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June 22, 2017

The Case For Signing Hankins

And then there was one. Over a month after unrestricted free agency began, former Giants defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins is the last top-tier player still on the open market. It’s time for general manager Ted Thompson to make his move.

While the defensive line isn’t a glaring weakness for the 2017 Packers, it’s hardly a strength. Other than Mike Daniels, the unit is made up of decent veterans (Ricky Jean Francois and Letroy Guion), a promising former No. 1 draft pick (Kenny Clark) and assorted youngsters with varying degrees of potential (Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo and Brian Price). That’s certainly not a bad group, but it sure as heck ain’t the Steel Curtain.

Signing the 25-year-old Hankins would be like adding another first-round pick to the roster – in terms of both talent and even age. The former Ohio State star’s skill set is superior to Clark’s and he’s actually four months younger than outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who was selected in the third round of last year’s draft.

So why is a young and healthy player as talented as Hankins swimming in the same ocean as flawed thirtysomethings like Jay Cutler, Adrian Peterson and Dwight Freeney? Because his agent demanded too much money four weeks ago and now most teams have put away their checkbooks – at least until after the draft.

Thompson took advantage of a somewhat similar situation over a decade ago and signed unrestricted free agent Charles Woodson in late April. That wound up being the second-best decision of his long and successful career. And while Hankins isn’t going to win any defensive player of the year awards or end up in Canton five years after he calls it a career, he could have a Woodson (light)-like impact on the defense in 2017.

Hankins is a 320-pound immovable object at the point of attack. Lining him up alongside Daniels would make running inside against the nickel defense much more difficult. As of now, Clark would fill that role, and while he’s a talented player in his own right, taking on double teams will never be what he does best.

In the video below, watch how Hankins (95) takes on 650 pounds of Pro Bowl caliber players and gets in on the tackle.

And while Hankins is no Aaron Donald as a pass rusher, he can get some decent pressure on the quarterback. His 3 sacks last season might not seem all that impressive, but it’s only 4 less than the combined total of Daniels, Clark, Lowry, Guion, Ringo and now former Packer Datone Jones – the team’s primary inside rushers from a year ago. In the video below, watch Hankins use his strength and surprising quickness to hit Josh McCown and force an interception that was returned by Jason Pierre-Paul for a touchdown.

Hankins was seeking a long-term deal worth around $10 million a year at the start of free agency, but based on the contracts recently signed by fellow defensive tackles Dontari Poe (Falcons) and Bennie Logan (Chiefs), he’s probably going to have to settle for a 1-year deal worth between $6 million and $8 million. That wouldn’t be a problem for the Packers, who are currently about $23 million under the salary cap. Plus, Thompson could offset some of Hankins’ cap hit by releasing Guion, who would no longer be needed.

The only “downside” to signing Hankins would be how it would affect Thompson’s precious comp picks for 2018, but should that really be a consideration for a team that’s built to win a championship this season? Besides, that pick could always be recouped in 2019 should Hankins sign elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent a year from now. In the meantime, he would make the defense a lot better – a defense that needs to be a lot better if ¬†Green Bay is going to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2010.

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7 Responses “The Case For Signing Hankins”

  1. saguaro
    April 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    This is the guy who can get the pressure up the middle that the defense really needs. Great analysis

  2. Mark
    April 9, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Ted may have the cap space, but I think he was done signing true free agents after Martellus Bennett.

  3. Cudahy Cheesehead
    April 9, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Many thanks Michael! But….I’ll suppress my enthusiasm until it happens. I hate the depression when I find out another team took advantage of free agency especially at a bargain price (e.g. ILB Brown). Your posts always give me that tiny shred of hope that someone on TT’s staff might secretly be reading your analysis.

  4. Thorny
    April 9, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    This would be an excellent signing but we seem averse to loading up at any one position group going with a balanced approach of just good enough being good enough.

    I can’t imagine after adding Clark and Lowry via last year’s draft and recently paying Daniels that we would view DL as a very big priority opting to liking the guys we’ve got instead.

    I’m still hoping against hope that Richard Sherman ends up playing CB for us due to the TT/JS connection. Would love nothing more than seeing someone like Cobb or Matthews shuttled to Seattle in favor of Sherman and a pick. It’s a passing league and us paying for more run stuffing when we have a gaping hole at both corner positions doesn’t seem likely. This would fall under the less likely than Zach Brown dream which made sense, twice, but didn’t happen either time.

  5. April 10, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Signing Hankins would make too much sense which is why it won’t happen. Let’s say they could sign him to a one year deal for $7 million. They cut Guion and use the $3.1 million they save from letting that idiot go to put towards Hankins. At the end of the day it costs the Packers another $3.9 million for a player at least 4 times BETTER than Guion.

    One last thing..If TT didn’t do it because of his precious “Comp Picks”, then I’m quite certain the Packers will struggle to win another SB as long as TT is there. For $3.9 million more, the possibility of improving a run defense that was shredded against teams that were actually GOOD at running the ball (Cowboys, Titans), it’s actually a hell of a deal.

  6. TJV
    April 10, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Adding Hankins is a good idea but I’d rather Thompson sign a veteran CB or OLB if there’s one still available who could significantly help. But of course, that’s the rub. While searching for FAs still available I found NFL Trade Rumors.co site which lists their top 50 available. They list Johnathan Hankins at number 1 and CB Tramaine Brock at number 2. (Brock is available because he’s facing a felony domestic violence charge.) Their top OLBs are Levy, Kruger, and Dumervil. Top CBs other than Brock and Shields are Revis, Flowers, and Alterraun Verner.

    I don’t know how much Thompson weighs the comp picks formula when considering the acquisition of FAs, but from his actions over the years it appears to be way too much. I wish he would have realized seasons ago that the Packers were/are beyond worrying about an extra pick at the end of the 4th or 5th round. He could still covet his 7 picks per draft and move down to acquire more when appropriate. But once he achieved the goal of getting the Packers to the playoffs year after year, one way to ‘go for it’ without much risk would be to be more active in free agency without regard to how acquisitions affected their comp picks.

    Here’s the link to NFL Trade Rumors.co list: http://nfltraderumors.co/top-2017-nfl-free-agents-list/

  7. Cudahy Cheesehead
    April 14, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Colts signed Hankins to a three-year, $30 million contract. Way out of TT’s price range.

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