You Can't Keep Everybody

Who makes room for the draftees?

You’ve heard the old saying.  The one that goes “NFL stands for Not For Long”.  It’s a bit of a cliche’ but it has never been more accurate.  It is especially applicable to the Green Bay Packers, whose movement to become the youngest roster in the league has resulted in mind boggling turnover. 

Of the 22 offensive and defensive starters from the 2021 season, just six remain on the team.  Only two of them on offense, those being Elgton Jenkins and Royce Newman.  Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Marcedes Lewis, Jon Runyan, Lucas Patrick and Billy Turner, all starters just two seasons ago, have departed. 

On defense there are four who still wear the green and gold, Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, Eric Stokes and Rashan Gary.  All the other starters are gone, including Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, Krys Barnes, De’Vondre Campbell, Rasul Douglas, Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. 

On special teams, the 2021 kicker (Mason Crosby), Punter (Corey Bojorquez) and long snapper (Hunter Bradley) are all elsewhere.  Even if you go one year later, to the 2022 team, just ten of 22 starters remain, four on offense and six on defense. 

As we approach the 2024 draft, now less than one week away, there is every reason to believe the sweeping roster turnover will continue.  The Packers have a recent history of preferring to keep newly drafted players over borderline veterans, and with eleven picks to make, the team will have to release some familiar names to make room come cutdown time in late August.  The expanded practice squad gives the Packers a little more flexibility, but come the start of the season, you can't keep everybody.  Which veterans may be most vulnerable?  Here are a few possibilities: 

Eric Stokes 

Green Bay is likely to draft at least one, if not multiple cornerbacks.  Several mocks have the Pack taking a corner as early as first round.  Combine that with the fact that Carrington Valentine and Corey Ballantine have shown they can play, and even start in this league.  Jaire Alexander is, of course, going to be one of the starters.  Gemon Green has been signed as a free agent and the Packers like Robert Rochelle as a special teams guy.  Toss in a highly touted rookie or two and Stokes could be the odd man out. 

He lost nearly all of the 2023 season to injuries and his 2022 season was a steep dropoff from his promising rookie campaign.  His dead money cap hit would be $3.7 million.  Because Stokes is a former first round pick, he will get every opportunity to reclaim his spot on the roster, but he’s in for a fight. 

Anthony Johnson Jr.

Second year safety played a lot of snaps last season because of injuries to Darnell Savage and Rudy Ford.  He often struggled to finish tackles and was late to the ball in coverage.  The Packers have already signed free agent Xavier McKinney as the top safety starter and figure to address the position multiple times in the draft.  Benny Sapp and Tyler Coyle are special team preferences.  As a former seventh round pick, Johnson does not have the draft capital invested in him as other veterans. 

Jonathan Ford 

The seventh round selection from 2022 was a healthy scratch in all seventeen games during his rookie year.  He made the defensive line rotation last season, but stood back on the depth chart behind starters Kenny Clark, TJ Slaton and Devonte Wyatt, as well as newly drafted rookies Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks. 

Royce Newman 

After starting all sixteen games at guard as a rookie in 2021, Newman has steadily slid down the depth chart ever since.  He was surpassed by Runyan, Zach Tom, and Sean Rhyan, and now appears vulnerable to any highly drafted rookie.  The coming draft is heavy on tackles who project as guards in the NFL.  That is not good news for this veteran out of Ole Miss. 

Samori Toure 

He started out as a member of the terrific trio of drafted receivers in 2022, along with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.  But Brian Gutekunst continued to bring in receivers and Toure saw fewer and fewer snaps and targets.  With a unit that now also features Dontayvion Wicks, Jayden Reed, Malik Heath and Bo Melton, all of whom have proven productive, it’s difficult to see a spot on the final roster for the former seventh rounder out of Nebraska.  It’s another receiver-heavy draft this year, and the team may well add more pass catchers to the room. 

