The Green Bay Packers have been rather quiet this summer. They haven't been extremely active in free agency. That should not surprise anyone, though. Their relative inactivity was due in large part to their efforts to resolve the Aaron Rodgers dilemma. Apart from that, however, the Packers may have actually gotten some good eggs for the 2023 season. Here we'll look at the absolute sneakiest signing of the Packers during the first wave of 2023 NFL free agency.
Before that, though, let's backtrack to the biggest thing constraining the Packers in free agency. Keep in mind that star QB Aaron Rodgers has stated that he no longer wishes to play in Green Bay. He intends to join the New York Jets in 2023.
It is, however, still unclear when the Packers and the Jets will finalize an agreement on a trade involving Rodgers. According to Rodgers, the Packers initially kept the door open for his return in 2023. During his “darkness retreat,” though, something changed. After that, the team suddenly decided to move on from him, which led to his trade request.
However, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst stated that the team had conversations with Rodgers at the end of the 2022 season. Afterward, they never heard from him again despite several attempts at initiating follow-up conversations. As a result, the team had to make decisions, including at the quarterback position. They were surely open to having Jordan Love start under center. This eventually facilitated the trade request from Rodgers after the team informed his representation of their intentions. Take note also that Rodgers recently revealed on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he intended to play for the Jets. However, he had also hoped for more direct conversations with the Packers regarding their plans.
Of course, it stands to reason that the Packers are hesitant to fulfill any trade demands — even from Rodgers — without receiving adequate compensation from the Jets. However, the longer negotiations drag on, the less time Green Bay will have to address other needs on the roster. It has become somewhat of a rock-and-hard-place situation for the Packers.
In fact, when it comes to new signings, the team has only acquired long-snapper Matt Orzech from the Los Angeles Rams and safety Tarvarius Moore from the San Francisco 49ers. The majority of the Packers' efforts have been focused on renegotiating contracts and re-signing their own free agents. Again, that's not shocking because of their current constraints. This is also why the urgency to do a deal grows more intense with each passing day.
Speaking of the players the Packers retained, though, one guy might just be a sneaky signing that could really turn out to be a huge positive for the squad this coming season.
The Packers have re-signed linebacker Justin Hollins to a one-year contract. He has secured a deal that could earn him a maximum of $2.28 million in 2023. This contract comprises a base salary of $1.08 million, a signing bonus of $155,000, a workout bonus of $45,000, and a $350,000 incentive for playing time. It's also a very team-friendly contract. Hollins will only have a cap hit of $1.28 million for the Packers. Additionally, if necessary, the Packers can easily release him without major financial repercussions. If Hollins doesn't make the team's 53-man roster following training camp, the team would only need to pay his $155,000 signing bonus and save $1.125 million in cap space.
Recall that Hollins was a former edge rusher for the Los Angeles Rams. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft and has spent four years in the league. He has played in 55 games and started in seven for the Rams, Packers, and Denver Broncos. In 2022, he played in 10 games and started in five for the Rams before being waived in November.
After being claimed off waivers by Green Bay just a few days later, Hollins impressed in his first game as a Packer. He tallied two tackles for loss and one quarterback hit in a 40-33 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. He also finished the 2022 season with 3.5 sacks and 35 total tackles. Additionally, he had four tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits.
SACKED for a 9-yard loss by @justinhollins_! #MINvsGB | #GoPackGo pic.twitter.com/xqIwv5VYvw
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) January 1, 2023
Despite meeting with the New York Giants in free agency, Hollins chose to return to the Packers. With Rashan Gary out due to an ACL tear, which he suffered last season, Hollins could potentially play a sizable role in the Packers' edge rotation this year. He should provide quality depth as a pass rusher. The Packers surely made a smart move in bringing him back. Keep in mind that teams can never have too many pass rushers anyway.
That's on the defensive side of the ball, though. On offense, the Packers remain stagnant. With the Rodgers situation continuing to evolve (or devolve depending on your perspective), the free agency market is quickly thinning out for the cap-strapped Packers.
Hollins was a sneaky good and pretty cheap re-sign, sure. However, if he's the best they can get in the offseason aside from the draft, then that's a very bad sign moving forward.