The Packers outside linebacker is a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who saw his playing time diminish significantly during the 2019 season after Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith were brought in as new starters last offseason. The expectation has been the Packers would allow Fackrell to walk in free agency, especially with last year’s top pick, Rashan Gary, due more opportunities in 2020, but now it seems both sides are on a similar page.
According to PackersNews.com, Fackrell will head into free agency later this month looking to sign a one-year deal with another team that will offer him more playing time next season. Given how difficult it can be to find established talent on the outside, the 28-year-old linebacker shouldn’t have too much trouble getting what he wants. He led the Packers with 10.5 sacks during the 2018 season and remains an efficient pass rusher who could bolster a needy defense elsewhere.
“Kyler would start for 31 other teams in the NFL if he was anywhere else,” Packers linebacker coach Mike Smith said last month, via The Athletic’s Jason Wilde.
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Should Rams Try Signing Fackrell?
The Packers reportedly have their eyes on one of the Los Angeles Rams’ free-agent linebackers, so why shouldn’t the Rams also take a look at what talent could be leaving Green Bay?
Even if Cory Littleton doesn’t stick around, the Rams’ defensive core projects to be among the top third of the league once again in 2020, but L.A. adding a hungry free agent along the edge could complement its stars quite nicely. Fackrell has proved both durable and capable of producing when given extended opportunities, while he would also make for a pretty seamless fit into the Rams’ scheme.
Fackrell’s desire for a short-term, prove-now contract also minimizes the risk for the Rams if he isn’t able to produce at a high enough level. He earned about $2 million in base salary last season after hitting his proven performance escalators in 2018 and could settle for a reasonable price depending on market interest.
Gary’s Time to Shine is Coming
Fackrell might not be gone just yet, but Rashan Gary is as good as ready to take his next step with the Packers defense.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 draft class didn’t make the immediate impact for the Packers during his rookie season, playing fewer than a quarter of defensive snaps on the season and finishing with 21 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. To be fair, though, the Packers concentrated much of their first-year efforts on retooling him into an outside linebacker after he spent his Michigan career playing defensive end. And, again … he was playing behind Za’Darius and Preston Smith.
“When you look at it, you had two pretty darn good players in front of him,” LaFleur said during his season-wrapping press conference in January. “Any time you’ve got a first-round pick with the talent level of him, he needs to be out there (on the field), and we need to look at ways to implement him more in our scheme. And also, there’s areas that I’ve talked to him about where he needs to improve upon in order to get out on the grass and be the consistent player that we think he could be.”
It would make sense for the Packers to feature Gary more in the rotation as the primary backup behind the Smith Bros. While both were high-octane pass rushers in their debut seasons in Green Bay, there were multiple instances where Za’Darius Smith cramped up and remained down on the field after plays. He never missed many snaps, if any, but there is no sense in risking so much wear and tear on either star player if another formidable talent waits behind them.
Offseason work will be vital to Gary’s development moving forward into Year 2 now that he has spent a season in the system, and the Packers’ hope is a greater comfort level will allow him to play faster and with more confidence. Until the preseason, though, all we can do is (anxiously) wait.