The Packers improved their defense last offseason by signing a little-known former Eagle. They can do the same this offseason by signing a much more accomplished ex-Bird. While Chandon Sullivan proved to be a pleasant surprise as a versatile backup, Nigel Bradham has the ability to make a far greater impact.
Bradham was cut by Philly in February in a decision that had more to do with money than production. Moving on from the 30-year-old saved nearly $5 million, and that number was huge for a team that was tight against the cap at the time. But on the field, Bradham is still an above-average starter whose strength is defending the pass. Nearly two-thirds of his snaps came in coverage last season, and he held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 88.0. In eight seasons, he’s held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of 94.1. That’s far better than the career numbers compiled by former Packer Blake Martinez (104.1) and newcomer Christian Kirksey (112.8).
The traits that make Bradham effective in coverage are his toughness, instincts, and athleticism. Despite weighing only 240 pounds, the former Florida State star is a tough SOB. In fact, he’ll remind Packers fans a little of Wayne Simmons in the way he likes to intimidate running backs and wide receivers and is willing to mix it up with much bigger tight ends. He also possesses good pre-snap recognition and is often moving at the snap, so while he probably runs in the mid-4.7s at this point in his career, he plays a lot faster.
Watch how Bradham (#53) uses his savvy and his legs to make plays. In the first video, he does a very nice job of anticipating where Aaron Rodgers is going to throw the ball. This allows him to break up a pass intended for Davante Adams. In the second video, he moves like a cornerback as he covers Giants wide receiver Golden Tate like a blanket for 40 yards. There aren’t a lot of linebackers who could make that play.
At this point in his career, Bradham probably shouldn’t be a three-down linebacker. He’s never been great against the run, and he struggled more than usual last season. Missed tackles have been a big problem in recent years (64 since 2016). Nevertheless, he might still be a better option than youngsters Oren Burks, Ty Summers, and Kamal Martin – none of whom were particularly adept at this part of the game in college.
Another thing that would make Bradham a good fit with the Packers is his familiarity with the scheme. He played for the Buffalo Bills in 2013 when Mike Pettine was the team’s defensive coordinator. And while that was seven years ago, it would still make the learning curve easier. That’s even more important than usual this summer with practice schedules being altered and preseason games being eliminated due to Covid-19.
Do I expect the Packers to sign Bradham? No. Just like he ignored my pleads to sign Zach Brown and Josh Bynes in previous summers, I expect Brian Gutekunst to let the young guys compete, and then quite possibly swing a trade for a lesser veteran right before the start of the season. That’s what the young GM has done the past two Augusts. But hey, Gutey’s been full of surprises this offseason (i.e., Jordan Love), so maybe he’ll spring one more on Packers fans before the 2020 season hopefully kicks off in just 53 days.Follow Packers Notes