Ex-Packers Pass Rusher Lands With Giants After Sudden Departure

Matt LaFleur

Getty Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.

Justin Hollins’ time with the Green Bay Packers appears to be over for good this time after the 27-year-old pass rusher signed with a new squad to begin Week 8.

According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for October 24, the New York Giants signed Hollins to their practice squad on Tuesday, three days after the Packers suddenly cut him to make room for cornerback Eric Stokes to return to the 53-man roster.

Hollins’ weekend departure marked the second time this month that the Packers have released him from their active roster. They also released him on October 9 to make room for running back Patrick Taylor on the active roster heading into their matchup with the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5. The Packers walked back the decision following the loss, though, ditching Taylor and re-signing Hollins heading into the bye week.

While it is possible the Packers could have viewed Hollins as a candidate for their practice squad, that is no longer an option now that he has signed with the Giants. The Packers will now need to sign Hollins to their 53-man roster if they have a change of heart at any point; although, that seems unlikely given their depth on the edges.

Packers’ Reasons for Keeping Justin Hollins Dried Up

Back in March, the Packers seemed to be making a wise decision when they signed Hollins to a one-year, $1.2 million contract just before the start of 2023 free agency.

Hollins had joined the Packers late in the 2022 campaign and played in their final six games while Rashan Gary was on injured reserve, notching 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss. And with Gary expected to miss the start of the 2023 season with his recovery, the Packers felt bringing back Hollins would strengthen their pass-rushing rotation.

By the end of training camp, though, there were questions about how much the Packers actually needed Hollins on their 53-man roster.

Not only were the Packers returning a trusted veteran in Preston Smith and a promising second-year in Kingsley Enagbare, but they had also drafted Lukas Van Ness at No. 13 overall and found an undrafted gem in Brenton Cox Jr. On top of that, Gary showed signs of being ready for Week 1 and ended up playing limited snaps in the opener.

Eventually, the Packers ran out of reasons to keep Hollins. He recorded two pressures over the first four games of the season — both in Week 1 — before the Packers benched him. According to Pro Football Focus, he was also the Packers’ lowest-graded edge rusher (52.2) with the lowest win rate (5.0) through six games.

Rashan Gary Having an Excellent Bounce-Back Season

The Packers still have issues to sort out with their remaining pass rushers given how ineffective they have been through the first six games. Fortunately, Gary has been a guiding light for the unit and is making a strong case for Comeback Player of the Year.

Gary has a team-high 4.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits through the first six games of the 2023 season. According to Pro Football Focus, he also owns a 29.6% pass-rush win rate, which rates first among all edge rushers in the NFL this season. There are knocks against his run-stopping abilities thus far, but it is about as good of a bounce-back campaign as the Packers could have hoped for him.

The growing question now is when will the Packers sign Gary to an extension?

Gary already seemed to be in line for a lucrative, long-term extension with the Packers coming into the season, so long as he was able to return to full health. His strong start for their defense, however, is only going to raise the price on his eventual new contract. While the final price tag likely won’t come close to Spotrac’s market projections of $26 million annually for Gary — behind only superstar T.J. Watt — it isn’t going to be cheap.

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