Seattle's Bryant is a very underrated defensive lineman
The start of free agency on Tuesday is like an unofficial holiday for many NFL fans, but for Cheeseheads, Tuesday is just the second day of another work week. That’s because the Packers haven’t signed a meaningful free agent in the past three years. General manager Ted Thompson doesn’t figure to change his ways this offseason, but you never know. After all, did you ever think you’d live to see the day when Jonah Hill was nominated for an Oscar? So anything is possible. And if Thompson does choose to be active in free agency, here are a half-dozen players he might want to consider:
Kahlil Bell rushed for 337 yards in the final five games of last season, including 121 against the Packers. He also caught 19 passes for another 133 yards and a TD. The 25-year old impressed the heck out of me in week 16 and it’s difficult to imagine Green Bay’s brain trust not feeling the exact same way. The former UCLA star has nice vision and will hit the hole very hard. Whether Thompson would be willing to pursue a restricted free agent remains to be seen, but assuming Bell receives the lowest tender from the Bears, I think he’d be worth going after. He’s a much better prospect than Brandon Saine.
Red Bryant started all 16 games for the Seahawks last season. While the 28-year-old has been a 4-3 tackle for his entire career, he projects nicely to end in the 3-4. In fact, that might be his best position. The former Texas A&M star is very similar to another ex-Aggie, Johnny Jolly, who was playing at a high level for the Packers before purple dranking himself out of the league. Bryant would provide a strong anchor versus the run, and while he’s not a great pass rusher, he’s strong enough to collapse the pocket once in a while. He won’t come cheaply, but he won’t break the bank either.
Antonio Dixon wasn’t a very good fit in the Eagles’ wide-nine scheme last season, but he has the size and the athleticism to play multiple positions in a 3-4. The 26-year-old could start at end for the Packers if Mike Neal doesn’t show significant improvement in camp, or he could provide outstanding depth all along the defensive line. The former Miami (Fla.) star will never be a great pass rusher, but he’ll look like Merlin Olsen when compared to Ryan Pickett, Jarius Wynn, C.J. Wilson, et al. Dixon would be a nice fallback option should Bryant prove too pricey.
William Gay started 14 games at cornerback for the Steelers in 2011 after spending the majority of his first four seasons as a backup. He’s probably better-suited for a reserve role, but he wasn’t awful when pressed into regular duty. The 27-year-old obviously knows the Packers’ scheme, so there would be no learning curve. Gay would offer stiff competition for Sam Shields in camp. At best, the former Louisville star would provide Green Bay with an experienced nickel back. At worst, he would be one of the best No. 4 corners in the league and a nice addition on special teams.
Dwight Lowery started 11 games at safety for the Jaguars last season. The 26-year-old spent the first three years of his career with the Jets, where he played the majority of his snaps at corner. That versatility, along with his age and competitiveness, would make him a nice addition to the Green Bay secondary. While the former San Jose State star probably doesn’t have the athleticism to be a top-notch starter, he’d be much better potential replacement for Nick Collins than any other safety on the current roster. Lowery will garner some interest in free agency, but his price tag should be reasonable.
Adam Snyder started 13 games at multiple positions for the 49ers last season. While the 30-year-old struggled at right tackle, he more than held his own at center and guard – his more natural positions. The former Oregon star played under Mike McCarthy in 2005 so he’d at least be familiar with the Packers’ offense. Snyder would be an excellent addition. He could compete for the starting job at center should Scott Wells leave or he would provide excellent depth at all three interior positions should Thompson be able to re-sign his only Pro Bowl offensive lineman.