The Green Bay Packers may not have an opening on their active roster for long.
According to the NFL’s transaction wire, the Packers hosted a trio of players for tryouts on September 27 with the most notable among them being former Las Vegas Raiders cornerback and 2019 fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson. Additionally, they tried out rookie tight end Bruno Labelle and former XFL wide receiver Andrew Verboys as potential roster additions.
The Packers also brought in rookie center Michal Menet for a visit — not a workout — on Monday that could be a prelude to him signing with the team. The former Penn State starter was a seventh-round pick for the Arizona Cardinals during May’s 2021 draft and would most likely be an option for the Packers’ practice squad to provide more depth at center.
The Packers currently have one opening on their 53-man roster after placing tight end Dominique Dafney on injured reserve on Saturday, September 25.
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Johnson Could Be Valuable if Healthy
Johnson was the No. 129 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, shooting up the draft boards after converting from wide receiver to cornerback for his final two seasons at Houston and developing into an impact member of their secondary over a short period of time. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein graded him as a fourth-round prospect and drew a comparison between him and Ahkello Witherspoon in his pre-draft profile for NFL.com. Here’s what he wrote:
Press cornerback with imposing combination of size, length and speed, but in need of more work before he is game-ready. Johnson spent his first two seasons at receiver before transitioning over to the defensive side of the ball so there is still room for improvement, but also room for moldable growth. He has Day 1 traits, Day 2 talent and the consistency of a Day 3 corner, but patience and coaching could turn him into a disruptive press corner with starting potential by his second or third season.
Both Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden were high on Johnson’s potential for their team when they added him in 2019. While he missed the majority of his rookie season with an injury, he finally showed up in a big way in Week 9 of the 2020 season when he broke up a would-be touchdown pass that preserved a Raiders win. Unfortunately, Johnson’s heroic moment wasn’t enough to earn him a bump in playing time.
The Raiders eventually grew impatient with Johnson when he picked up an offseason injury and needed to spend the early parts of training camp on their PUP list. Ultimately, they decided to leave him off their initial 53-man roster on August 31 and declined to retain him for the practice squad.
Are Packers Weighing Backup Options at Center?
The Packers made a big transition at center ahead of the 2021 season.
After deciding against bringing back veteran starter Corey Linsley and watching him sign a lucrative new deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, the Packers invested a second-round pick in former Ohio State standout Josh Myers and plugged him into the middle of their offensive line. It was a gamble, but one that has already started to pay off the Packers with Myers allowing no sacks or pressures on 114 pass-blocking snaps and Aaron Jones — the beneficiary of the money that wasn’t spent on Linsley — continuing to be one of the team’s offensive stars.
If something were to happen with Myers, though, what would the Packers’ backup plan be?
That could be the question the Packers are asking themselves when scouting someone like Menet. At the moment, there are two rostered options as a replacement center if Myers were to bow out: Lucas Patrick and Jake Hanson. Patrick started 15 games last season at guard for the Packers, but he stepped up and (effectively) played 128 snaps at center in 2019 when Linsley was injured. Meanwhile, Hanson is a much rawer option after spending his rookie season between the practice squad and injured reserve; though, he did unexpectedly make the 53-man roster in 2021.
The Packers could very well have a new, long-term starting center in Myers, but their dedication to developing young offensive linemen has been a major reason for their recent success. It was certainly a factor that helped them overcome the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3 despite not having either of their top two linemen — David Bakhtiari or Elgton Jenkins — available. At the very least, it couldn’t hurt to start developing another center on their practice squad, especially a rookie who impressed enough to be drafted less than five months ago.