The Green Bay Packers will add talent to their linebacker room. If they choose to sign a veteran in free agency, they should consider Eric Wilson.
Wilson, a 2017 undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati, had a quiet start to his NFL career. He was strictly a special teams participant during his rookie season before working his way into a part-time linebacker role with the Vikings.
This past season, however, Wilson played more LB snaps than he did his first three years combined. His 1,034 defensive snaps were second for the Vikings behind only Anthony Harris. Wilson was thrust into a starting role after Anthony Barr suffered a season-ending injury.
Overall, he outperformed expectations but is a work in progress against the run. Wilson is typically in the right place at the right time and does a good job of defeating blocks for a 6’ 1”, 230-pound linebacker. It’s Wilson’s tackling that’s most concerning – we could put together a tutorial on how not to tackle based on his film.
Not surprisingly, he missed 20 tackles this past season, third-most among all NFL linebackers. However, Wilson’s supreme athleticism allows him to make a huge impact against the pass.
One low 🔑 free agent LB thats still available & won’t break the bank is Eric Wilson.
✅Led Vikings in tackles and TFLs
✅Versatile: Plays all 3 LB positions
✅Special Teams Ace
✅8 Passes Defended(3rd among LBs)
✅ Tied for league lead in INTs for LBs(3) https://t.co/vmAwwOXdX2 pic.twitter.com/Fkwz3kO0da
— Nathan Coleman (@JHawkChalk_) March 18, 2021
While Wilson allowed a high target conversion rate (48 of 64 – 75%) and 2 TDs into his coverage in 2020, he was able to force three incompletions and tied for the most interceptions for all linebackers with three.
He also added 11 pressures and 3 sacks on just 75 pass-rush attempts. Wilson shows good instincts for the delayed blitz but doesn’t have value as a true edge-rusher.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Wilson is the fact that he hasn’t missed a game in 4 NFL seasons. That’s an attractive trait as a potential free agent target for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers’ linebacker group suffered from the injury bug throughout the entire 2020 season. Rookie Kamal Martin began the season on IR following preseason knee surgery. Christian Kirksey missed five games with a shoulder injury.
UDFA Krys Barnes led all Packers’ linebackers with 14 active appearances of a possible 18, though if felt like he was sidelined for a portion of every one of those 14 games. Injuries to those three players forced Oren Burks and Ty Summers into more prominent roles, which proved to be disastrous for the Green Bay Packers.
Kirksey was shown the door in February, leaving the Packers with Barnes and Martin as potential starters. The front office needs to add talent to the linebacker room. They will likely add a body or two during the NFL Draft but could stand to bring in some veteran leadership as well.
After six days of free agency, Eric Wilson remains available, proving that he’s likely not worth the $10 million per year contract that some agencies like Over The Cap tabbed him with. Pro Football Focus values Wilson at 2 years $3 million per year. His value to most NFL teams is likely somewhere in the middle.
The Green Bay Packers have $3.8 million in cap space right now, which is comfortable considering the tight constraints of the 2021 NFL season. To sign Eric Wilson, they may need to pass the buck even further to the 2022 offseason and restructure another contract.
It would be worth it to sign a veteran that’s capable of starting day one and holding the job throughout the season. Wilson needs to be more consistent against the pass and has to improve against the run if he wants to take the next step.
However, he personifies ‘bring your own juice’. He would be a welcomed addition not only to the linebacker room but also the locker room. The Green Bay Packers should take a long, hard look at Eric Wilson.