A former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman is back on the market after the Houston Texans cut Kingsley Keke from their roster on Tuesday, May 3.
Keke — who played 901 defensive snaps over his first three seasons with the Packers and was a 2019 fifth-round pick — had hit his proven performance escalator for playtime with the Packers and was due to have his base salary bumped to $2.54 million for the 2022 season, which Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network said was a primary reason behind his release.
Another reason, according to Wilson, was the arrival of multiple rookie defensive linemen. The Texans used a fifth-round pick Stanford’s Thomas Booker in the 2022 NFL draft and signed former Nebraska defensive lineman Damion Daniels as a UDFA.
Keke recorded 54 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 41 appearances for the Packers and showed potential for developing into an every-game starter during his four-sack season in 2020. If teams feel confident about his health given his history with concussions, he could be an appealing, low-cost option for teams looking to boost their defensive lines.
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Packers Reunion Highly Unlikely for Keke
Keke officially clear the waivers on Wednesday, May 4, and is now free to negotiate with any interested teams, but a reunion between him and the Packers seems like a long shot given the circumstances surrounding his departure from the team earlier this year.
As Wilson originally reported, the Packers abruptly waived Keke in January after he had a disagreement with coaches — including head coach Matt LaFleur — about his practice role with the team coming off a concussion. Keke did not play in the Packers’ final three regular-season games, missing two as a healthy scratch and one on the COVID-19 list.
The New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys were all interested in Keke when the Texans originally claimed him back in January, according to ESPN’s Field Yates, so it is likely he will field some calls while trying to figure out where he’ll spend Year 4.
Packers Have Reloaded D-Line in 2022 Offseason
While Keke’s departure was sudden and unexpected to those outside of the organization, the Packers have spent the past few months aggressively reloading their defensive line room and are now primed to head into the 2022 season with their deepest unit in years.
The Packers double-dipped on defensive linemen in the 2022 NFL draft, using the second of their two first-round picks to select Georgia standout Devonte Wyatt and circling back for Miami starter Jonathan Ford in the seventh round. Additionally, they signed three undrafted rookie free agents — Baylor’s Raleigh Texada, Missouri’s Akial Byers and Utah’s Hauati Pututau — to add more competition for the depth roles.
Outside of rookies, the Packers also signed veteran Jarran Reed to a one-year contract in order to add more experience to the room. He joins Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark and veteran defensive end Dean Lowry as the only other defensive linemen on the roster with more than one year of experience. The Packers decided not to re-sign Tyler Lancaster for the 2022 season, but they do also return T.J. Slaton and Jack Heflin.
As far as roster battles go, there should be plenty of entertainment with 10 defensive linemen on the roster and less than half of them locked to make the team.