Packers Cut Loose Starting Specialist, Sign Ex-Vikings Safety

Wirtel/Mitchell Released

Getty Osirus Mitchell #14 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts to a 16-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2021 NFL preseason Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium on August 5, 2021 in Canton, Ohio.

The Green Bay Packers are changing things up at long snapper again ahead of their first game of the 2022 preseason this weekend.

According to the NFL’s official transaction wire for August 10, the Packers released 2021 starting long snapper Steven Wirtel and waived/injured former USFL wide receiver Osirus Mitchell from their 90-man roster. They also immediately filled the new roster openings with the signings of running back Dexter Williams and safety Micah Abernathy.

The Packers have also announced the moves on their team transaction wire.

Wirtel was signed to the Packers’ practice squad ahead of the 2021 season following his release from the Los Angeles Rams during final roster cuts and was eventually promoted to the active roster on November 2 to replace former starter Hunter Bradley, who was cut loose due to his underwhelming play. Wirtel served as their starting long snapper for the final 10 games of the season, including their lone playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, but struggled similarly to Bradley in terms of consistent play.

Now, Wirtel will be looking for a new job as the Packers move forward with rookie Jack Coco as their only rostered long snapper. It is expected, however, that the Packers will add another long snapper to their 90-man roster in the coming days after they hosted two of them — Mitchell Fraboni and Antonio Ortiz — for workouts on August 9.

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Mitchell Could Revert to IR for Packers

Mitchell was a new face in the Packers’ receiving room and hadn’t done much to distinguish himself over the first two weeks of training-camp practices, partly because of the quad injury that kept him on the sideline for the better part of the last week. Still, there is a chance the former USFL standout will get a shot at playing in the NFL this season — just not with the Packers.

Since Mitchell was waived with an injury designation, there are a few different scenarios that could play out with him. The first — and least likely — is that another team claims him off the waivers and adds him to their camp roster while he works back from his injury. If nobody claims him, though, he will revert back to the Packers’ injured reserve list and will then either a) get waived with an injury settlement and a chance to sign elsewhere or b) spend the rest of the 2022 season on IR.

Unless his injury is worse than expected, it would make sense for the Packers to take the A path with him. Mitchell started all 10 games for the Birmingham Stallions during the USFL season earlier this year, finishing with 23 receptions for 333 yards and the eight-most touchdown catches (three) in the league. He could contend for a deep-depth role — or perhaps, one on the practice squad — for another team once he is healthy again.

Abernathy Impressed at USFL Level

Abernathy’s body of work in the NFL is extremely limited. After going undrafted coming out of Tennessee in 2019, he signed as a UDFA with the Minnesota Vikings and went through offseason workouts with the team before getting waived prior to camp. Thanks to the USFL, though, he does have some impressive football on his recent record.

Abernathy started in 10 games for the Houston Gamblers earlier in 2022 and finished the season with the third-most total tackles (68) and fourth-most solo tackles (45) in the league. He also recorded two tackles for loss, two interceptions, seven pass deflections and one forced fumble, showing enough potential to earn consideration from the NFL.

Whether Abernathy will be able to make a serious run at the Packers’ 53-man roster remains to be seen, but it does introduce another depth piece and potential special teams contributor to the mix. His primary competition will be the fringe players vying for the Nos. 4 through 6 roles in the safety rotation — if the Packers even keep that many — such as Innis Gaines, Shawn Davis, Dallin Leavitt and rookie Tariq Carpenter.

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