Packers Cut Veteran Receiver to Add ‘Highly Recruited’ LB

DQ Thomas Packers

Getty Rookie linebacker DQ Thomas, #53, is set to join the Packers' practice squad.

The Green Bay Packers are adding another inside linebacker to their ranks with former starter Krys Barnes stuck on injured reserve until at least October.

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst signed former New York Jets rookie D.Q. Thomas to the team’s practice squad after hosting him for a workout on September 20. The Packers also waived fourth-year wide receiver Travis Fulgham to create the necessary room for him on the 16-man practice-squad roster.

Thomas was a “highly recruited” undrafted rookie coming off his standout career at Middle Tennessee State and received $130,000 in guaranteed money to sign with the New York Jets in May, as Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound inside linebacker played five seasons for the Blue Raiders and finished as their all-time program leader in both tackles for loss (53) and sacks (20.5).

As for Fulgham, the 27-year-old led the Philadelphia Eagles in receiving yards (539) during the 2020 season and joined the Packers midway through training camp to add a little more experience to their relatively young receiver room. He was the only other receiver on their practice squad aside from Juwann Winfree, who got the nod over him to be elevated to the game-day roster in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Thomas Gives Packers a Promising Developmental Piece

It had been expected the Packers would make a move at inside linebacker after they lost Barnes to a significant ankle injury in their season opener. He was their No. 3 linebacker behind De’Vondre Campbell and first-round rookie Quay Walker and won’t be eligible to return to their active roster until the middle of Week 6 even if he recovers quickly, leaving Isaiah McDuffie as the only depth piece behind their starters.

With Thomas now on board, the problem is at least partially addressed. The rookie tackled well and showed good speed for the Jets during his three preseason outings last month, earning a strong 83.1 tackling grade from Pro Football Focus that gives him dual appeal as a special teams weapon as well. There are rough spots to smooth out in his game, particularly in coverage, but he could still have a good amount of developmental potential for the Packers if he picks up the schemes quickly.

That said, the Packers are more likely to call up the other inside linebacker on their practice squad — third-year Ray Wilborn — if they want reinforcements over the next few weeks. He has been developing with the team since signing a reserve/future contract back in January 2021 and has a better grasp of what is expected in Joe Barry’s defensive system, which should put him ahead of Thomas in the pecking order for practice-squad elevations. Can’t hurt to have the competition, though.

Packers Also Worked Out Former Bears Linebacker

Thomas might have been the only new player the Packers signed on Tuesday, but they also worked out a handful of others who could be in play for a role in their practice squad, including former Chicago Bears linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe.

Iyiegbuniwe was a 2018 fourth-round pick for the Bears and played 58 games for them over the past four seasons, recording 29 total tackles, one pass deflection and one forced fumble. After Chicago declined to re-sign him in free agency, he signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks, but he struggled in both preseason appearances for them — missing two tackles — and was released during the second wave of cuts.

Additionally, former CFL first-round offensive guard Ryan Hunter worked out with the Packers on Tuesday along with three other undrafted rookies: offensive tackles Blaise Andries (Minnesota) and Myron Cunningham (Arkansas) and linebacker Clarence Hicks (Texas-San Antonio).

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