This will be an in-depth look at the Green Bay Packers’ roster and where they need to upgrade now that we are on to the 2021 season.
The season is over. The Green Bay Packers came up short yet again in their quest to bring home the franchise’s 14th world championship.
Now that the season is over, the roster is going to undergo some construction. Mike McCarthy used to always say that you can expect the roster turnover to come in around 25 percent.
With a potential cap shrinkage and the Packers looking to take the next step, there’s a chance that number is higher.
This series will look into what the Packers currently have, and where they need to upgrade from. That series starts with the game’s most important position, quarterback.
We’re going to break them down into four categories.
The last time around we looked at the defensive line, today we’ll be looking at the pass rushers.
Za’Darius Smith –
When Brian Gutekunst’s career as General Manager is over, this may very well be the signing we look to as his signature move. Za’Darius Smith was not quite the same player he was in 2019, but still very good.
He finished with 12.5 sacks and 23 quarterback hits, both led the team.
In a franchise that includes Reggie White, Willie Davis, and Clay Matthews, Smith has the most sacks in the first two seasons by a Packer.
He is the face of this defense and appears to be their leader as well. He has stated several times this offseason that he wants to be a Packer for life.
The Packers recently restructured his contract which could have the Packers scrambling for cap space again next offseason. An extension appears to be in the best interest of both parties.
The good news with Smith’s game is that it is likely to age well. The Packers should feel pretty good about betting on Smith for another contract when that time comes.
Verdict – Elite player
Preston Smith – The other half of the Super Smith brothers was not so super in 2020. Preston Smith has as many offsides penalties (4), as he had sacks.
That’s not going to get it done. His production, or lack thereof, led many to believe he was an easy candidate as a salary cap casualty.
Instead, Smith agreed to a pay-cut that will allow him to bet on himself for the 2021 season.
2020 was arguably the worst season of Smith’s career which piggybacked the best season of his career. The Packers are hoping that he can find some sort of medium as they continue to keep their pass rush room fully stocked.
Regardless of his production last season, he is still one of the best players in the edge room. The hope for next season is that Smith regains his form from 2019, while also ceding some of his snaps to Rashan Gary.
Verdict – Good Player
Rashan Gary – My son.
Gary caught a lot of flak for not playing a lot of snaps in his rookie season. He saw an uptick in snaps as the 2020 season got closer to the end, and was a one-man wrecking ball.
Gary’s speed-to-power combination is incredibly impressive. He remains a freak athlete that is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Gary was not a starter, but he was arguably the team’s best edge rusher by the end of the season. He had a sack that essentially ended a playoff game against the Rams.
He should have drawn a holding penalty on Tristan Wirfs on the final play of significance against Tampa Bay, but we don’t need to get into that.
The good news for Gary this offseason was the continuity that was maintained. Both Smiths are still there, and Gary has often discussed how helpful they have been to him.
Mike Smith, his position coach also stayed put despite the change at defensive coordinator.
Gary is someone that everyone should be very excited about going into 2021, but it’s hard to put him in any category other than prospect just because he still has so much untapped potential.
Verdict – Prospect
Randy Ramsey – Ramsey has a great nickname with Rambo. He contributed largely to special teams. His speed is something that the Packers don’t really have in their edge room at this point.
He will be battling for the 4th edge spot, a position that’s really important in Green Bay’s defense. As often as they like to use their NASCAR packages and get their best pass rushers on the field, the fourth edge guy is just one snap away from being a de facto starter.
Verdict – replaceable player
Jonathan Garvin – Garvin could be one of the steals of the Packers’ 2020 draft. When he came out, a lot of folks in the industry were surprised and thought he did so a year early.
It has been speculated that had he come out this season he could have been a day two pick. Instead, he essentially got a redshirt season in Green Bay last year.
Mike Pettine said early in the season that Garvin was going to be a big part of what they were doing, but that never fully materialized. Garvin has an interesting skill set, with some untapped potential. It will be interesting to see how Green Bay utilizes him under new defensive coordinator, Joe Barry.
Verdict – prospect
Tipa Galeai – Galeai was one of the darlings of training camp as an undrafted free agent. He has an interesting skill set but clearly needed some time to add weight to his frame.
He was elevated to the active roster for a few games but never saw any significant action. Galeai, like some of the others, has a big opportunity in front of him to seize control of that fourth edge position.
Verdict – prospect