Early in the Ted Thompson regime in Green Bay, there was a time when he used to cut below the mandated 53-man limit on the final training camp deadline and fill out the Packers roster with castoffs from other NFL teams.
You might remember 2006 as a particularly notable year, when the Packers eventually trimmed down to 50 and then added three young players released from other teams: safety Charlie Peprah, cornerback Jarrett Bush and offensive lineman Tony Palmer.
The decision to add Palmer was nothing special, but in Peprah and Bush, the Packers found two contributors for several seasons in Green Bay. Peprah was the starting safety on the team that won Super Bowl XLV while Bush has been the team’s special teams playoff captain for three years running.
In 2008, the Packers cut punter Jon Ryan and linebacker Abdul Hodge a day after the final cutdown date to eventually add Derrick Frost and long snapper Brett Goode.
The Packers had to suffer through two seasons of Frost and Jeremy Kapinos as their punter, but that eventually opened the door Tim Masthay, who has done a solid job of holding down the fort since that time. And as for Goode, he’s been the long snapper for the past five seasons and has yet to screw one up.
Since those early days in the Thompson era, it’s usually been other teams that have been raiding the castoffs from the Packers.
The Packers haven’t had to scour the waiver wire in recent seasons, at least at the beginning of September, because they’ve done such a good job finding undrafted rookies to plug the holes.
Just last season, four undrafted rookies made the team coming out of training camp: wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, offensive lineman Don Barclay, linebacker Dezman Moses and safety Sean Richardson. The year before that safety M.D. Jennings and linebackers Jamari Lattimore and Vic So’oto made the team coming out of camp.
But it would appear the Packers are returning to a time when the bottom of the roster isn’t quite as deep as it has been in recent seasons.
Make no bones about it, the top of the Packers roster is as deep as it’s ever been, and that’s a good situation to be in. With players like Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Josh Sitton and others populating the top of the depth chart and in the prime of their careers, the Packers are sitting pretty.
But when it comes time for the deadline to be down to to at least 53 players on Aug. 31, the Packers may be looking for help from elsewhere in the NFL.
Here’s a brief look at each position on the roster, ranked by from most-likely to least-likely to add help from the waiver wire…
- Safety: Beyond Burnett, McMillian and Jennings, it’s difficult to see the Packers keeping any other of the current safeties on their roster. Having a healthy Sean Richardson would help. They might roll the dice and go into the season with only three safeties with Jarrett Bush as an emergency backup.
- Kicker: Crosby has obviously had his struggles, and while Tavecchio has done an okay job during training camp, his leg strength comes as a concern. Another team’s castoff might be better than both of them. Could “Kickalicious” in Detroit be an option?
- Offensive line: When Bulaga went down to injury, the depth at tackle predictably went down a notch. The Packers appear to be in good hands with Bakhtiari, but they might want to add another backup tackle to develop, especially with guys like Sherrod and Tretter on the PUP list. Even a backup center isn’t out of the question.
- Outside linebacker: Matthews, Perry and Moses are fine, but none of the rookies on the team are locks to make the roster. Palmer, Mulumba, Savage and Reed have had their moments, but there might be better players on other teams. Perhaps the Packers could make Neal the fourth outside linebacker if they decide none of the rookies are up to snuff.
- Quarterback: The Packers desperately need a No. 2 quarterback, and they might even find a better option cut from another team, but it would be a major risk to have a Week 1 backup that’s only been with the team for a week. There’s a better chance they add another team’s castoff to the practice squad.
- Tight end: Andrew Quarless and Ryan Taylor might make good additions to the team, but they have to be healthy in order to fight for a job. Both their roster spots are in jeopardy.
- Inside linebacker: While there’s maybe not top-flight talent at inside linebacker, at least they go six deep with Hawk, Jones, Francois, Lattimore, Manning and Barrington.
- Wide receiver: The top three of Cobb, Nelson and Jones are top-notch. There’s a drop off after the top three, but the Packers probably don’t need help from other teams.
- Cornerback: The only way the Packers would need help at cornerback is if the injuries to Williams and Hayward continue to linger. Otherwise it’s one of the deepest positions on the team.
- Running back: With the additions of Lacy and Franklin in the draft, there’s a lot of good, young talent at the running back position.
- Defensive line: There’s no reason the Packers have to go looking for help from anywhere else with Jones, Raji, Pickett, Wilson, Neal, Daniels, Jolly and Boyd. They might even get a midseason infusion of talent if Worthy can come off the PUP list.