The Green Bay Packers head into the offseason with some obvious needs. For example, the team’s top three safeties are all scheduled to be unrestricted free agents next month and there are no experienced options on the roster as of right now. The Packers also have just one running back on the roster with extensive NFL experience and he is 29 which is already considered old for a runner. But there is one other position that the Packers have a big offseason need at which has not been discussed as often.

The Biggest Reason for the Packers Offseason Needs at this Position

The Packers fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry after three inconsistent seasons. Barry played a 3-man front as his base defense with five defensive backs in his base formation.

After the season ended, Matt LaFleur hired former Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley to replace Barry. Hafley plans to employ a four-man defensive line as his base with two or three linebackers on the field in base.

This means that the Packers require defenders who excel in a different system than the one they previously employed. There will be a greater emphasis on stuffing the run rather than dropping back into coverage if the defense is similar to the one employed recently by the 49ers.

The Packers Present Starters at this Position

The team’s two starters at off ball linebacker last season were De’Vondre Campbell and Quay Walker. Both are still under contract although they are in very different situations. Walker is entering his third NFL season and is still on his rookie contract.

Walker has good speed but has yet to make himself into a big-play defender through his first two seasons in the league. He has shown the ability to blitz quarterback on occasion, especially late in the season although he still needs to hone his technique when blitzing.

It is unclear whether Walker is better suited to play in the middle or on the outside in Hafley’s defense. He will start at one linebacker spot for sure.

The Packers may have different plans for Campbell. The former All Pro will turn 31 in July. Since his All-Pro season in 2021, he has struggled with injuries that have limited his playing time. When Campbell did play, he was not playing at a level close to his career-best 2021 campaign.

Campbell counts more than $14 million against the cap in 2024. The Packers could save $10.5 million if they cut the former- Minnesota star after June 1st. That move looks increasingly likely.

The Only Experienced Depth for the Packers Offseason Needs

The only other player with significant NFL experience on the current roster is Isaiah McDuffie. McDuffie has experience playing in Hafley’s defense at Boston College. His lack of size makes him an unlikely starter although he could remain a valuable depth piece.

The Packers Offseason Needs at This Position

Assuming the Packers move on from Campbell, linebacker becomes a big need for the defense. It is critical to help the defense Hafley and the Packers intend to run to succeed.

Last season, both Walker and Campbell missed time due to injuries and McDuffie started eight games as a result. That demonstrates the need for depth at the position even if both of last year’s starters are back.

The ideal off-ball linebacker in this defense is a player who has good speed and can make tackles from sideline to sideline, primarily against the run or screen passes. He will not be asked to drop back into deep pass coverage as much as the inside linebackers had to under Barry’s defense.

If Campbell isn’t back, the Packers will need at least one starter. If he does return, depth is still an issue. GM Brian Gutekunst could add a relatively inexpensive veteran free agent who has some experience in the defensive system Hafley will play. He could also add one or more players in the draft. It is more likely that he will add players in both free agency and the draft.

Regardless, off ball linebacker is a big need for the Packers this offseason and the players on the roster at that position will be a different group than what we saw in 2023.




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