AJ Dillon

The popular running back returned to Green Bay on an extremely team-friendly deal and will not be handed a roster spot.  While it is not thought to be a great year for running backs in this draft, it is certainly not unusual to find good ball carriers in late rounds.  Aaron Jones was a fifth round pick.  The Packers figure to draft multiple backs, likely on day three, and combined with Emanuel Wilson, will give Dillon plenty of competition.  

You probably have your own thoughts as to other candidates for the grim reaper.  I am not predicting with any certainty that any or all of these players will be cut.  No one can predict injuries or sudden improvement.  I’m merely pointing out that, as things stand now, they look vulnerable.  And likely even more so after the draft. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Leatherhead's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:24 pm

We have ample room on the 53 for a half-dozen rookies, or more.

Love, Clifford,
Jones, Dillon
Watson, Doubs, Reed, Wicks, Melton.
Musgrave, Kraft
Walker, Jenkins, Myers, Rhyan, Tom, Dillard

That leaves room for 8 guys on offense alone.

On defense, it's about the same story.

Now, that's the 53. The active gameday roster of 45 is a little tighter, but I'd still expect a half-dozen rookies to be active on gameday,

If you have too many good players, you can always work a trade. I'm not worried about that.

SSSSSSSSSSS

Dillon and Stokes will both make the team. The others....I'm not sure.

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Cheezehead72's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:46 pm

Its not just the 53 but it is the 69 with the 16 PS players. The NFL has made it easy for them to keep 69.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 19, 2024 at 03:46 pm

True. I usually tend to focus on the 45 guys who are going to play, but it is a 69 man team, and there is some movement. We had some guys last year who spent time on the practice squad and who got elevated. Scott Wells, back in the day, was another. Didn't Lazard start on the PS?

There is room on defense for a Safety or two, and a linebacker or two. On offense, we could surely find room to add at least 3 to the line. Beyond that, I think we're probably drafting guys hoping we can put them on the PS.

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Oppy's picture

April 20, 2024 at 01:33 am

The NFL has made it possible for the Packers to keep 69 with 16 practice squad players, but I wouldn't say the NFL has made it easy.

Consider that if you've got players with talent you're trying to stash away on practice squad, the reality is you have to cut those players, and before they can be placed on your PS, you expose them to the waiver wire where any team in the league that wants to sign them to their active roster has the right to do so.

If your players clear the waiver wire, only then do they get placed on your practice squad.. where any team in the league can make an offer to them to sign on to their active roster.

Practice squad rosters are extremely vulnerable.

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TKWorldWide's picture

April 19, 2024 at 08:28 pm

Looks like you’re having trouble parting with Aaron Jones at RB. 😉

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splitpea1's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:28 pm

The top candidate is Newman, and it's kind of amazing he's lasted this long. Next in line might be Toure and J. Ford--I am a little surprised the latter hasn't even gotten a call-up; if the Packers take a DL relatively high, he's on the chopping block.

They won't give up on Stokes just yet without getting another look.

Johnson, Jr. is a coin flip.

Dillon probably makes the team unless a polished rookie comes in and absolutely dazzles.

Cox, Jr. : With Enagbare out, he might be able to hang in there.

Ryhan: Not a cut candidate, but it will be interesting to see where he lands on the depth chart.

Carlson: He'd better outshine the competition....

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Cheezehead72's picture

April 19, 2024 at 02:19 pm

I see Carlson being dropped and picked up on the PS if he does not beat out the competition.

I believe Toure is out if they draft a WR in the first 5 rounds.

They will give Stokes every opportunity and yes I think he will make it just by numbers.

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:28 pm

Ford is interesting not only for the reasons you state, but because it’s a whole new D in which there’s some debate as to how well his type fits. We don’t know the answer to that on top of how talented he is.

