The cornerback position has been hit and miss for the Green Bay Packers over the last several years. The team scored big when it nabbed Jaire Alexander at No. 18 overall in 2018, but former second rounders Kevin King and Josh Jackson have both been disappointing thus far.
The Packers re-signed King to a one-year $6 million deal this offseason, but he has done little to inspire confidence he can turn things around this year. The 26-year-old corner has had several insignificant yet nagging injuries throughout his young career so far, and he yet to play a full season. When he is on the field, he hasn’t been anywhere near consistent enough. In his 11 games in 2020, King earned a 55.7 overall grade from PFF to go with an utterly unimpressive 52.1 coverage grade. Opposing quarterbacks had a field day throwing in his direction, netting a 105.8 passer rating against him.
Green Bay took corner Eric Stokes in the first round this year, but Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report thinks there’s an available free agent defensive back the Pack could still sign in an effort to boost their secondary, and the name is an intriguing one.
The latest Packers news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Packers newsletter here!
BR Analyst Urges Packers to Go After Free Agent CB Steven Nelson
Considering the question marks surrounding King and Jackson, Gagnon thinks former Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers corner Steven Nelson should be a prime target for Green Bay before the preseason starts. Here’s Gagnon’s rationale:
The last thing the Green Bay Packers want to do is rely on a rookie cornerback. That position is just too hard to nail right off the bat in this league, so in a perfect world, first-rounder Eric Stokes will have some time to get acclimated. In other words, a lot could fall on disappointing second-round picks Kevin King and Josh Jackson—even if Jaire Alexander and Chandon Sullivan hold things down outside and in the slot. Those two just haven’t gotten it done, and King in particular was a mess in last year’s NFC Championship Game. Barring marked signs of improvement this summer, the Packers should be all over Steven Nelson, Richard Sherman and maybe even Josh Norman.
Of the three available free agents Gagnon suggested, Nelson is the best fit for the Packers. Over his last two seasons in Pittsburgh, Nelson started 30 games, and he racked up 109 tackles (95 solo), 3 interceptions, 17 passes defensed and 2 fumble recoveries. He plays predominantly on the right side, so he could fill in opposite Alexander if needed. Much will depend, of course, on the development of Stokes.
Follow the Heavy on Packers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Rookie Stokes Will Be X-Factor in Green Bay’s Secondary
During the Packers’ minicamp in June, Stokes impressed those in attendance, establishing himself as a play-maker. A nifty interception while covering Marquez Valdes-Scantling, among other plays, should have Packer Nation cautiously optimistic. How well the rookie comes along over the next few months will be key to how the Packers’ secondary will look in the regular season.
“I’m going to come in here, I’m going to do what the coach asks me. If the coach asks me to do this, I’m going to do that. I’m not going to go back and forth or anything to where, I’m going to keep my head down, just keep working. That’s the only thing I do know, just work,” Stokes said in mid-June, per the team’s official website.
“I’m just trying to take it day by day to where I know for a fact that I’m improving and I know I’m getting better and learning something. That’s pretty much my biggest goal,” Stokes added. He’ll be one of the more intriguing players to watch in training camp, to be sure, but it still may not be a bad idea for Green Bay to comb the market one more time for a veteran corner — and Nelson wouldn’t be a bad place to start.