Eric Stokes

CB Eric Stokes Has Path Back To Packers’ Starting Lineup

An inability to count on Eric Stokes led the Packers to decline the cornerback’s fifth-year option last month. The team has seen injuries sidetrack the 2021 draftee’s career, bringing about a contract year.

Stokes was not viewed as a starter going into training camp last year, despite having worked in that capacity — when healthy — for most of his first two seasons. The Packers had Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon working as their Jaire Alexander sidekicks at that point. Douglas is now in Buffalo, and Green Bay did not make a significant offseason addition to address its other boundary CB spot. This reopens the door for Stokes, provided he can stay healthy.

Injuries have defined Stokes’ NFL career, but he may well be the clubhouse leader to start opposite Alexander in Week 1. Stokes sits as the Packers’ current No. 2 cornerback starter, per The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman, with’s Rob Demovsky also noting the fourth-year defender is firmly in the mix to reclaim a starting job.

Stokes stayed healthy throughout the offseason program, Demovsky adds, though his past will undoubtedly make CB insurance important in Green Bay. The Georgia alum suffered a Lisfranc injury and sustained meniscus damage in November 2022, ending his second season and requiring multiple surgeries. Stokes attributed his persistent hamstring trouble — which led to two IR placements last season — to overcompensation following the foot injury.

Certainly eyeing a long-term Stokes run as a first-stringer when they drafted him 29th overall in 2021, the Packers used the 6-foot defender as a 23-game starter from 2021-22. Showcasing elite speed (via a 4.25-second 40-yard dash time) at the Combine, Stokes fared well in Alexander’s place. After Alexander’s season-altering shoulder injury moved Stokes into the lineup on a full-time basis, the younger CB allowed only a 49.5% completion rate and a 71.3 passer rating as the closest defender in 2021. Pro Football Focus slotted Stokes 45th among corners that year. PFF did not see Stokes flash the same form in 2022, ranking him 105th among CB regulars. Stokes’ three-game 2023 season can effectively be written off, but it did lead to relevant reps for the other player vying to land the CB2 role.

A 2023 seventh-round pick, Carrington Valentine started 12 games last season and was in Green Bay’s lineup during both playoff contests. PFF ranked Valentine 90th among cornerback regulars last year, however. Alexander also missed time due to injury last season, opening the door for a Valentine-Corey Ballentine combo. Ballentine, a 2019 Giants UDFA, remains on the Packers’ roster, though Schneidman adds a Stokes-Valentine competition will likely decide the starting job opposite Alexander. The loser will supply depth, with the Pack also using a seventh-round pick in a corner (Penn State’s Kalen King) this year.

The Packers shut down Alexander trade rumors after his inconsistent season, keeping his CB-record contract (four years, $84MM) on the payroll. Stokes looms as a bit of a wild card for the team, which has some long-term questions at the position. But he can enhance his value considerably with a solid 2024 season. The Packers hold exclusive negotiating rights with the now-extension-eligible cover man until March 2025.

Packers’ Eric Stokes Addresses Injury Trouble; Zach Tom, Tucker Kraft Rehabbing Pec Tears

Injuries have largely defined Eric Stokes‘ NFL career thus far. The Packers have seen their 2021 first-round pick miss 21 games over the past two seasons; the Lisfranc injury the cornerback sustained in 2022 is at the root of the availability issues.

Once Stokes recovered from his foot issue, hamstring trouble hindered him for most of last season. Stokes began the season late thanks to multiple hamstring setbacks during the summer. The Packers ended up placing the three-year veteran on IR twice — both times due to hamstring trouble. The team predictably declined the former No. 29 overall pick’s fifth-year option earlier this month.

Now in a contract year, the oft-injured starter will aim to shake the lingering injury trouble and attempt to boost his value ahead of free agency — or a potential Packers extension. Stokes, who underwent knee and foot surgeries following his midseason 2022 setback, views the 2022 foot setback as the catalyst for his ensuing health issues.

It was dealing with everything from the foot injury that I had,” Stokes said, via the Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood. “It was bouncing back from that. It’s crazy how everything is connected in your body to where if one area is weak, the other parts of your body will try to take control, or put more workload on it. So that’s what pretty much was going on. My hamstring was taking on so much workload that it pretty much kept messing up.”

