Will the Packers draft a defensive lineman or two in the upcoming NFL Draft? Or will they re-sign veterans, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly?
Heading into the offseason one of the questions surrounding the Green Bay Packers is what they would do about their defensive line. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly were all free agents. They’ve re-signed B.J. Raji to a one year deal and are moving him back to the nose tackle position. Pickett and Jolly are still free agents, and have drawn little to no interest on the open market. Thompson also went out and signed Julius Peppers, who will see time at defensive end, as well as playing the “elephant” position. He also signed Letroy Guion who gives the team solid depth up front.
Ted Thompson now faces a difficult question. Does he draft a defensive lineman to get younger and more athletic on the line; or does he re-sign Johnny Jolly or Ryan Pickett or does he re-sign both? The Packers already have youth up front with Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy and Josh Boyd. Will Thompson add more youth or will he opt to bring back the veterans?
The Packers have a lot of youth on the defensive line. They need to find out what they have in Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy and Josh Boyd. The average age of the defensive lineman (including Julius Peppers) is 26. They could stand to add more veteran leadership by re-signing either Ryan Pickett or Johnny Jolly or both. Re-signing Pickettt and Jolly to one year deals could help the growth of the young lineman.
Ryan Pickett started the season strong, but, started to show his age as the season wore on. He arguably had the best game of the season in the playoff loss to the 49ers as he recorded a season high five tackles. It’s obvious that Pickett’s better days are behind him, but, he could be re-signed to a one year deal for the veteran’s minimum. Bringing back Pickett to serve as a veteran leader and a rotational player would be a wise move by Thompson. Pickett has shown that he can still provide an impact in short bursts. Limiting his snaps, while serving as a mentor to the young players could be a match made in heaven for both sides.
Johnny Jolly is the complete opposite of Ryan Pickett. He is coming off a neck injury that’s not believed to be too serious. If it were not for the neck injury, Jolly would have likely been re-signed already. Playing in his first season since 2009, Jolly showed flashes of being the run stuffing defensive lineman that made him a fan favorite in his previous stint with the Packers. Jolly brings an attitude and energy to the defensive line that was clearly missed down the stretch.
Even if Jolly is cleared its possible Thompson decides to ignore both veterans and add another young piece to the defensive line. Thompson’s track record doesn’t bode well for Pickett and Jolly, as he’s shown a history of letting his veteran free agents walk while adding young pieces to replace them. Throw in the fact that Pickett was a nonfactor down the stretch run until the playoff loss and Jolly’s neck injury and Packer fans could be looking at an entirely different looking defensive line in the 2014 season.
If Johnny Jolly is cleared, look for him to be re-signed to a one year deal. Jolly showed that he can still play at a high level when healthy. Thompson will look to add a young lineman via the draft, likely a nose tackle. Raji is back on a one year deal and the only other nose tackle on the current roster is Josh Boyd. If Thompson is unable to find a nose tackle in the draft than it’s highly possible that Pickett is brought back for the veteran minimum. With Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, Letroy Guion, Jerel Worthy and Julius Peppers, the Packers appear set at the defensive end spot, especially if they bring Jolly back.
Nose Tackle-B.J. Raji, Josh Boyd, draftee
DE-Daniels, Peppers, Jones, Jolly, Worthy, Guion
Side note-Peppers will spend the majority of his time at the elephant/linebacker position, but, will see time at the end position in the base 3-4.
What do you think the Packers will do with the defensive line? Leave a comment or hit me on Twitter @brennen_rupp