According to published reports, the Green Bay Packers are declining the fifth-year option on former first round pick Eric Stokes. Under the circumstances, GM Brian Gutekunst made the right decision on Stokes based on where he stands right now. Here is a look at why the Packers made the right decision by declining the fifth-year option on Eric Stokes.

Why the Packers Made the Right Decision by Declining the Fifth-Year Option on Eric Stokes, Number One: His Injury History

The biggest reason for the Packers declining the fifth-year option is Stokes’ injury history. He has played three seasons with the Packers thus far and remained healthy for just one.

In 2022, Stokes suffered knee and foot injuries during the team’s Week 9 game against the Lions. He missed the remainder of the 2022 campaign and started the 2023 season on the PUP list as a result.

Last season, the Packers activated Stokes off the PUP list for their Week 6 game in Denver. Unfortunately, the Georgia alum played just four snaps on special teams before suffering a hamstring injury.

He managed to return in Week 14 and started two games on defense before reinjuring the hamstring and missing the rest of the season and the playoffs.

Overall, Stokes has played in just 12 out of a possible 36 games including playoffs over the last two seasons.

The Packers sent Stokes and wide receiver Christian Watson to a hamstring specialist during the offseason to try to prevent a reoccurrence of these injuries. According to Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur, Stokes is recovering and should be ready to go for all offseason activities.

Stokes Was Also Inconsistent

The other major reason for Gutekunst to decline Stokes’ option is his inconsistent play. Stokes shined as a rookie. He started 14 games after injuries struck starting cornerbacks Jaire Alexander and Kevin King.

Stokes played well. According to, opposing quarterbacks completed just 49.5 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes. Their quarterback rating was just 71.3.

Stokes struggled in 2022 before his injury. Stokes plays his best football in press coverage while then defensive coordinator Joe Barry often had his corners give receivers a cushion at the line of scrimmage. In nine games, opposing quarterbacks completed 80 percent of their passes when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes and had a quarterback rating of 123.5.

In limited action last season, Stokes struggled in coverage again. He may have returned too quickly from his injuries and the team asked him to do too much, too soon. Opposing quarterbacks completed 75 percent of their passes and had a quarterback rating of 145.3 when throwing to receivers covered by Stokes. The sample size was low, as quarterbacks threw to receivers covered by Stokes only eight times in those two games he played on defense.

The injury history made the fifth-year option risky. The Packers would have owed Stokes a salary of $12.472 million in 2025, fully guaranteed with no signing bonus to reduce the cap hit.

Why the Packers Made the Right Decision by Declining the Fifth-Year Option on Eric Stokes, Number Three: Other Choices are Available

The other reason it made sense for Gutekunst to pass on the fifth-year option is that the team has other choices. Assuming Stokes is healthy and plays well in the coming season, the Packers could sign Stokes to a deal similar to what they did a year ago with quarterback Jordan Love. The Packers offered Love an incentive laden deal worth less than the fifth-year option but for two years and with a chance to make more if he meets the incentives.

This would also allow the Packers some short-term cap relief by utilizing the signing bonus and spreading some of the money out over two seasons.

If Stokes doesn’t play well, they don’t have to sign him at all or can pay him less since he won’t meet the incentives. If he does play well, they will have a quality player at a premium position for two seasons instead of one.

Overall, Gutekunst made the right move by declining Stokes’ fifth-year offer. That doesn’t necessarily mean that 2024 will be his last season with the Packers.



Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

Click here for more great Packers coverage