Stokes, who blazed to a 4.25-second 40-yard dash clocking as a prospect in 2021, displaying starter-level form would certainly boost the Packers’ cause. Matt LaFleur said Stokes looks in his best form as a Packer. The team traded Rasul Douglas to the Bills at last year’s deadline and turned to former seventh-rounder Carrington Valentine opposite Jaire Alexander. Of course, Alexander also missed much of last season due to injury. Former Giants sixth-rounder Corey Ballentine ended up starting six games. Both former Day 3 picks are still on Green Bay’s roster.

The Packers re-signed slot corner Keisean Nixon in March but did not make a notable addition on the outside (beyond seventh-rounder Kalen King), keeping the door ajar for Stokes, who started 23 games over his first two seasons. Stokes’ health figures to be a key variable for the Packers, who have Alexander signed to the current top cornerback deal (four years, $84MM).

Elsewhere on the injury front in Green Bay, right tackle Zach Tom and tight end Tucker Kraft are rehabbing pectoral tears. Neither regular is participating in the team’s OTA sessions, but training camp returns are in play.

Tom has a better chance of being available, having suffered his tear in April. Kraft, however, sustained his pec injury less than three weeks ago. That would put the second-year pass catcher as a clear candidate to start camp on the active/PUP list. Adding to an interesting spring of chest injuries, LaFleur — per’s Bill Huber — is also rehabbing a pec tear sustained while lifting weights.

It might still be optimistic for either player to be ready in time for camp. Tom said his surgery calls for an eight- to 12-week recovery timetable. Undergoing the operation in late April, the third-year tackle said he hopes to return by “at least” mid-August. Tom showed promise last season, starting 19 games at right tackle and grading as Pro Football Focus’ No. 15 overall tackle.

The Packers moved Stokes from the active/PUP list to the reserve/PUP, which sidelines players for at least four games, last year. Tom has a clear path to keeping his RT job, even with the team’s additions of Andre Dillard and first-rounder Jordan Morgan. Kraft operated as a complementary option to Luke Musgrave during the duo’s rookie season.

Packers To Decline Fifth-Year Option On CB Eric Stokes

A second fifth-year option decision has been made today. Just like the Titans with fellow corner Caleb Farley, the Packers will set Eric Stokes up for free agency next offseason. The latter will have his option declined, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.

[RELATED: Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

Stokes was an impactful starter right away upon entering the NFL, logging 14 starts. He recorded 55 stops, 14 pass deflections and one interception that year, showcasing his potential as a long-term mainstay in the Packers’ secondary. Things have not gone according to plan on the injury front since then, however.

The 25-year-old was shut down after nine games in 2022, and in the subsequent offseason he underwent knee and foot surgeries. When healthy near the start of this past season, the Packers’ depth at corner left him outside of the starting lineup. The trade sending Rasul Douglas away at the deadline appeared to open up a first-team role once again for Stokes, but the latter wound up back on injured reserve shortly after returning to action. He finished the campaign on IR for a second time.

In all, Stokes has been limited to just 12 games across the past two years. As such, it comes as little surprise the Packers will pass on his option. Picking it up would have cost a fully-guaranteed $12.47MM in 2025, a pricey figure considering the risk of further missed time. Green Bay also has a lucrative CB commitment on the books in the form of Jaire Alexander, who is under contract through 2026.

Slot man/returner Keisean Nixon is also attached to a $6MM-per-year deal, and the Packers will wait to see how the 2024 season turns out before investing further in Stokes. The Georgia alum will compete with the likes of Corey Ballentine, Robert Rochell and seventh-round rookie Kalen King for defensive snaps in 2024. If he manages to remain healthy, a season similar to that of his rookie campaign could set Stokes up for a strong free agent market and a notable deal from Green Bay or another team. His ability to deliver on that front will be a key storyline for the team this season.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag
  • Players who achieve any of the following will receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

Packers Place CB Eric Stokes Back On IR

The 2023 season is going to be one to forget for Packers cornerback Eric Stokes. Two weeks after being activated from injured reserve, the 24-year-old out of Georgia will be headed back to IR for the remainder of the season. His 2023 season ends now after only three games played.

