3 areas the Packers must improve to take back the NFC North
The Green Bay Packers are coming off a disappointing season, finishing third in the NFC North with a 6-9-1 record. Although Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams were on the same page throughout the season, their offense and defense as a whole struggled. But with players of their caliber, the Packers will always have a good chance winning the division next season.
First, they have to address the positions below via the draft, free agency, or trade to get back to their competitive state.
3. Interior Offensive Line
Aaron Rodgers was under heavy pressure after being sacked 49 times in 2018. Left guard Lane Taylor started 14 of 15 games, but struggled in pass protection. Coming off 2017 where he had ankle surgery, he never really played at a very high level. He’ll have to prove to the Packers that he belongs on this team, but there are better left guard options in free agency.
They should consider adding either Rams’ guard Rodger Saffold or Titans’ guard Quinton Spain, who was coached by current Packers’ head coach Matt LeFleur last season.
The Packers will likely try to upgrade their right guard position as well. Byron Bell was ranked one of the worst guards in the NFL last season and is scheduled to be a free agent. Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray are nothing more than just backups. They will be exclusive right free agents, with them likely returning to compete for backup spots. They could try to upgrade the position in either free agency or the draft. Keep an eye on Boston College guard Chris Lindstrom, who’s considered to be one of the top guard prospects in the upcoming draft.
Center Corey Linsley is the only Packers’ interior offensive linemen that played at a Pro Bowl level. Although Bryan Bulaga’s future with the Packers is in doubt, him along with David Bakhtiari form one of the better offensive tackle duos in the NFL.
2. Outside Linebackers
Their top outside linebacker Clay Matthews will turn 33 in May and is coming off one of the worst seasons statistically in his career. He started the entire season but finished with only 43 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He is also scheduled to be a free agent.
Nick Perry signed a lucrative deal in 2017 (five years, $60 million) but managed to get only 1.5 sacks in nine games last season. His inability to stay healthy has been a major red flag for him throughout his career. But Kyler Fackrell broke out last season with 10.5 sacks.
There have been rumors in the NFL that the Packers could be in the running to acquire Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs. Ford would be a huge step in the right direction. They need more edge rushers, with Fackrell being the only standout player in that category for the Packers. To pair him with a player like Ford would instantly improve their defense.
The Packers have around $36 million in cap space. Whether they pursue Ford or not, they’ll be looking to add more talent to their outside linebacker position.
After the Packers traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins, their defensive backfield could not make many plays. Although their secondary has been solidified after drafting a pair of cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson in 2018, the same cannot be said about their safety positions.
Tramon Williams was converted from cornerback to free safety. The learning curve limited him to only 54 tackles and no interceptions. Strong safety Kentrell Brice wasn’t much different. He started 10 of 14 games, but had only 50 tackles and a sack. Both safeties struggled in coverage and missed numerous of tackles throughout the 2018 season. Josh Jones is just a box safety, tasked with stopping the run due to his limitations in coverage.
Fortunately for the Packers, there are plenty of talented safeties scheduled to be free agents. The safety free agency class is highlighted with guys such as Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins, and Earl Thomas. There is no doubt that they’ll be in the market for one of the top safeties available.