Could the stars be aligning for another veteran reunion with the Green Bay Packers?
After the Buffalo Bills eliminated them in Saturday’s AFC divisional round, the Baltimore Ravens switched into offseason mode to start the new week and waived four veterans on Monday afternoon, including longtime Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. Now, given the Packers’ current lack of cornerback depth, the timing may be right for 37-year-old to return to Green Bay for a third and final stint.
Williams signed as a free agent with the Ravens in mid-November and played in a total of seven games, including last weekend’s loss to the Bills. While he was never needed for a starting role, he was still good to play on more than 60% of defensive snaps in three games while the Ravens were battling injuries in the secondary. He finished with 17 total tackles and just one missed; though, Pro Football Focus graded him at an unimpressive 53.5 on the season.
Unfortunately, NFL rules do not appear to allow the Packers to bring back Williams — or signing any additional players — from the remainder of the postseason, but there are still ways for the veteran cornerback to reunite with Green Bay before calling it a career.
Update: According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Williams flew into Green Bay on Wednesday for a visit with the Packers and is expected to sign with the team “if everything goes right.”
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Packers Solid at Top, but Lacking CB Depth
The Packers have three solid cornerbacks in Jaire Alexander, Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan heading into their NFC championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but an injury to any one of them could prove to be a significant problem considering the questionable depth behind them.
The Nos. 4 and 5 cornerbacks for the Packers — Josh Jackson and Ka’dar Hollman — have scarcely played on defense over the past few months. The confidence level in Jackson has dropped so low, in fact, that he has played a mere three defensive snaps since Week 10. Both he and Hollman were also healthy scratches in the divisional round against the Los Angeles Rams with the Packers instead promoting Kei’Varae Russell to fill out the No. 4 spot.
Hard to find an upside in a former second-round pick losing reps to a practice-squad elevation.
Maybe the Packers will have more faith in Hollman in the NFC championship game. He has only yielded seven receptions in the 17 times opposing passers have targetted him this season, but having 112 career reps as cornerback makes him difficult to trust in such an important moment.
The Packers will have to figure it out quickly, and it won’t get any easier when the 2021 offseason arrives. Decisions will need to be made on Jackson, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract next season, and starter Kevin King with the latter heading into free agency in the upcoming spring. If both are gone by the 2021 season, would there be room to bring in a veteran presence like Williams?
Will Williams Finish Career with Packers?
The instinct to want back Williams is understandable for Packers fans. There are good chances that he will one day be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame for his 10 seasons of strong play, beginning when he rose from the practice squad during 2007’s training camp.
Would Williams come back to Green Bay simply to retire, though, or would he intend to play some final career snaps in a Packers uniform?
Williams started 122 of 159 games for the Packers over his playing career with 559 tackles, 30 interceptions, 125 pass deflections, 11 fumble recoveries and 4.5 sacks as a mixture of both right and left corner as well as strong safety. He also still looked comfortable and competent in Mike Pettine’s system for the 2019 season, providing the temptation to bring him in for a final season as a veteran backup/player-coach to young, developing cornerbacks.
The trouble with bringing in Williams for a third playing stint is twofold. The Packers effectively said “No” to Williams during the 2020 offseason when they declined to re-sign him as a free agent. He will also be a 38-year-old player by the time the 2021 season rolls around at one of the most difficult and important positions in football. If his step slows whatsoever, it could be a bad bet.
Regardless, the door would seem open for Williams’ return in some capacity. Only time will tell whether general manager Brian Gutekunst still views him as a playable talent.