Stokes, a first-round pick out of Georgia two seasons ago, started out his career on a strong note. As a rookie, he missed only one game while starting 14. He put up strong numbers in pass defense, as well, recording an interception and 14 passes defensed. His sophomore season started off in a similar fashion. He started the first nine games of the season and recorded fewer stats, with quarterbacks targeting him at a much lower rate.

Unfortunately, this is when his injury troubles started. After structural damage was discovered in testing on ankle and knee injuries, Stokes was shut down for the second half of 2022. He was forced to undergo surgeries to his knee and foot in the offseason and faced a tough road back to a starting role with the emergence of Rasul Douglas across from Jaire Alexander and primary kick returner Keisean Nixon excelling in the slot.

Stokes started the 2023 season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and was finally activated in mid-October, days before the team completed a trade that sent Douglas to Buffalo. Perhaps expecting Stokes to slide back into the starting role, Green Bay was surely disappointed when, after only four special teams snaps, Stokes was placed back on IR with a hamstring injury.

In part of his long road to recovery, Stokes finally was activated once again in time to start the Packers’ last two games. Unfortunately for both parties, Stokes’ hamstring issue has lingered, forcing the young corner back onto IR in a solemn continuation of hardship. Assuming his absences cease in next year’s season opener, Stokes will have missed 22 of a possible 25 games dating back to the ankle injury that started it all last season.

With Alexander serving a team-enforced suspension for crashing an official coin toss despite not being named a captain for the game, Green Bay’s stores are looking fairly bare. Robert Rochell is currently questionable with a neck injury, leaving Nixon to start alongside the likes of rookie seventh-round pick Carrington Valentine, Corey Ballentine, and David Long.

They will be joined by practice squad safety Benny Sapp III, who will serve as one of the team’s two standard gameday elevations tomorrow. In addition to Sapp, the Packers will also call up wide receiver Bo Melton.

Packers Activate CB Eric Stokes

Eric Stokes has continued to miss game action after returning to practice, but that could change tomorrow. The Packers announced on Saturday that the former first-round corner has been activated from injured reserve.

Stokes returned to practice late last month, opening his 21-day activation window. He would have reverted to season-ending IR in the event he was not brought back into the fold within that timeframe. Instead, Green Bay will now have a former starter available for just the second time this season in time for Week 15.

The Georgia alum saw his first-team role disappear in 2023 with Rasul Douglas being used on the perimeter. The latter was dealt to the Bills at the trade deadline, however, clearing a path for Stokes to reclaim a starting spot. He logged only four special teams snaps in his lone action of the season so far (Week 7), so it will be worth watching how large of a workload he is given upon his return to action.

Fellow corner Jaire Alexander has been out for more than one month, so Stokes’ return will be a welcomed sight. Injuries have been a concern for Stokes during his relatively brief Green Bay tenure, and a healthy finish to the campaign would be signficant. The 24-year-old required foot and knee surgeries this offseason, and his most recent absence was caused by a hamstring injury. Stokes struggled last season after an encouraging rookie campaign, so his ability to rebound down the stretch in 2023 will be a key storyline to watch.

The Packers need to make a decision on Stokes’ fifth-year option this spring. Picking up the 2025 option would lock him into a salary of $11.28MM for that season, a costly figure given his play to date and the CB investment (four years, $84MM) already made in Alexander last offseason. For the time being, however, Green Bay will look to use Stokes to boost a defense which already ranks top-10 against the pass.

Sitting at 6-7 on the year, the team is in play for an NFC wild-card spot. Green Bay’s push for a postseason berth at the start of the Jordan Love era will depend in large part on the play of the first-year starting quarterback, of course, but Stokes could have a notable role to play as well. The Packers have six IR activations remaining.

Packers Designate Eric Stokes For Return

Injuries have now sidetracked two Eric Stokes seasons. After a Lisfranc injury sidelined Stokes midway through last season, and after he rehabbed this year, multiple hamstring ailments led him to the reserve/PUP list. Stokes returned for one game but exited with more hamstring trouble.

The former first-round pick logged just four special teams snaps against the Broncos in Week 7, leaving with his latest hamstring malady. The Packers still have the former starter in their plans, however. The team designated Stokes for return from IR on Monday, starting his activation clock.

