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Green and Bold: Packers UDFAs on the Chopping Block?

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Green and Bold: Packers UDFAs on the Chopping Block?

As we head into Green Bay Packers training camp, position battles will heat up as the Packers prepare to cut the roster down from 90 players to 53 following the preseason. 

That is a new and unique challenge that general manager Ted Thompson and the Packers front office will face this year, as NFL owners voted to eschew the first cut-down period to 75 players. Now, executives will have an entire training camp and four preseason games' worth of tape to aid in making their decision...but will have to nevertheless cut 37 players at once.


It's usually around this time of year that final 53-man roster predictions start, and while some people find them as tiresome as mock drafts, they are nonetheless a useful exercise in evaluating how much talent the team has and at which positions it is concentrated. 

On Tuesday,'s Ryan Wood released his roster prediction, and, boldly, he wondered if this could be a year we see Green Bay, normally extremely fond of undrafted free agents, keep just one or even none on the final roster.   

In each of his 13 seasons at the helm of the Packers, Thompson has kept at least one UDFA on the 53-man roster. But, per Wood, "10 draft picks with an influx of free-agent activity means there are fewer spots available than usual."

That's certainly true. The last time the Packers had double-digit draft selections was 2013, when they took 11 players. That roster included three undrafted free agents: Lane Taylor, Andy Mulumba, and Chris Banjo.

Of course, the Packers signed an unusual number of free agents this offseason, so we can already dedicate three roster spots to tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. Then there are the 10 draft selections, bringing the total to 13. Add the obvious incumbents, and suddenly there are only a few positions which could support a run at a job from an UDFA. 

One such position, however, is punter, and that's a big one. At this point in time, the job looks to be undrafted rookie Justin Vogel's to lose. And that's because he's quite literally the only candidate as the sole punter on the Packers' roster heading into training camp after the team released Jacob Schum back in June. 

Vogel averaged a career-best 43.8 yards per punt in his senior season at the University of Miami. 

It will also be interesting to see what the Packers do with quarterback Taysom Hill out of BYU.

Hill is a 26-year-old rookie, which doesn't help his case, and the Packers will almost certainly want to keep Joe Callahan on the 53-man roster as Brett Hundley is likely looking at a trade next year. That leaves Hill as a practice-squad contender, though the risk of him getting claimed off waivers before he gets there is high. 

The Packers currently have 42 players on the 90-man roster who began their NFL careers as undrafted free agents, 37 of those originally with the Packers, per

Even if Vogel is the only undrafted rookie to make the final roster, there's always the practice squad. 

Packers training camp will get underway this week, with the first practice scheduled for July 27.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

I've been wondering the same thing, Michelle. I'd add that some of the veteran former UDFAs may also lose their jobs; e.g. I think Geronimo/Janis have their work cut out for them. I'm currently predicting Max McCaffery will make the roster, but it's WAY too early to predict who is going to shine during the preseason.
The best chances probably belong to the guards and inside linebackers, where a very strong showing could land one of each on the roster, but that would mean Amichia goes on the PS, or a veteran has gotten injured. An ILB would have to be a special teams star or again, get the position due to an injury to Ryan/Thomas/Martinez.
It's going to be a fascinating pre-season!

RCPackerFan's picture

'I'd add that some of the veteran former UDFAs may also lose their jobs; e.g. I think Geronimo/Janis have their work cut out for them.'

Allison is suspended for the first game so he won't be on the 53 then which creates an opening for another player. Perhaps that is the opening for McCaffery or one of the UDFA WR's to make it for the first game at least.

RCPackerFan's picture

I think there will be a few players that might have a chance at making the 53 as an UDFA. Here are a few guys that might have the best chances.

Johnathan Calvin is a guy to watch for. Outside of drafting Biegel (who we still don't know the status of), they didn't bring anyone else at OLB. Also OLB has been a position that they have kept UDFA's in the past.

Geoff Gray as an interior OL might make it based on the depth of the position. If he stands out he could earn a backup role.

Cody Heiman is intriguing. ILB with pure ILB is thin. While they have Mathews, Burnett and Jones who will play there in some way, they are still thin at the position.

William Stanback/Kalif Phillips. They drafted 3 RB's, and brought in these 2 UDFA's. I would say Williams for sure is safe and Jones has the upper hand on everyone else. But if either UDFA stands out they could earn a roster spot.

