The Green Bay Packers took some chances on some pass rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft, but general manager Brian Gutekunst could take another swing on a potentially cheap veteran at the position who is still a free agent.
Mike Price with Cheesehead TV wrote about fits with some of the best remaining free agents, highlighting wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals. Price also talked about some of the remaining veteran pass rushers, mentioning that three-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney could be an ideal fit for Green Bay.
“Each of the teams in the North can use another rotational guy,” Price wrote. “The Lions made Charles Harris into an impact player last year, why not do the same thing with Clowney? The Packers probably have the strongest edge group in the division, but they’re missing the type of edge who can drop into the flat on simulated pressures or creepers and fill in until Rashan Gary is 100%…”
Price also mentioned Leonard Floyd, Yannick Ngakoue, and Melvin Ingram as potential options for the Packers.
Can The Packers Afford Clowney?
While star free agents like Hopkins may not make sense for the Packers financially, a move for a player like Clowney is a bit more realistic.
The former No. 1 overall pick has only had brief stints with teams since leaving the Houston Texans. He played one season with the Seahawks in 2019, one with the Titans in 2020, and then most recently two more years with the Browns starting in 2021.
Since leaving the Texans, Clowney’s previous contracts have hovered around $10-12 million, most recently with a reasonable cap hit of only $3.5 million in 2022. That, along with Clowney’s age, suggests that the 30-year-old is more affordable than other former Pro Bowlers.
Despite taking on a big dead cap hit by trading away Aaron Rodgers, the Packers still have a little bit of money to work with. Pending rookie deals, the Packers have $16.5 million in cap space, and could clear up even more by extending former first-round pick Rashan Gary.
If the Packers can clear a bit more space, a veteran like Clowney could actually make sense in Green Bay.
The Packers Have EDGE Depth
Even if the Packers don’t make a run at someone like Clowney, the team has pass-rush depth for the first time in a while.
Rashan Gary is still recovering from a torn ACL from November of last season, but the Packers have enough bodies to hold down the fort while he works his way back onto the field. Preston Smith has been a consistent starting edge-setter for the last few seasons, and second-year EDGE Kinglsey “JJ” Enagbare showed real flashes during his rookie season.
On top of those two, the Packers have re-signed Justin Hollins, who showed flashes as a late-season addition in 2022. They also used their first-round pick in this year’s draft on a promising and powerful pass rusher in Lukas Van Ness out of Iowa.
With those four pieces (along with late-round picks Colby Wooden and Karl Brooks), the Packers have plenty of depth while they wait for Gary to get fully healthy. Once that happens, Green Bay should have a formidable pass rush for the 2023 season.