Stokes could soon be the rare player to come off the reserve/PUP list and IR in the same season. The Packers also designated Darnell Savage for return last week. Green Bay has not used an IR activation this season, putting the 5-6 team in good shape as it guns for a wild-card spot.

The Packers’ cornerback equation has also changed since Stokes was activated from the PUP list. Sitting 2-5 at the trade deadline, the Pack dealt starter Rasul Douglas to the Bills in a pick-swap transaction that brought back a 2024 third-round pick. Douglas was in place as a starter in front of Stokes, who had been a boundary starter in 2021 and ’22. The Packers had slid Douglas to the slot in 2022, attempting to accommodate Stokes and Jaire Alexander, but moved him back to his best position this season. With Douglas out of the picture, Green Bay has seen its cornerback equation change since the deadline.

Alexander has missed the past three games with a shoulder injury, moving Corey Ballentine into the starting lineup. In the only post-Douglas game with Alexander healthy, the Packers had he, Carrington Valentine and Keisean Nixon in place at corner. Pro Football Focus ranks Valentine, a seventh-round rookie, 65th overall among corners. The Packers have withstood Douglas’ departure, however, and are 2-1 without Alexander. Their CB group could again have some depth soon, with Stokes likely to give it another go.

Chosen 29th overall in 2021, Stokes impressed as a rookie but did not fare as well last season. The Georgia product allowed a completion percentage of 80% when in coverage, leading to an opposing passer rating of 123.5. Stokes needed foot and knee surgeries this offseason. While his career has not gone as the Packers envisioned, the 6-foot defender should soon have another chance to contribute.

Packers Place Darnell Savage, Eric Stokes On IR

The Packers announced a flurry of roster moves today to take care of some injury business. Green Bay had to send safety Darnell Savage and cornerback Eric Stokes to injured reserve, requiring the signing of two practice squad defensive backs to come up and fill their place.

Savage, the Packers starting free safety of the past five years, is playing in a contract year after having his fifth-year option picked up. Unfortunately, this last season before hitting the open market will include a stint on IR after the Maryland alum suffered a calf injury, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky. With Savage expected to need a month or so to heal, former Houston starter Jonathan Owens will likely take his place in the starting lineup next to Rudy Ford.

Stokes is returning to IR after a heart-breaking four days. The young cornerback out of Georgia missed the back half of last season with an ankle injury then underwent both foot and knee surgeries in the offseason. Not fully healed at the start of this year, Stokes has been on Green Bay’s reserve/PUP list all season, up until four days ago.

Green Bay partially activated Stokes out of necessity in order to ensure he would be able to avoid spending the full season on the PUP list, after being designated to return. After only four special teams snaps in Week 7, though, Stokes will land on IR for a second straight season. The injury sending him back to IR is being designated as a hamstring malady.

The Packers decided to fill the two vacant roster spots by signing practice squad players to the active roster, one of whom came from another team’s practice squad. The team decided to add cornerback Robert Rochell off the Panthers’ practice squad and promote cornerback Corey Ballentine from their own. Cornerback Zyon Gilbert will join the Packers’ practice squad, filling the spot vacated by Ballentine.

With Stokes on IR and Jaire Alexander continuing to battle the injury bug, the focus on cornerbacks is completely understandable. With a three-game upcoming stretch that includes games against the Chargers, Lions, and Chiefs, Green Bay will be working hard to get their secondary right.

Packers Activate CB Eric Stokes

The Packers are set to have another high-profile cornerback available in time for their Week 7 contest. Eric Stokes was activated from the PUP list on Saturday, clearing the way for a return to game action tomorrow.

Stokes was designated for return more than two weeks ago, so the Packers could only have afforded for him to miss one more contest before risking him reverting to season-ending IR. Instead, the former first-rounder will now be able to suit up for the first time since last November, the point at which his second NFL campaign came to an end.

Stokes underwent foot and knee surgeries this offseason to address the ailments which limited him to nine contests last year. Those injuries also added to the time both he and fellow CB Jaire Alexander have missed during their time in Green Bay, which has severely limited their ability to take the field together. Alexander is comfortably set to continue his starting role upon the team’s return from the bye, but the same cannot be said of Stokes.