While it will be a long shot for them to make it. If any of the UDFA WR's really plays well they could earn a spot at least on the opening day 53. With Allison's one game suspension, that could create a spot. I don't foresee this happening but not ruling it out either.

Handsback's picture

I think we often look at the potential Packer roster with an eye to who may be really secure and who might not be that secure. I think the TT/MM combo looks at it from a standpoint of who will help them win games. As an example, everyone assumes Gunter will have a place on the roster. In reality, he may not make it if Waters shows off some real ball hawking ability, and the R twins come back to form. Gunter is limited by his speed and that can't be helped. Taylor is assumed to be one of the locks on the Oline, what if the rookie from South Florida shows he can handle it and has better upside. I could see that play out and Taylor being demoted or even cut. I don't see Allison making it this year because his replacement is faster, but quite a few people have him making the roster.

I don't know, that's the beauty of see who starts to shine and make plays during the season.

Somedumbname's picture

I agree with you except for Taylor. Taylor is a good guard.

nostradanus's picture

Thanks for the insight you provide Michelle, I always enjoy your well thought out and researched articles.
Of course strange and unexpected things usually pop up each training camp. Last years release of Josh Sitton, the previous year when Tim Masthay was released and Schum was signed, injuries that were kept under the radar (Corey Linsley) last pre-season and of course the un-drafted gem that was head & shoulders above the others (Sam Shields) and last year (Kentrell Brice). This is what makes every training camp a must see and personally one of my favorite parts of the season, the building of the final 53 that hopefully will take the Green and gold to the Super Bowl. The Packers wisely use their practice team as an extension of their roster and it has sure paid dividends over the years. I believe that "special teams" will be the deciding factor on most of the positions that are open at the tail end of the roster as per usual. This August I will be driving up from Virginia to take in some Packer practice so I can get a good look at the new talent, the veterans and of course to visit our beloved Lambeau!
My personal "Dark Horse Sleepers" for this years 53 and/or practice team:
CB Lenzy Pipkins, G/T Adam Pankey, TE Aaron Peck and LB Johnathan Calvin who seems to be a favorite among we who like to comment from the peanut gallery. Very excited and optimistic for the 2017/18 season/post season.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I think a few guys who have been with the team for years are in serious danger:

1. Gunter: We have faster young CB's whose technique could improve, thus sending Gunter packing.

2. Richard Rodgers: A 3rd TE who is worthless on special teams, weak at fullback, doesn't block well, doesn't stretch the field, and offers no developmental potential? Dear Lord.

3. Geronimo Allison: A natural receiver, but limited athletically and poor on special teams. Not good for a guy facing a 1-game suspension for off-field stupidity, not to mention a loaded WR depth chart. Buh-bye.

4. Letroy Guion: Well, duh.

5. Rollins: I think he bounces back and makes the team, but he's no lock. Like Gunter, he's facing some hungry young athletes gunning for his job.

6. Janis: Should stay for special teams--that unit is already terrible without losing its top gunner--but Janis MUST solidify his route-running to lock in a spot.

7. Goodson: Please.

8. Joe Thomas: Solid player, but he seems maxed out athletically. Someone like Cody Heiman or Jordan Tripp could surprise.

9. Ringo: His battle with Price and Adams will be a nail-biter.

10. Barclay: Love his flexibilty, but Patrick and Amichia would love his job.

dobber's picture

I agree on Allison. The coaching staff seems to like him (which seems to go a long way on this team...ahem, Don Barclay), but I don't think he's really anything special or anything that they couldn't get from someone else in the WR room. I think Gunter would need to be pretty poor--and there would need to be some outstanding play from guys behind him on the depth chart--for him not to make the team, but all that he really brings is length and a short memory.

"5. Rollins..."

I don't know if he could play badly enough in limited snaps in the PS to get cut. IMO, would have to knock over a liquor store to not make the team.

"6. Janis....but Janis MUST solidify his route-running to lock in a spot."

If Janis solidifies his route-running, he could be the 4th WR. He hasn't done it, yet, but it could happen. At this point, he's one of the best 5th/6th WR in the league...based almost exclusively on the value he brings on ST.

"7. Goodson..."