One of the fun things about the summer is the potential for the player out of nowhere. Perhaps a player who suddenly gets it—for whom the light just turns on—and upsets expectations completely. Another is the camp body/retread SFA who turns out to be much more—the Sam Shields effect or Valentine (a 7th round flier).

Perhaps there’s an ILB or a guy like Rochelle who is more than a STer at best, let alone a Ford or Jones we at least know the name of. The fun is yet to start. The next step is maximizing the ammunition.

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dblbogey's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:30 pm

If Royce Newman is still in the league in '24 I'll be surprised.

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stockholder's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:33 pm

It all depends what they draft-

If they draft that position -
Why would they want to stay?

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jannes bjornson's picture

April 19, 2024 at 05:01 pm

They all compete for the Paycheck, it's not about feelings.

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GregC's picture

April 19, 2024 at 12:37 pm

This list makes sense. The only additions I can make are the kicker and the long-snapper. I wouldn't be surprised if they moved on from their punter as well.

Even with Jonathan Ford likely gone (I never counted him anyway), there is a logjam at DT with the switch to the 4-3, as they have five players there: Kenny Clark, Devonte Wyatt, T.J. Slaton, Karl Brooks, and Colby Wooden. If the Packers get a shot at a DT that they can't pass up in the draft, something will have to give. But maybe they could move Brooks and/or Wooden to DE.

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:31 pm

I’m not sure that those are all DTs. Wyatt and Wooden particularly.

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GregC's picture

April 19, 2024 at 06:15 pm

I guess we won't really know until training camp starts, and even after that, things might change. Wyatt is 6'3" and is listed at 304 pounds, and he played DT in college. I would be surprised if the Packers put him at DE. Wooden is the lighter one, at only 273. I was surprised when I looked up Brooks just now, and he's listed at 296 pounds. He's so quick that I assumed he was lighter.

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

April 19, 2024 at 01:17 pm

I don't think they give up on a first rounder like Stokes before his rookie deal is done. Particularly when he showed such promise as a rookie. There will always be a player or two out on IR for the year, or at least to start the season. I would think Newman is done if any of the rookies they bring in on the interior offensive line show any potential. The safety Anthony Johnson could well be gone, or be on the practice squad, as could Zayne Anderson. Brenton Cox might not make the final roster, depending on how they draft for the edge.

I doubt they let Dillon go when he's really the only back experienced in this offense, and they need guys who know the protections. It will take a rookie some time to learn the offense.

There will be plenty of churn on the roster of non-starting players, and they have already lost a bunch of guys from last year's squad. So there will be room to add some rookies and even an UDFA. Probably not 11 draft picks, but I doubt GB drafts 11 players. I think they go more for quality than quantity in this draft.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 19, 2024 at 03:53 pm

Didn't Philadelphia give up on Lillard, a first round pick, before his rookie season is over? How long did we hang onto Justin Harrell and Derrick Sherrod? (we dumped them after 3 years, because in part, they were chronically injured) Just saying, Stokes has to win a job in training camp, and if he can't, he might not be back.

I agree with you that Dillon isn't going anywhere. They paid him to stay for a reason.

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:45 pm

Dillon’s contract strongly suggests there was no significant interest. That said, he’s only going to be cut if a new RB proves to be a clearly better and more consistent protector. Dillon is back because there is no other truly proven protector on the roster and it’s very unlikely a rookie will prove himself enough for LaFleur.

He’s at worst Taylor last year and LaFleur wanted him active consistently when he didn’t have both Dillon and Jones, despite the lack of offensive use made of him.

I doubt we could get much for Newman unless Newman us reborn this summer. You never know, but he’s never been adequate at any position as a starter or really as a back up. We may see if they draft a few OL. We might get a team willing to swap a similar player for the hope of a new start changing things or a conditional 7th next year.

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:51 pm

If Stokes can’t physically perform then perhaps, but there’s little incentive to cut him unless there’s better depth than he is. That seems unlikely if he’s healthy, even if we draft a CB.

