As we approach the new NFL league year turnover, teams are figuring out how to improve their chances of winning in 2020. For the Green Bay Packers, the run defense is a priority after some disappointing performances in 2019. While there are several spots that can be retooled, there is one specific position that is certainly lacking. In this article, potential Packers Free Agents: Inside Linebackers, certain players are identified as targets for the team.
After outlining potential additions to the defense line, we will move back towards the heart of the defense. Inside linebacker is an area that was ignored by Green Bay last season. Circumstances dictate that that will likely not be the case this time around.
The Packers head into 2020 with the cupboard stocked with unknowns. Both starters from last season (Blake Martinez and B.J. Goodson) are set to hit the market and are not expected back. While in the past, the Packers have not put a lot of investment into the position, they need to add to it this offseason. What they want to spend will influence what they are able to add to a limited group of players.
ILB on current roster – Curtis Bolton, Ty Summers
Currently, there are only two inside linebackers currently on the Packers roster for 2020. Both will be entering their second seasons in the NFL, and neither have a lot of draft capital.
It will be interesting to see what the Pack have in store in Ty Summers. In his 1st preseason game, he was around the ball all game but struggled to finish plays with tackles. After that, he cleaned it up some but not enough to be trusted. He has shown he has decent instincts to find the ball carrier. This is a big offseason for the 7th round pick for last year’s draft.
Also on the roster is Curtis Bolton. There was a lot to like in Bolton before he went down for the year before the season. He made plays in the preseason and fit that hybrid type the Green Bay is looking for in their inside linebackers. I have high hopes for him going into 2020, but the jury is still out.
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After Bolton and Summers, there are a couple of outside linebackers that could potentially move inside. It is doubtful that either Preston or Za’Darius Smith would move inside since their roles as pass-rushers they are key to the defense’s overall success. Same for last year’s 12th overall pick Rashaan Gary.
That leaves Oren Burks as a potential inside linebacker. There was talk in the last offseason, that Burks could transition make an impact. However, he just can’t seem to put it together and help this team. A pre-season injury forced him to miss time and set him behind the 8-ball. When he did play later in the season, it was mostly as an extra pass-rusher or occasionally as a defender in coverage. Unfortunately, at this point, he has yet to show that he can be counted on in run defense.
It is clear that the Packers will add to their linebacking corps. If they do decide to pay up in free agency, here are some players that the team may target.
The cream of the crop of Free Agents this offseason, Cory Littleton is hitting the market after getting better each season. He is one of the best against the pass. While his run defense isn’t great, he is serviceable. There are rumors that the Packers have interest in Littleton, but the big hurdle is at what price.
A former Badger, Joe Schobert is a well-rounded LB. He is pretty good against the pass, but he also isn’t great against the run. I’m not sure if he is much of an upgrade to what Martinez brings. Again, this will come down to what the Packers want to spend.
A few years ago, Danny Trevathan would have been a nice addition to Green Bay’s roster. Instead, the Bears nabbed him. Now, coming off a bad season where he battled injury and below-average play, Trevathan might be a risk. The Packers might be willing to try a 1-year prove-it type of deal here in order to get a veteran presence at ILB.
The man who stepped in when Trevathan went down and he played well. Nick Kwiatkoski flashed excellence at times. For instance, he was graded elite by PFF week 10. It is difficult to gauge what the market for Kwiatkoski will be and if he was just a product of Chicago’s dominant front 4. However, he is a guy to take a hard look at.
Kyle Van Noy
I’m sounding like a broken record, I know, but Kyle Van Noy is another that would depend on fit and plans of use. As a football player, he might be the best on this list, but as a pure inside backer, I’m not so sure. Van Noy is best used as a chess piece that can be moved around the defense. He can do it all. Van Noy is slippery to block but playing inside he would be asked to shed a little more. If Mike Pettine wanted to use him as the Pats have, he could be dynamic. He also is hard to gauge on price.
Overall the market isn’t loaded with sure-fire answers. With the Packers not having much experience on the roster at the moment the position leaves a lot to be desired. Even if Green Bay lands a high-priced free agent linebacker, there is still a need to fill the depth at the position. Hopefully, somebody already on the roster can emerge.
Thank you for reading this article about potential Packers Free Agents: Inside Linebackers. For more great content, be sure to stay up to date with Full Press Coverage leading up to and during the NFL’s free agency period.