The Green Bay Packers will have tough decisions to make about some of the best players on their 2021 roster in the coming months, but cornerback Rasul Douglas sounds like he might make things easier for them in 2022 free agency.
Douglas ended up being one of the biggest surprises for the Packers in 2021, getting signed off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on October 6 after Jaire Alexander was injured and becoming the steadiest outside cornerback in their lineup. He held opposing quarterbacks to a 49.6 passer rating over his 466 coverage snaps and picked off a team-high five passes — tying for fourth-most in the NFL over just 12 games.
The downside to Douglas’ strong play, however, has been his rising value as an impending free agent in 2022. The Packers are in a bind with their salary cap — projected to be more than $46 million over the cap — and might not be able to pony up the necessary funds to retain him, especially with Alexander on a fifth-year option for next year and likely seeking a long-term contract.
Fortunately, Douglas has given the impression that he would like to remain with the Packers and won’t need a “crazy” amount of money to stick around.
Here’s the exchange between Douglas and ESPN’s Rob Demovsky from when Douglas addressed the media on January 24:
Demovsky: What’s it going to take to get you back in Green Bay next year?
Douglas: I guess for them to tell me to come back.
Demovsky: I would assume it’s going to take a lot more money than you were making this year, though, right?
Douglas: Probably a little bit more, nothing crazy.
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Evaluating Packers Current Cornerback Situation
The Packers aren’t looking at a dire situation when it comes to their cornerback room in 2022. They have Alexander, a 2020 All-Pro, set to return for at least one more season and 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes under contract for another three years. They also used a fifth-round pick last year on Shemar Jean-Charles, who could step into a bigger rotational role next season with a year in Joe Barry’s system under his belt.
Still, depth could become an issue if not handled correctly.
In addition to Douglas, the Packers also have cornerbacks Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan set to become unrestricted free agents when the new league year begins on March 16. They signed both Kabion Ento and newcomer Kiondre Thomas to reserve/futures contracts earlier this week, but neither has played any regular-season defensive snaps in the NFL and are wait-and-see pieces at this point.
The Packers currently have seven picks in the 2022 NFL draft — none in the sixth round, but two in the seventh — and could be getting another fourth-rounder and seventh-rounder as compensation for the free-agent departures of Corey Linsley and Jamaal Williams in 2021 free agency. Nevertheless, it could be hard to pass up a verified talent in Douglas if he is willing to make his price tag fit the Packers’ budget.
Douglas Says 2021 With Packers Meant ‘Everything’
Douglas’ career was on a downward trajectory coming into the 2021 season. After three average seasons in Philadelphia and one as an 11-game starter in Carolina, the 26-year-old cornerback struggled to earn a role with two different teams — Las Vegas and Houston — during 2021 training camp and eventually had to settle for a practice-squad role with the Cardinals. Not an ideal situation for a former third-round pick.
That’s why Douglas says the opportunity to come to Green Bay meant “everything” to him. He had the type of season in 2021 that should earn him quite a bit of interest from other teams if he decides to test the waters in free agency this spring. According to Spotrac, Douglas is projected to earn about $9.2 million per year on his next contract with the working model being a four-year deal worth $36.93 million.
At the same time, Douglas wants to be back with the Packers, and he won’t make a return contingent upon playing the same outside cornerback position.
“Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’ll do it,” Douglas said of coming back in a different role for the Packers. “Whether it’s corner, slot, safety, special teams, anything. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m all for it.”