The Green Bay Packers emphasize building through the draft but that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t ever sign free agents. Free agent pickups can always be important contributors to the team even if they are not making headlines at the time they are signed. Here is a look at the Packers 2023 free agent signees and how they did this past season with the team.

Grades are based on a combination of expectations and performance. Only players signed during the offseason are considered here so free agents signed after the season started like Kristian Welch are not included. Also, players the Packers re-signed like Keisean Nixon and Rudy Ford are not included in this list.

Here is a look at the free agents the Packers signed prior to the 2023 season and how they impacted the team.

First Packers 2023 Free Agent: P Daniel Whelan

GM Brian Gutekunst signed Daniel Whelan in May after he earned All-XFL honors playing for the D.C. Defenders. Whelan beat out incumbent Pat O’Donnell for the punting job despite the experience O’Donnell had as a holder for extra points and field goals.

Whelan played well in his first year in Green Bay. The former Cal-Davis star punted 57 times for an average of 46.2-yards per kick. He did not have a punt blocked. That is a very high average for a player kicking in Green Bay where the cold weather often makes it tougher to kick the ball far downfield. His net average per punt was 39.4. Opponents returned one of his punts for a touchdown.

Whelan had only five punts land in the end zone for touchbacks while placing 18 kicks inside the opposing 20.

He also did a good job holding for kicks and extra points, often getting the ball down after shaky snaps.

Whelan will be back in 2024 to try to keep his job for another season.

Grade: B+

Second Free Agent: LS Matt Orzech

The Packers struggled at long snapper in 2022 so they signed veteran Matt Orzech who had previously won a Super Bowl with the Rams and had also played for the Jaguars.

Unfortunately, Orzech could not provide the Packers with consistent long snapping during the 2023 season. While none of his snaps were so bad that they missed the holder or punter entirely, far too often Whelan was often unable to get the ball where it needed to be for an optimal kick whether it was a field goal, extra point, or punt.

Orzech will likely be back in training camp to battle for the long snapper job in training camp, but there is no doubt he will have competition.

Grade: C-

Third Packers 2023 Free Agent: S Jonathan Owens

The Packers lacked depth at safety heading into the 2023 season so Gutekunst signed former Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens. Owens was known as a tackler who could be effective against the run and close to the line of scrimmage. He was less effective in coverage.

Owens made the team and played in all 17 games in 2023. He started 11 games and made 84 total tackles. Owens forced one fumble and recovered one which he returned 27 yards for a touchdown against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. He also recorded one quarterback sack and two tackles for loss.

As advertised, Owens played better closer to the line of scrimmage than in coverage. Opposing quarterbacks completed 65.6 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Owens and had a quarterback rating of 118.2.

Overall, Owens showed flashes of playmaking ability throughout the season. He is a starter you will always be looking to upgrade from but who often finds his way back into the lineup when other players get injured or struggle.

Owens will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason unless the Packers opt to bring him back.

Grade: B-

Fourth Free Agent: S Tarvarius Moore

The Packers signed former 49ers safety Tarvarius Moore to battle for a spot in the lineup or at least to help on special teams. Unfortunately, Moore suffered a knee injury in the preseason game against the Patriots and was placed on injured reserve. The Packers released him with an injury settlement before the season started.

Moore did not sign with any team over the 2023 season and remains a free agent at the present time.

We do not know if Moore would have made the roster had he stayed healthy although the Packers clearly didn’t think enough of him to keep him on IR even though he probably would have been ready to return to the field relatively early in the season.

Grade: Incomplete




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