Is he even running, yet? His injury came mid-season, but could end up on the PUP if he's not running/cutting. A decision might not need to be made on him til mid-season, and if I were the Packers, I'd like to keep it that way.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Good points.

PUP could rescue Goodson for now. Allison has produced, but his upside isn't so massive that he's safe in a deep group.

We need Janis PLUS another 4 or 5 quality gunners/blockers on this awful special teams unit, so he's tougher to cut than some people think.

I agree Rollins should stick. I just can't lock him in yet--not until I see how these other young guys develop in camp.

4zone's picture

I wonder how Janis would do at Safety? He has speed and can tackle... just wonderin

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Well, since change of direction is his weakness and safety is our strongest non-QB position, I don't see it.

dobber's picture

Janis? Virtually all his test numbers (from the combine) are on the high end. 3.98 20-yd shuttle, 6.64 3-cone: COD doesn't test as his problem, unless the COD you're referring to is the COD between the ears...and even then, I think his Wonderlic score was pretty high. I just don't think he processes at NFL speed.

The scary thing is, if you take his Combine numbers, they're almost identical to...JULIO JONES. This is what gets us and why we keep wondering "what if?" with this guy...still, for a 7th rounder to be an elite gunner in the league, it's not too shabby. He just teases us with what he could have been.

Julio Jones:

Jeff Janis:

snowdog's picture

Needless to say,I'm stoked .
" He has speed and can tackle."
But can he back peddle .... ? Lol
I'm stoked !

Since '61's picture

I look at this by position group. Opportunities exist for UDFAs at WR but I think that our 2 draft picks are as good as any UDFAs. If the Packers keep 7 WRs they may be a chance for a UDFA. TE should provide a good shot because R. Rodgers does not add much to the 53. There is always a shot on the OL because one or two returning players is likely to be nicked up during the preseason. After Monty and Rip, RB/FB is pretty wide open especially if MM decides to keep 5 RBs. QB is set with Rodgers and Hundley. On defense there are opportunities at ILB, OLB and CB. We should chuck Gunther and Goodson and just make room now at CB. DL may provide a spot if we chuck Guion (which we should) and if Ringo shows nothing as usual. Keep the guys who improve the team and hope that injuries don't mess up the whole scheme. Thanks, Since '61

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Agreed on everything. I would add that a 3rd QB will likely be kept for development because Hundley will be worth too much in trade to keep after this season.

For the sake of TE development, FB depth, and special teams, I would be THRILLED to see Beau Sandland beat out Richard Rodgers.

dobber's picture

Yeah, I'm not seeing much point in keeping RRod around at this point aside from the fact that he catches the ball. He's still cheap so I think he sticks.

If he were cut, I think he lands on someone else's (ahem: Vikings) roster.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

RR isn't cheap but he's not expensive either. His cap is $1.92M and cap savings is $1.8M. I've always written that he is a decent #3 TE, which is his current position. Sandland would simply have to outplay RR. I think (despite being the chief RR-hater on this site!) that RR is fairly safe. He has proven that he can do some things at an NFL level. I will be watching Sandland closely, mostly because I am cheap.

4zone's picture

I would only keep 6 WRs this year. With our new TEs we have more than enough passing weapons. Maybe keep 3 HBs instead. Seems we go through enough of them every year.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

Kendricks and Sandland are ideal H-Backs, so keeping them with Bennett would be ideal.

CheesyTex's picture

Looks like 3 to me (or 4 if Vogel is punter -- Masthay back?).

Gray, Heiman, Stanback.

Colin_C's picture

I'm pretty confident at least one of the new UDFA's makes it. William Stanback is "my guy" to make the 53. I think he's gonna beat Mays out for that 4th RB spot. Speed-wise he's on par with Mays, but his agility is much better. It's really hard to find film on him (other than when he obliterated a Rutger's CB), but here are a few plays of his before his dismal from C. Florida:
It's just a gut feeling, but something about his running style seems already pro-like. I'm excited to see him in the preseason.

PatrickGB's picture

Its a great crop of UDFA's in GB. But TT like to hold on the draft picks over them. Other teams do the same. Yet many UDFA's still make this team. They often prefer to come to GB over other clubs because they know they get a fair shot in GB. I pick Max because I like his name, measurable's and bloodline. I have no clue about the others and prefer to wait and see the camp and preseason in order to decide.

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