Packers Rumors

Biggest Roster Weakness: NFC North

The 2019 regular season is right around the corner, but every NFL team still has at least one position on its roster that could use improvement. And there’s still plenty of time to address those areas of need! Free agents are readily available on the open market, while preseason trades provide another avenue of player procurement. 19 NFL trades were executed between August 1st and September 1st of 2018, and that number could increase this year.

Let’s take a look at the weakest positional group — and a potential solution — for each NFL club. Today we’ll examine the NFC North:

Chicago Bears

  • Weakness: Kicker. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Cody Parkey finished third-to-last in the NFL with a 76.7% conversion rate in 2018 and had a game-winning kick blocked in the final seconds of the Bears’ Wild Card round loss to the Eagles. Chicago took on more than $5MM in dead money to part ways with Parkey earlier this year, and after the Bears waived Elliot Fry on Sunday, Eddy Pineiro is the only kicker remaining on the club’s roster.
  • Solution: Wait for a kicker to get cut or sign Matt Bryant. The Bears were reportedly in on ex-Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik before the Vikings acquired him for a fifth-round pick, so Chicago is definitely attempting to upgrade its special teams unit. Carolina, for one, has a kicking situation to monitor: veteran Graham Gano can’t get healthy, leaving the door open for Joey Slye to go five-for-five in the preseason. The Bears could target either one of the Panthers’ kickers via trade, or hope that another veteran like Dan Bailey — who could be pushed out of Minnesota by Vedvik — is released. Meanwhile, the 44-year-old Bryant, who converted 95% of his kicks in 2018 (including four-of-five from 50+ yards), is still available on the open market.

Detroit Lions

  • Weakness: Offensive guard. Despite having something of a middling overall roster, the Lions don’t have a ton of true weak areas. Cornerback help could potentially be a focal point, but Detroit might need reinforcements at guard, where none of Graham Glasgow, Kenny Wiggins, or Joe Dahl are all that inspiring. The Lions are expected to use a run-heavy game plan in 2018, and supplementing the middle of their offensive line could help them improve from a No. 20 ranking in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted line yards.
  • Solution: Trade for Joshua Garnett. Like Burns, Garnett is a 2016 first-rounder who hasn’t exactly worked out thus far. The 49ers have already declined Garnett’s fifth-year option for 2020, and he’s not expected to start at guard ahead of Mike Person or Laken Tomlinson. Now 25 years old, Garnett missed the entire 2017 campaign with a knee injury and saw action in only seven games last year as a reserve, but he’s now thought to be fully healthy. The former Stanford Cardinal shouldn’t cost much more than a late-round pick to acquire.

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

  • Weakness: Defensive tackle. Minnesota suffered a substantial loss to its defensive line when it failed to re-sign Sheldon Richardson, whom Pro Football Focus graded as the NFL’s No. 47 interior defender in 2018. To fill the void left by Richardson, the Vikings have reunited with Shamar Stephen, who finished as a bottom-20 defensive tackle in PFF’s rankings. While they have a few recent mid-round picks in reserve (Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes), the Vikings could look to bring in a veteran to pair with starter Linval Joseph.
  • Solution: Sign Corey Liuget. The 2018 season couldn’t have gone much worse for Liuget, as a suspension, pay cut, and season-ending knee injury littered what became a lost campaign. Cut by the Chargers in February, Liguet has since met with the Giants, Seahawks, Jaguars, and Cardinals but has failed to land a new deal. Always a solid run defender, Liuget could also give the Vikings an interior pass-rush boost.

More from this series:

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/19/19

Here are Monday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day.

Chicago Bears

Green Bay Packers

  • Released from IR via injury settlement: LB Kendall Donnerson

Houston Texans

Philadelphia Eagles

Tennessee Titans

Former NFL RB Cedric Benson Passes Away At 36

Former NFL running back Cedric Benson was killed in a motorcycle crash on Saturday, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (citing reports from multiple outlets). Benson’s passenger was also killed, and two others were injured. Benson was just 36.

After a stellar collegiate career at Texas — he rushed for over 1,000 yards in all four years with the Longhorns, including an 1,834-yard effort in his senior season — Benson was selected by the Bears in the first round (No. 4 overall) of the 2005 draft. As Biggs reminds us, Chicago already had Thomas Jones on the roster when Benson was drafted, so the latter’s career never really took off in the Windy City.

The Bears traded Jones to the Jets in 2007, but Benson struggled in his first year as the Bears’ No. 1 RB, and he was cut in June 2008 after his second alcohol-related arrest in five weeks. He was not indicted on either incident, though, and he caught on with the Bengals in September 2008. He posted 747 yards on 214 totes for a mediocre 3.5 YPC in his first year in Cincy before finally showing off his first-round credentials in 2009. From 2009-11, Benson averaged 1,143 rushing yards and over six touchdowns per season.

