The Green Bay Packers are hungry to find a new starting cornerback to pair with shutdown All-Pro Jaire Alexander for next season, and at least one NFL analyst believes they should explore a big-time trade for another All-Pro talent.
While identifying five NFL stars who “should” get traded this offseason, NFL.com writer Adam Rank pitched the idea of the Packers targetting two-time All-Pro New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore in a trade that would allow them to address one of their biggest roster needs for the 2021 season.
Rank argued that the current state of the Patriots — who finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs in 2020 — could incentivize Bill Belichick to move on early from the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year with him set to become a free agent in 2022. Dealing away Gilmore would net some premium draft assets and move his $15.01 million cap hit off of their books for the upcoming year. Here’s why he picked the Packers to land him:
“If I’m the Green Bay Packers, I absolutely make a play for Gilmore. Especially with Kevin King (mercifully) hitting free agency. The Packers have been reluctant to make big moves — well, besides attempting to alienate their future Hall of Fame quarterback by using a first-round pick on his replacement — but this is one I would make. I mean, I don’t want them to, as a Bears fan. But it would be a smart football move.”
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How Smart Would Trade Really be for Packers?
Rank isn’t wrong about how big it would be for the Packers to land Gilmore in a trade. He has distinguished himself as one of the NFL’s best secondary players over his nine seasons in the league, fully living up to the expectations of being a top-10 pick (No. 10 overall in 2012). He has been picked as a Pro Bowler in four of his last five seasons with All-Pro recognition in both 2018 and 2019, the latter of which he finished as the league’s co-leader in interceptions.
Rank is also right about King, who is set to hit unrestricted free agency and is not expected to be retained after an inconsistent four years in Green Bay.
The Packers are hurting for cornerback depth and, despite Alexander’s All-Pro ascension, do not have a reliable replacement for King in place to inherit the No. 2 role. They could seek out a starter candidate with a Day 1 or 2 pick in April’s NFL draft or gamble on some of their unproven options, but a big play for Gilmore would immediately give the Packers a top-echelon secondary for the 2021 season.
Here’s the problem: Even if the Packers were willing to sending a second- or third-round pick to the Patriots for Gilmore, they would still need to find the extra space to take on his massive cap hit of $15,014,584 for next season. The task would be arduous with the Packers currently needing to clear about $11.5 million as is before the start of the new league year on March 17, and that’s not counting what they’ll also need to set aside to sign their 2021 draft picks and other free agents.
There is a narrow path in which the Packers could trade for Gilmore and sign him to a multi-year extension that would allow them to redistribute his annual cost, but the maneuver would still be difficult to rationalize with other 2022 free agents to consider, including both Alexander and star wide receiver Davante Adams.
Can Chandon Sullivan Rebound in 2021?
Packers fans bemoan the name Kevin King right now, but many are probably still disappointed in how slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan handled his first season with major responsibilities. After showing flashes behind veteran Tramon Williams in 2019, Sullivan struggled to keep the same pace in 2020 and bookended his rough season with an especially bad performance in the NFC championship game. Now, he is due to become a restricted free agent.
The Packers could put the lowest tender on Sullivan at a cost that Over the Cap projects to be about $2.13 million this offseason, meaning they would have the first right to refusal if another team signed him to an offer sheet or, otherwise, would keep him on the books for the 2021 season. While his performance declined last season, they may feel inclined to give him a second shot given the position’s overall depth and the affordability of retaining him.
On the other hand, the Packers may simply move on to other candidates. Josh Jackson and Ka’dar Hollman weren’t inspiring in 2020, but they both figure to compete along with Kabion Ento — who had an encouraging training camp last summer before suffering a year-ending injury — and 2020 undrafted rookie Stanford Samuels III.