The latter, as foreshadowed in the offseason, is likely to take on backup duties as he works his way back into the fold. Green Bay has Alexander, along with Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon in place atop the CB depth chart, and no member of that trio will be asked to move positions or take on second-team duties with Stokes now in play. The Georgia alum has started 23 of his 25 games to date, and he showed considerable promise as a rookie with one interception and 14 pass deflections.

Last year, however, Stokes allowed a completion percentage of 80% when in coverage, leading to an opposing passer rating of 123.5. The Packers’ defense as a whole has generally failed to live up to expectations under DC Joe Barry, but Stokes will personally face notable scrutiny upon return in whatever capacity he serves in. Sitting at 2-3, Green Bay ranks ninth in the NFL against the pass, so it comes as little surprise that the team will not alter its backfield to accommodate Stokes’ return. At a minimum, he will provide depth at the CB spot as he prepares to suit up for the first time in nearly one calendar year.

DB Notes: Packers, Chinn, CJGJ, Roby, Rams

The Packers do not likely have a starting spot waiting for Eric Stokes upon his return. As we heard in June, the 2021 first-round pick is on track to return as a backup. Green Bay has Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Keisean Nixon as its top three corners, and unlike 2022, the team is not planning on changing Douglas’ position to accommodate a cornerback surplus. Douglas moving to safety appears a non-starter, per The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. Last season, the Packers moved Douglas to a slot role to make room for the returning Alexander. After Stokes’ midseason Lisfranc injury, Douglas moved back to his more natural boundary position.

Stokes, who underwent foot and knee surgeries this offseason, remains on the Packers’ reserve/PUP list. The team designated him for return two weeks ago, setting his activation deadline at Oct. 24. Stokes was running at full speed in July and would have been ready to come back had multiple hamstring issues not slowed him during training camp, Schneidman adds. Stokes fared better as a rookie, when the Pack were down Alexander, than he did last season. Pro Football Focus graded Stokes outside the top 100 among corners last season, and this backup role does not present an ideal rebound opportunity.

Here is the latest from NFL secondaries:

  • Mentioned as a trade candidate last week, Jeremy Chinn now looks likely to finish his contract year in Carolina. The fourth-year Panthers safety sustained a significant quadriceps injury that’s Adam Schefter expects to sideline him for up to six weeks. Despite being a versatile cog who has been a Panthers regular throughout his career, Chinn has seen his playing time dip in Ejiro Evero‘s defense this season. After logging snap rates over 90% from 2020-22, the former Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up has played 52% of Carolina’s defensive snaps. The Panthers prioritized Chinn as a foundational piece before last year’s deadline; his stock has fallen since.
  • Bradley Roby avoided the worst-case scenario after suffering a pectoral injury in Week 6. The recent Eagles addition sustained a pectoral strain, per NFL reporter Jordan Schultz, who adds the 10th-year cornerback will avoid IR. In the two games since being signed and quickly promoted to the 53-man roster, Roby has played 46% of Philadelphia’s defensive snaps. The Eagles have already lost their top slot corner, Avonte Maddox. Roby’s setback represents another blow for the defending NFC champions, but the 31-year-old cover man should be back fairly soon.
  • C.J. Gardner-Johnson is navigating a longer return timetable, suffering a torn pec in Week 2. The Lions safety, who led the NFL in INTs during his Eagles one-off last season, is believed to be months away from coming back — if he is to return at all — according to the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett. Pectoral tears often end players’ seasons, so it will be interesting if Gardner-Johnson becomes a true candidate to come off IR down the stretch — perhaps if Detroit makes the playoffs.
  • Rams corner Derion Kendrick faces two misdemeanor charges in connection with his recent gun arrest, Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times notes. Arrested Monday morning, Kendrick was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and possessing a loaded firearm. While teams regularly deploy players after arrests, waiting for NFL suspensions to come down later, Kendrick did not practice with the Rams upon his release from custody. The 2022 sixth-round pick has started all six Rams games this year. Discipline should be expected, but until a ban surfaces, Kendrick will likely continue to suit up for the team.
  • In a Ravens workout that led to safety Andrew Adams being signed, Eric Rowe received an audition, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. An eight-year veteran, Rowe spent the past four seasons with the Dolphins. Rowe, 31, signed a one-year, $1.32MM Panthers deal this offseason but did not make the team. Carolina released Rowe from its practice squad last month.