He signed with the Packers in August 2012 but played in only five games for Green Bay before suffering a foot injury that landed him on IR. That would be his last year in the NFL, and he ended his career with 6,017 rushing yards and 32 TDs on 1,600 carries to go along with 833 receiving yards and a receiving score.

Benson also dealt with legal troubles stemming from DUI/DWI arrests over the past couple of years, though it is presently unclear whether the accident that claimed his life was alcohol-related.

We at PFR offer our condolences to Benson’s friends and family, as well as to the friends and family of his passenger.

Packers LB Oren Burks Won’t Require Surgery

Good news in Green Bay. Packers linebacker Oren Burks won’t require surgery after suffering a pectoral injury last weekend and could potentially return during the 2019 season, according to Tom Silverstein and Ryan Wood of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Burks originally thought he’d be forced to undergo an operation after injuring his pectoral during Green Bay’s first preseason game, but a second opinion revealed the issue is less serious than the initial diagnosis suggested. However, Burks did hyperextend his pectoral muscle, meaning he’s now waiting for a soft tissue injury to heal.

“I’m really hoping that Oren’s thing is going to be short term,” Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “We’ll get him back here quicker than I think, but right now, I’d just kind of like to get through this next game and kind of see where we’re at, see where Oren’s at.”

Gutenkunst didn’t provide a timeline for Burks’ recovery, but did indicate Green Bay won’t look into signing a free agent replacement. Instead, the Packers are giving undrafted rookie free agent Curtis Bolton a chance to replace Burks as the club’s weakside linebacker.

Burks, a third-round pick in 2018, appeared in 14 games during his rookie season but spent most of his time on special teams. He was expected to take over as a starting linebacker for the Packers this year, but as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com recently noted, that “starting” job could essentially be a part-time role given defensive coordinator Mike Pettine‘s for “big nickel” and dime looks that employ a third or fourth defensive back at the expense of a linebacker.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/13/19

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the night.

Baltimore Ravens

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Waived: TE Nick Truesdell

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/12/19

Here are Monday’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Signed: DE Thomas Costigan
  • Waived/injured: TE Andrew Vollert

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

Packers Also Pursued Kaare Vedvik

It appears three NFC North teams discussed a Kaare Vedvik trade with the Ravens. While the Vikings ended up winning the pursuit, and the Bears were an obvious candidate to acquire a kicker, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press tweets the Packers were also in the mix.

Green Bay is set for a 13th Mason Crosby season, but Vedvik has multiple roles. The Packers have used four punters in the past four seasons, with a different one — Tim Masthay, Jake Schum, Justin Vogel, J.K. Scott — spending a full season in that role. A 2018 fifth-round pick, Scott remains in place as the Packers’ punter. It would have obviously been curious to see the Packers trade a Day 3 choice for another punter.

Crosby, though, has one season (at $4.85MM) remaining on his contract. The career-long Packer made 30 of 37 field goal tries last season; four of those misses came on a rough day in Detroit. The soon-to-be 35-year-old kicker made 5 of 7 of his 50-plus-yard attempts in 2018.

The Vikings sent a fifth-round pick to the Ravens for Vedvik, a Norwegian-born specialist who kicked and punted at Marshall. Vedvik’s time as the Thundering Herd’s punter lasted longer than his stay as their kicker, and John Harbaugh used him in both capacities in the Ravens’ preseason opener last week. It remains unclear how the Vikings will deploy Vedvik.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/11/19

Here are Sunday’s minor moves, with the list being updated throughout the day.

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

  • Signed: WR Deontez Alexander
  • Waived/injured: LB Tre Lamar

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Oakland Raiders

Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Redskins

Torn Pec Feared For Packers LB Oren Burks

Packers starting linebacker Oren Burks is believed to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky writes. More tests are expected to determine the next course of action, Demovsky hears. 

The second-year linebacker sustained the injury, originally believed to be a shoulder injury, in the first quarter of Green Bay’s preseason opener vs. the Texans. When asked on Thursday, Packers coach Matt LaFleur did not provide an update on whether the injury would cost the linebacker significant time.

“Honestly, I don’t really know anything right now,” LaFleur said. “It’s kind of wait and see, but I hope not.”

A third-round selection in 2018, Burks appeared in 14 games as a rookie, starting four. He logged 24 tackles and was expected to take over as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez in 2019. Though Burks was slated as a starter, it is essentially a part-time role in defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme, which calls for a hybrid safety at times to fill the role.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/8/19

Today’s minor moves:

Chicago Bears

  • Signed: WR Joe Walker
  • Waived/injured: DB Josh Simmons

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Signed: CB Trevon Mathis
  • Waived/injured: RB Ralph Webb

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Signed: OL Salesi Uhatafe
  • Placed on injured reserve: S D’Cota Dixon