Despite an extensive injury history and a disastrous performance in last season’s NFC Championship Game, Kevin King will get another shot next year with the Green Bay Packers.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Packers are re-signing their No. 2 starting cornerback to a one-year deal worth $6 million after King spent less than a week as an unrestricted free agent.
The #Packers are re-signing CB Kevin King to a one-year, $6 million deal, source said.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 23, 2021
King was the Packers’ top selection in the 2017 NFL draft as a second-round pick (No. 33 overall) and has started 36 games over his first four seasons in Green Bay, delivering a breakout year in 2019 that saw him tally a team-high five interceptions and 15 pass breakups. He has also missed 23 career games with various injuries, such as the quadriceps injury that sidelined him for five weeks during the 2020 season.
Still, the 6-foot-3 King represents an affordable starting talent who is both familiar with the Packers defense and underrated in coverage despite some of his most memorable blunders coming at the worst times. He had a particularly rough go against Tampa Bay in the conference championship, getting beaten up and down the field by Bucs receivers and allowing a deep touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
Prior to Evans’ long scoring grab, though, King had only given up one touchdown on the entire season.
The Packers will now return their entire secondary for the 2021 season with them also placing a restricted free agent tender on slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan.
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King to Compete for Starting Role?
The Packers’ decision to retain King works well for both sides. The former second-round pick gets an opportunity to recover from his down year in 2020 and attempt to raise his market value for the 2022 offseason, while the Packers get to avoid spending big on a new starter or panic about the development of an early-round rookie needed to start.
King, however, could still be asked to earn his place in the starting lineup.
The Packers have another second-rounder in Josh Jackson who could potentially try prying the job away from King. He played competently as a relief starter while King was sidelined with an injury last season, but he only played three more defensive snaps after King returned in Week 11. He was also ruled a healthy inactive six of the Packers’ final eight games, including both of their playoff games.
There is also the oft-forgotten Kabion Ento. The 2019 UDFA signing impressed early in his second training camp with the Packers last summer but broke a bone in his foot, forcing him to spend the rest of the season on injured reserve. The Packers were quick, though, to tender him as an exclusive rights free agent this offseason and will naturally be looking to see if he can regain his prowess in 2021’s camp.
The rest of the Packers’ under-contract cornerbacks include KeiVarae Russell — a 2016 third-round pick for the Kansas City Chiefs — as well as 2019 sixth-rounder Ka’dar Hollman and 2020 undrafted rookie Stanford Samuels III.
Will Packers Still Target CB in 2021 Draft?
King has earned a second chance in a Packers uniform, but that doesn’t mean general manager Brian Gutekunst will be content to leave the cornerback room unchanged.
Right now, All-Pro Jaire Alexander is the only verified cornerback threat on the Packers’ roster with both King and Sullivan looking to bounce back from regressive seasons. Even if they feel confident both will improve in 2021, neither is committed for the 2022 season and could put them in a bind during another cap-strapped offseason next year.
The Packers will most likely take a cornerback at some point in the 2021 NFL draft, but targetting one in the early rounds, maybe even in the first, isn’t out of the question now that King is back. The Packers signed Davon House and Tramon Williams in 2018, then drafted both Alexander (first round) and Jackson (second). The same type of thing happened in 2019 when they signed edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith before taking Rashan Gary in the first round.
The Packers have met virtually with a few cornerback prospects over the past few months. Gutekunst was also in attendance for Florida State’s Pro Day on Monday, where the main attraction was star cornerback Asante Samuel Jr.