Although Joe Haden announced his retirement Wednesday morning, a few well-known cornerbacks remain in free agency. All-Decade-teamer Chris Harris joins the likes of Xavier Rhodes and Jackrabbit Jenkins as available vets. But each is 32 or older. Kevin King, who would be going into his age-27 season, looks to be unattached for a different reason.
King does not intend to play this season, according to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus, who adds health is driving King to make this unusual call. King, 27, dealt with a litany of injuries and a COVID-19 contraction last year and is eyeing a 2023 NFL return. The University of Washington product turned down multiple offers this offseason, Kyed adds.
Although King struggled in the 2020 NFC championship game, the Packers re-signed the former second-round pick on a one-year deal worth $5MM in 2021. King played 11 games last season, counting Green Bay’s playoff tilt, and started six. The veteran outside cover man was among the many Packer starters to miss a chunk of the season. Hip, knee and shoulder injuries, along with a concussion and COVID, led to King missing seven games. Healing up is obviously critical, and it is not known how much time is needed to do so.
This strategy does run the risk of King’s value cratering, with teams less likely to invest much in a player who dealt with enough injuries they cost him the following year of work. Returning to the league after a full season away is uncommon but far from unprecedented. It might take a successful workout for the five-year Packer to convince a team to add him next year. King missed extensive time during his first two NFL seasons as well, with shoulder and hamstring issues shutting him down in 2017 and ’18.
One of four first- or second-round corners the Packers have drafted since 2017, King has started 42 career games. He rebounded from his early-career injuries to intercept five passes in 2019 and worked as Jaire Alexander‘s primary sidekick during the now-well-paid corner’s time in Wisconsin. Eric Stokes, a 2021 first-rounder, now fills that role.
Injuries aside, PFF graded King’s 2021 season as his best. The veteran cover man did see his yards-per-target, passer rating allowed and completion percentage yielded figures rise from 2020, however. It will be interesting to see if King’s plan to heal up this year pays off down the line.