Packers Claim Young Defensive Lineman Off Waivers From 49ers

Chris Slayton Packers

Getty Chris Slayton #95 of the Syracuse Orange pursues Paul Mroz #9 of the Rhode Island Rams during the first half on September 4, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse Orange defeats Rhode Island Rams 47-0.

The Green Bay Packers are adding another depth piece to their defensive front.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced on Wednesday, May 25, that the team had claimed fourth-year defensive tackle Chris Slayton off the waivers from the San Francisco 49ers, bringing their defensive line room to 10 total players.

Slayton was a seventh-round pick for the New York Giants in 2019, but the 25-year-old has also spent time with four other teams over the past two seasons and has still not taken his first regular-season NFL snaps. Most recently, he held a spot on the 49ers’ practice squad for the final two months of the 2021 season and was set to return in 2022 on a reserve/futures contract before getting waived on May 23.

The Packers did not need to make a corresponding move for Slayton as there was already a spot open on their 90-man offseason roster from when they released backup kicker JJ Molson last weekend. They are now back to the 90-player limit.

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Packers’ D-Line Set for Deep Camp Battles

While Slayton is clearly a depth addition, the Packers have invested quite a few resources in beefing up their defensive line for next season. They signed veteran Jarran Reed to a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million during free agency to give them more experience alongside Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry. They also used a first-round pick to acquire Devonte Wyatt before adding Jonathan Ford in the seventh round.

For the first time in several years, the Packers could have legitimate competition for nearly every role on their defensive line in 2022. Kenny Clark is a solid lock as their starting nose tackle, but Wyatt, Lowry, Reed and 2021 fifth-rounder T.J. Slaton could all contend for the other starting roles. There should still be an interesting battle for the sixth — and maybe even seventh — spot in the rotation between Ford, Jack Heflin, Slayton and undrafted rookies Hauati Pututau and Akial Byers.

Could Lowry End Up on Roster Bubble?

The Packers got a career season out of Lowry in 2021 when he notched 24 solo tackles, a career-best five sacks and nine quarterback hits while starting in every game. He also finally became a consistent part of their pass rush in a way that created plenty more opportunities for Clark or outside linebackers Rashan Gary and Preston Smith to get to opposing quarterbacks. It is possible, though, that Lowry could find himself on the roster bubble when it comes to decision time at the end of August.

Now, the Packers have some compelling reasons to keep Lowry on their roster. He is an established piece who has six years of experience with the team and, despite that, is still fairly young with his 28th birthday just two weeks away. He has also played in 86 consecutive regular-season games for the Packers and has not been listed as inactive since Week 12 of his 2016 rookie season — the only game he’s ever missed in the NFL. That type of consistent availability can be difficult to find for starting D-linemen.

At the same time, the Packers remain tight on cap space and could free up more than $4 million if they decide to move on from Lowry and his $8.072 million cap hit in 2022. There might be more value in trying to rework Lowry’s contract or maybe even signing him to a short-term extension that creates immediate cap flexibility, but it might be worth waiting to see how he fares against new competition such as Wyatt and Reed.

If Lowry underperforms throughout camp or if the Packers find a free agent they want to bring in at a greater position of need and need the space, don’t be surprised if he finds himself on the wrong side of the roster bubble.

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