The Green Bay Packers signed over 100 undrafted rookies since 2010, and quite a few have become either stop-gap starters or useful backups. That list includes Don Barclay, Lane Taylor, Geronimo Allison, Tyler Lancaster, Mike Pennel, LaDarius Gunter, Kentrell Brice, and Raven Greene. But the only UDFA from last decade to become a quality starter was Sam Shields. The former college wide receiver intercepted 18 passes in 7 seasons and played in a Pro Bowl.
What this means is that a few of the UDFAs signed by general manager Brian Gutekunst in May are probably going to make the 53-man roster, and one or two might even become contributors on offense or defense. But the odds are very much against any of them developing into quality NFL players. So as I studied this year’s crop of UDFAs, I went searching not for the longshots most likely to make the roster but for the one long shot with the potential to actually become more than just a below-average starter or a bottom of the depth chart backup. I may have found that player in Tipa Galeai (pronounced Tee-puh Nah-lay-eye), a defensive end in college who projects to outside linebacker with the Packers.
The first thing you notice on tape about Galeai (#10) is his athletic ability. He sure doesn’t move like he’s 6-foot-5. In the video below, watch what happens after he intercepts a pass against BYU. Honestly, I’d feel a lot better about the Packers’ jumbo-sized wide receivers if more of them moved this fluidly in the open field.
OK, might as well get this out of the way first – Galeai isn’t ready to contribute in 2020. At 235 pounds, he’s too small to hold up against the run in the NFL. This wasn’t a strength of his in college, and most of the opponents he faced on Saturdays aren’t going to be playing on Sundays. And to be honest, even with an additional 15 pounds, I have doubts about whether the former Utah State star will ever be a full-time player at this level. That said, I have much fewer doubts about his ability to be a useful pass rusher down the road.
Even if used strictly on passing downs, Galeai will still need to get a lot stronger. In college, he struggled to beat offensive tackles with above-average size and ability. In the videos below, watch how ineffective he is against 325-pound Austin Deculus of LSU. Sure, a similarly built Jason Taylor had over 130 sacks with the Miami Dolphins en route to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but he had rare physical skills. Most undersized rushers aren’t going to have much success against talented opponents who outweigh them by one Ariana Grande.
While Galeai doesn’t have rare physical gifts like Taylor, he does possess an NFL-caliber skill set when it comes to getting after the quarterback. He shows good initial quickness at the snap. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with the short-area burst, acceleration and top-end speed to fly off the edge. His closing burst is also very impressive. Many of those traits can be seen in the videos below against Michigan State and Wyoming.
So why would a player with natural pass-rush skills go undrafted? There are multiple reasons. First and foremost, he wasn’t as good in 2019 as he was in 2018. Part of that was due to being used in coverage more often, and part of it was due to opponents doing a much better job of preparing. Another reason was the misdemeanor assault charge from January 2017 that caused him to be kicked out of TCU and kept him from getting an invitation to the NFL Combine. And while punching a couple of people 20 times is certainly troubling, from all accounts, Galeai was a model student and teammate in his two seasons at Utah State.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Galeai in the weeks to come. He’ll probably be affected more than most undrafted free agents by not having a preseason. That’s because I could imagine him abusing third and fourth-string offensive tackles all summer. But if Gutekunst and the coaches are willing to be extremely patient, they could reap the rewards in a year or two. If Galeai can add 10 or 15 pounds without sacrificing too much athleticism, he’s going to be able to help the Packers – or some other team – in the future.