo is regarded as the club’s top player on special teams, runs 4.43 and is reliable from scrimmage. Brice, however, is 1 ½ inches taller, just as fast and a world-class athlete.
It’s hard to imagine the Packers releasing Banjo, but with another strong performance or two Brice might force them to keep five safeties.
Locks: K Mason Crosby.
On the fence: LS Rick Lovato, P Tim Masthay, P Peter Mortell.
Overview: Both punters performed satisfactorily against Cleveland but Mortell then had a dismal practice Sunday. Masthay has been ordinary all summer, so it’s possible neither one will be in Jacksonville on opening day.
They’ve punted in six practices against a rush. Masthay’s average hang time is 4.41 seconds in 31 punts whereas Mortell’s is 4.07 in 28 punts.
If the Packers were content with Lovato and his inexperience in protection, free agent Jesse Schmitt wouldn’t have been signed last week. Schmitt broke his hand and is gone, but the Packers could add another snapper after final cuts. That’s how Brett Goode got the Packers job in 2008.
Goode, 31, underwent ACL surgery Dec. 28 and probably isn’t ready to sign his next contract.