The Green Bay Packers were not major players in free agency this offseason. This was due to a few reasons. For one thing, they wanted to focus on re-signing their own players. By signing David Bakhtiari (despite his knee injury), Kenny Clark, and Aaron Jones to new deals, the Packers arguably signed three of the best free agents on the market. They just happened to play for the Packers. Another reason is that the Packers just do not have much cap space to work with. It was some kind of miracle that Russ Ball was able to work out a way to get the Packers under the cap in the first place. Finally, there is the Aaron Rodgers situation. Much of the Packers’ offseason has been focused on mending their relationship with the disgruntled quarterback. As a result, free agency was placed on the back burner.
The Packers do, however, have several players who will be returning to the team that were injured last season. These players’ impact on the team will be similar to the impact a free agent would have in that they are an improvement over the roster that lost the NFC Championship. Some of these players will return at the start of camp, others will return at some point during the season. In any case, the Packers and their fans should be excited for what they will bring to the team.
David Bakhtiari- Knee Injury
There is really no better way to bolster a team’s offensive line than by adding the best left tackle in the game. David Bakhtiari was lost for the year late last season when he tore his ACL in practice. The loss was devastating, and many believe the Packers might have pulled out a victory in the NFC Championship had Bakhtiari been healthy.
That being said, Bakhtiari will not return to the Packers until later in the season. However, the Packers’ offensive line is deep and can protect Aaron Rodgers (or Jordan Love, who knows?) as well as any in the NFL. When Bakhtiari comes back, though, the line will be an insurmountable force for opposing defenses. Adding him in time for a playoff run could put the Packers over the top.
Josiah Deguara- Knee Injury
Of course, the Packers’ most notable tight end last year was Robert “Big Bob” Tonyan. However, Tonyan did not start out as the main tight end last season. That was rookie Josiah Deguara, the Packers’ third-round pick last year. He injured his ankle in Week One, missed a few games, but suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week Five.
The dangerous thing about Deguara in this offense is that he will not really compete with Robert “Touchdown Machine” Tonyan for snaps. Tonyan is more of a line-up, block, and catch tight end. Deguara, on the other hand, is a much more versatile player. Not only can he play the same role as Tonyan, but he can also be added as another slot receiver or can play out of the backfield. The deception that the Packers’ can utilize with him on the field is going to be exciting to watch.
Kingsley Keke- Concussion
Kingsley Keke made an impressive jump last season, his second in the NFL. In his rookie season, he had no sacks, just one hit on the quarterback, and 10 tackles. Lasts season, he had four sacks, eight quarterback hits, 21 tackles, and two pass deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Unfortunately, Keke suffered a concussion against the Tennessee Titans. The injury caused him to miss the last game of the season and both playoff games. Had Keke been healthy, the Packers’ run defense may have been a bit better against the Buccaneers. He is certainly going to be even better this season, perhaps even putting up numbers that will rival fellow interior lineman Kenny Clark’s.
Kabion Ento- Foot Injury
If the name Kabion Ento is not familiar to most fans, do not worry. He was an undrafted free agent by the Packers in 2019. Last season, it looked like he was going to win a spot on the Packers’ roster. Unfortunately, a foot injury derailed his season and he spent all of it on injured reserve.
Now that he is coming back, Ento is a promising candidate to add depth to the cornerback position. Perhaps more importantly, he is also a great candidate to win special teams playing time. The Packers’ special teams was terrible last season, leading to the firing of the special teams coordinator. Now with a new scheme, the Packers are looking to fill special teams positions with talented players. Ento could definitely give them a boost.
Simon Stepaniak- Knee Injury
Simon Stepaniak was the Packers’ sixth round draft pick last season. However, he missed most of the year while he recovered from a serious knee injury he suffered in college. Despite practicing with the team and even getting added to the active roster late in the season, he was put back on injured reserve and never saw the field.
With David Bakhtiari out until mid-season, the addition of the massive Stepaniak on the line will definitely provide them with much needed depth. Stepaniak is incredibly strong and will be a huge part of the Packers’ run blocking scheme this year.
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