The football season officially ended in Tampa on Sunday, but for me, it ended two weeks earlier at Lambeau Field. Since then, I’ve been binge-watching a great show called Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix, and of course, thinking about the Packers. Here are just three of the many thoughts that ran through my head:
1) I keep changing my mind on whether the Packers should hold on to Devin Funchess, who signed last April but then decided to opt-out of the season due to COVID-19. On one hand, what’s the harm in taking a look at a proven wide receiver who put up solid numbers in 2017 (63 catches for 840 yards and 8 TDs), won’t turn 27 until May, and counts less than $2.4 million against the salary cap? On the other hand, he hasn’t played in a game since September 2019, and Allen Lazard already does most of the things that made Funchess appealing to the Packers in the first place. Plus, saving $1.3 million ain’t nothing at a time when every dollar counts. There’s really no right answer. The guess here is that GM Brian Gutekunst will ultimately decide to move on from a player who was expected to fill a big role this past season but wound up not being missed at all.
2) The Packers have a surprisingly long list of needs for a team coming off a 14-win season, and none is bigger than cornerback. With starter Kevin King likely to leave in free agency and nickel Chandon Sullivan coming off a dreadful NFC championship game, it’s time once again to reload. You’d think a team that’s spent a quartet of high picks on corners in the past five years would be flush at the position, but you’d be very wrong. Damarious Randall (1st round/2015) is in Seattle via Cleveland via Las Vegas, Quinten Rollins (2nd round/2015) is out of the league, and Josh Jackson (2nd round/2018) might soon be joining him. Only All-Pro Jaire Alexander (1st round/2018) has worked out. And while there are a few young players worth taking a look at in camp (Kabion Ento, Ka’dar Hollman, and Stanford Samuels), none of them can be counted on in 2021. With little money to spend in free agency and a shallow pool of draft prospects, the front office will have its hands full trying to shore up what’s arguably the most important position on defense.
3) If the Packers intend to run a Vic Fangio/Brandon Staley defense, they might as well bring in a player who already knows the system. The most logical choice would be linebacker Justin Hollins, who played for Fangio in Denver and for Staley in Los Angeles. It would take a trade to get the 25-year-old, but the Packers figure to have 10 picks in April’s draft and the Rams could use an extra pick or two after trading for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Hollins is a terrific athlete (4.50 at just under 250 pounds) who looked pretty good as a part-time starter last season. He wouldn’t be Devin White or even Danny Trevathan, but he’d be an affordable addition to a defense that can’t be expected to start both Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin. While the two youngsters flashed at times last season, neither runs particularly well, and that’s a problem in a scheme that demands a lot more in coverage from its inside linebackers than in a standard 3-4.