Less than 24 hours after losing in the NFC championship game, the Green Bay Packers are already going to work building their roster for the 2021 offseason.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst announced Monday afternoon that 10 players who spent time on the team’s practice squad in 2020 have been signed to reserve/future contracts for the next year. According to Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated, the Packers also signed wide receivers Reggie Begelton and Juwann Winfree; though, the moves were not announced until Tuesday.
The Packers had also previously signed four outside players to futures contracts for the 2021 offseason, bringing their 90-man offseason roster to 58 total players.
The Packers now have 32 spots to fill on their 90-man offseason roster, a good number of which will be reserved for their drafted and undrafted 2021 rookies. They will also add talent through free agency with 27 of their own pending free agents to decide on.
The complete list of the Packers’ 12 re-signed players includes:
- Cornerback Stanford Samuels III (2020 Packers UDFA)
- Defensive lineman Willington Previlon (2020 Packers UDFA)
- Defensive lineman Anthony Rush (second-year player, claimed off waivers on Nov. 30)
- Offensive guard Zack Johnson (2020 undrafted rookie)
- Inside linebacker De’Jon “Scoota” Harris (2020 Patriots UDFA, signed on Sept. 9)
- Outside linebacker Tipa Galeai (2020 Packers UDFA)
- Punter Ryan Winslow (third-year player, signed on Dec. 26)
- Running back Mike Weber (Cowboys’ 2019 seventh-round pick, signed on Nov. 11)
- Running back Dexter Williams (2019 sixth-round pick, cut on Jan. 23)
- Tight end Isaac Nauta (Lions’ 2019 seventh-round pick, signed on Dec. 12)
- Wide receiver Reggie Begelton (2020 futures signing, former CFL player)
- Wide receiver Juwanee Winfree (Broncos’ 2019 sixth-round pick, signed on Oct. 1)
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Packers Signings Tease Positional Battles
While the Packers showed some positional diversity in their first 10 signings of the 2021 offseason, there isn’t one name on the list who doesn’t have a shot of competing for a roster spot next summer — at least based on how the roster currently stacks up.
Most notably, perhaps, are the two running backs, Weber and Williams. Three of the Packers’ top four options out of the backfield in 2020 are set to become free agents in March, including starters Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Trial runs with AJ Dillon, a 2020 second-round pick, have found them a quality starting contender, but a multi-back system like Green Bay’s — and like half of the NFL these days — demands a variety of rushing options to call upon.
Now, the Packers have three candidates to consider for the RB2 role behind Dillon with a decent chance that at least one more body is added to the room before training camp starts next summer.
The Packers are also bringing back their emergency punter, Winslow, in a move that suggests J.K. Scott will have to fight for his job next season. Scott took significantly fewer punts for the Packers in 2020 than his previous two years, booting off 47 on the season compared with 77 in 2019 and 71 as a rookie in 2018, but his results were less consistent throughout the season. While it is promising he delivered a handful of big-time punts in the playoffs, it can never hurt to give him a challenger as he prepares to enter a contract year next season.
Can Samuels Compete for Major Role in 2021?
The Packers’ cornerback room has reached an interesting turning point. Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan are both heading into free agency after disastrous performances in the NFC title game. While Sullivan, a restricted free agent, will probably get a shot at redemption, King does not figure to be as lucky as an unrestricted free agent seeking starter money.
If King is allowed to walk, the Packers will need to come up with a few fast options for replacing his contributions. Maybe Josh Jackson and Ka’dar Hollman will bounce back after being healthy scratches for the final stretch of 2020, but Samuels can also be expected to throw his hat in the ring for a bigger role next season.
The 6-foot-1, 187-pound cornerback showed promise during 2020 training camp and received two elevation opportunities while King was battling an injury in November. If he maximizes his first full offseason with the Packers and can take the next step in his progression by the summertime, there could be a meaningful place for him on their 2021 roster.