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CanPackFan's picture

April 19, 2024 at 02:17 pm

I do not think Stokes should be back. He is just Kevin King 2.0. Good rookie season, poorer seasons follow and rarely plays due to injury. Lets face it - Many first round picks just don't make it. After watching money lost on Bakh for 3 seasons, why repeat expensive mistakes?

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:37 pm

If Barry were still here with his off coverage then perhaps. However, it looks like Hafley will be playing a lot more press and more man. Exactly what Stokes was drafted for and did well at as a rookie. If he’s recovered his health and athleticism, why on earth would you even contemplate not seeing if he can play in such a system? He’s on a rookie contract.

In 2024, Stokes will earn a base salary of $2,286,208, while carrying a cap hit of $3,794,485 and a dead cap value of $2,651,381.

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golfpacker1's picture

April 19, 2024 at 03:21 pm

Isn't Stokes money completely guaranteed this year? Does he even have any trade value at this point after missing the last 2 seasons? He will be on the team and I hope he makes a big comeback. Without that the 5th year extension is a no brainer NO.

I have read that Newman would have trade value and several teams had interest in Dillon before we signed him so there could be a 7th & 6th rounder we could get back. GB will draft a RB that should get snaps before Dillon and Wilson has looked good enough to be kept over Dillon. Half the reason they signed him was because he did have trade value.

It's a tough deal for young guys like Johnson, Toure, and Ford because they have had almost no chance to prove themselves.

Brenton Cox is a guy I think will have the opportunity to have a breakout year. That would be a bonus.

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Leatherhead's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:00 pm

Stokes has a salary of about $2.3M. Adding in $1.5 in pro-rated signing bonus, which he gets regardless, and his total cap hit is under $4M. If he doesn't make the team, he doesn't get the $2.3M. There are no financial considerations that would preclude GB releasing him.

We dress 5 corners, right now it'd be Alexander, Nixon, Valentine and Ballentine. We'll probably add some guys in the draft. IMO, Stokes is going to have to win a spot in training camp. IF we spend a premium pick on a CB, it's going to be sink or swim time for Stokes.

Newman has trade value? Maybe. I mean, the Jets picked up Bostick after we cut him, so I guess everybody has value. We could cut Newman and Stokes loose and spend that money on a player who could help. There are FAs out there yet.

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Coldworld's picture

April 19, 2024 at 04:08 pm

We have a 91 man roster due to the pathway exemption. We have 72 signed and on the roster after last night as far as I can tell. Does anyone know better? That means, if correct, that at last count we have 19 vacant roster spots and 11 picks. I don’t see any issue accommodating them or the 8 UDFAs/cuts that likely fill up the roster.

After that it should be a fair and straight fight, especially in the back end. Gute will no doubt churn during the summer again too. The aim is to get better. Some, like Newman are going to (or should) need a revelatory improvement, but if others are out played clearly, we win, just as we do if the challengers are thoroughly beaten out. Let’s let play not reputation decide the outcome.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

April 19, 2024 at 05:15 pm

Reputation but also the outdated concept that the guy is a veteran so we have to stick with him. Think McCarthy and MLF early in his career. What Gutey (and MLF) did this last season was amazing and what I have wanted for some time. Get the young guys in there and give them experience. Swim or sink but let's see what we have in you for us to assess and plan for the upcoming draft and FA. Even the rotation of Rhyan was awesome in identifying whether he is going to be starter material or not. The Packers did exactly what they needed to do and going into FA and this draft there are no surprises and they know who they want at the necessary positions to make this team better.

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Bitternotsour's picture

April 19, 2024 at 06:04 pm

McCarthy churned the roster at a 25+ % rate every year. Other than perhaps taking too long to get Desmond Bishop in the lineup, you are going to have trouble naming someone who should have been playing and wasn't playing.

Let's stop with the lazy narratives and deal with what really happens around here.

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