The Green Bay Packers boast a quality collection of linebackers but after just one week, injuries have already begun to take a toll at the position, opening the door for a reunion with a familiar face from the not-so-distant past.
Inside linebacker Krys Barnes sustained ankle and calf injuries against the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, landing him on the injured reserve list (IR) and knocking him out for at least the next four weeks. But the bad news didn’t end there.
Rookie and first-round pick Quay Walker also suffered a shoulder injury that put his Week 2 status against the Chicago Bears in question. Rob Demovsky of ESPN offered an update on the health issues Monday, September 12.
“The news at inside linebacker isn’t as bad as it looked yesterday,” Demovsky tweeted. “[Head coach] Matt LaFleur said there’s a chance Quay Walker (shoulder) could play this week vs. the Bears and Krys Barnes (ankle) avoided a season-ending injury.”
Walker improved throughout the week and was a full participant in practice from Tuesday on, per the Packers’ official website. He did not carry an injury designation as of Friday and will be on the field Sunday.
Still, the lack of Barnes as a backup and the reality that Walker could deal with shoulder soreness as the season wears on argues for Green Bay considering reinforcements at the position. One current free agent option is ex-Packers linebacker Blake Martinez.
Martinez Would Bring Quality Depth to Packers’ Linebacker Group
The Packers are set with starting inside linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker, but their depth took a hit when Krys Barnes went down in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.
Barnes and backup Isaiah McDuffie only combined for 15 snaps in Week 1. However, if Walker is dinged up, that role could expand. Martinez is not the best in coverage, but he’s good against the run and offers some upside as a blitzer.
He’s a high-floor player who could offer some stability and flexibility for the Packers as they look to be without Barnes and playing with a limited Walker.
Martinez Proved Durable, Productive Starter For Packers Over 4 Years
Green Bay selected Martinez in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, after which the linebacker played with the team for four seasons. He started 57 of 61 games in which he appeared before departing for New York in 2020.
Martinez tallied 512 tackles, including 29 tackles for loss, 17 passes defensed, 12 quarterback hits, 10 sacks, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries during his four-year tenure in Green Bay, per Pro Football Reference.
The inside linebacker also started all 16 games for the Giants during his first season in New York. He was elected a captain of the team in 2021 and started all three games in which he appeared before tearing his ACL in Week 3, an injury that cost him the remainder of the season.
Martinez made the Giants’ initial 53-man roster, though the team cut him just two days later on September 1. The 28-year-old’s release saved New York approximately $6 million against the salary cap.