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When former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson ran the team, he loved the art of signing undrafted free agents. Many fans remember that Thompson wasn’t a big fan of NFL free agency. But when it came to signing an undrafted free agent, Thompson made it into an art form. Current general manager Brian Gutekunst isn’t as dedicated as Thompson once was in the process. However, he still utilizes the process if it were to help bolster the Packers roster. There are some strong candidates for Gutekunst to choose from this year. Here are the top Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents heading into training camp.
Many might not know this, but Hall of Famer and Packers great Willie Wood was an undrafted free agent. After going undrafted, he went on to have a remarkable career. He helped the Packers win two Super Bowls, was a five-time All-Pro, made the Pro Bowl eight times, and was voted to the 1960’s All-Decade team. There isn’t any argument, Wood is the best Green Bay Packers undrafted free agent of all time.
But finding a Willie Wood, through undrafted free agency, is a one in ten million chance. Still, there are players who flew under the NFL Draft radar that helped the Packers win games. There is a long list of Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents who have done so. Players like George Koonce, Cullen Jenkins, Ryan Grant, Tramon Williams, and John Kuhn, all were Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents. All of them were contributors, either on offense, defense, or special teams.
To make an NFL roster as an undrafted free agent, you need to have several things going for you. One, you need to be able to play special teams. The best way to make a roster, as an undrafted free agent or even a late-round draft pick, is to be able to contribute to special teams. Rich Bisaccia has been given the task of turning around the Packers special teams, which won’t be easy. He will need players who can play. The other factor will be that the player will need to play a position that doesn’t have good depth. The Packers have several positions that have suspect depth. So, there are opportunities for one of the Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents to step up.
Here are the top Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents who have a chance to make the opening game roster.
The Packers are locked in at their number one and two running backs with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. But as discussed recently, they are in search of a number three running back. Former Iowa running back Tyler Goodson will be heavily involved in that competition.
In 2021, Goodson wasn’t just the Hawkeyes best running back, but arguably, he was the biggest weapon in the Hawkeyes offense. He rushed for 1,151 yards on 256 carries with six touchdown carries. What makes that even more impressive is that most opposing defenses were focusing on stopping him. The Hawkeyes passing game and quarterback play were downright awful. Goodson’s numbers illustrate how good he really was.
Goodson faces some tough competition for that number three spot. But as he displayed at Iowa, he is an explosive back and shows some ability as a pass catcher out of the backfield. If he can show that he can contribute to special teams, he will have a very strong chance of making the roster.
Rashan Gary and Preston Smith make up a very formidable pass-rushing duo. Gary appears to be on the cusp of greatness as a pass rusher. While Smith isn’t as explosive as Gary, he is a veteran presence that brings it game in and game out. But behind the two standout pass rushers on the outside linebacker depth chart, is a lot of unknowns and questions.
It appears that Jonathan Garvin and Randy Ramsey are the favorites to be the top backups to Gary and Smith heading into camp. But both players have some major questions. Garvin has potential as a pass rusher, but nobody knows if he is ready to be the top backup. Ramsey is expected to be a major contributor on special teams, but he missed all of 2021 because of an injury.
Knowing all that it should open a door, albeit slightly, for Chauncey Manac. Manac joins the Packers after spending four years at the University of Louisana. In his last season with the Rajin Cajuns, he posted some very impressive statistics. He had 57 tackles, 14.5 of them for loss, as well as 10.5 sacks. He is an older prospect (24) so he might have hit his ceiling. Still, he has shown the ability to get after the passer, something that defensive coordinator Joe Barry has put an emphasis on.
Oh, and for those who believe that only good players can come from Alabama or Georgia, good news. Out of high school, Manac originally signed with Georgia before heading to a junior college and then finally landing at Louisana. He was a four-star recruit coming out of high school.
When it comes to making a roster as an undrafted free agent, sometimes you have to get lucky. As pointed out earlier, to be an undrafted free agent, it helps to play a position a team is thin at. For Tre Sterling that very well could be the case. As it stands right now, the top three safeties are Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, and Shawn Davis. Packers fans should be delighted that Amos and Savage are the Packers starters. But they shouldn’t get the warm fuzzies knowing that Davis is one injury away from being a starter.
Tariq Carpenter, a rookie safety, is close to being a lock to make the roster. Not because he is a great safety, but for the fact that he has a lot of potential as a special teams contributor. Sterling struggled to stay healthy at Oklahoma State. But when he was on the field, he showed some potential. For Sterling to make the roster, it will come down to numbers. If Gutekunst decides to carry five safeties, then he will have a chance. If they go with only four, then his chances will drop.
Nothing against Jack Coco, but he didn’t make this list because of his snapping prowess. Coco could very well have a very long career-long snapping in the NFL. But he made this list, just because the incumbent, Steven Wirtel, was so bad in 2021. Wirtel took over for Hunter Bradley, a former draft pick of Gutekunst’s, as the starting long snapper midway through last season. Wirtel was so shaky that some fans were hoping they would bring back Bradley. That right there says a lot, because Bradley wasn’t good.
It wouldn’t seem farfetched to believe that Gutekunst would pick up a veteran long snapper during training camp. Bisaccia seems like the type of special teams coach that isn’t going to rely on an undrafted rookie to snap. Especially with one that didn’t snap on punts and only snapped on field goal and extra point attempts in college. But there is a chance, especially with how little Gutekunst has cared about special teams during his tenure, that they roll with Coco. If they roll with Wirtel and Coco and allow the best of the two to hold the position, then Coco has a real chance of making the opening game roster.
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