At the conclusion of the 2017, most people would’ve most people who closely follow the Green Bay Packers would’ve argued that a obtaining a pass rusher was the highest priority this offseason. That quickly changed about a week prior to the start of free agency, when new General Manager Brian Gutekunst traded Damarious Randall, the Packers’ most productive cornerback in 2017, to the Cleveland Browns for backup quarterback Deshone Kizer and the ability to move up to the top of the 4th and 5th rounds in this year’s draft. After this move, cornerback quickly became the team’s most important need as the position was rather thin even before Randall was traded. Since then, Gutekunst has re-signed Tramon Williams, who had an extremely productive 2017 with the Arizona Cardinals at the age of 34, but the Packers are still in need of a fresh group of corners to lock down the position long-term.

Damarious Randall:

2017 Stats: 14 games, 47 total tackles, 4 interceptions, 9 passes defended

Contract Situation: Traded to the Browns for Kizer, and moved up in the 4th and 5th rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft

At first glance, the Randall trade was quite a head-scratcher. Why would Green Bay trade away their most productive corner for a backup quarterback who went 0-15 as a starter? However, when considering Randall’s three years in the NFL it makes a bit more sense. After a promising rookie season, the former first round pick had a horrendous second season, and played poorly at the start of 2017. It wasn’t until after Randall was benched in Week 4 against Chicago that he turned his play around and looked formidable in coverage. Add in the fact that Green Bay has a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine, whom I speculate may not have liked what he saw in Randall as a cornerback, and that Randall is heading into the last year of his rookie deal, it makes some sense to actually get something in return from Randall instead of letting him walk after 2018.

Davon House:

2017 Stats: 12 games, 44 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 6 passes defended

Contract Situation: Currently an unrestricted free agent

A member of Ted Thompson‘s last free agent class, House didn’t quite live up to expectations in his reunion with Green Bay. The 2011 fourth round pick had an up-and-down season as he battled with injuries and was often thrust into zone coverage in Dom Capers’ defense, whereas he has played his best in a press-man shceme over his 7-year career. House was often beat deep by a number of receivers over the course of 2017, and at the age of 29 by the time the 2018 season rolls around, he won’t be getting any faster. Despite this, the Packers could do worse than bringing back House on a one-year deal as a veteran backup to compete in training camp, assuming Pettine is able to best diagnose his strengths and weaknesses.

Kevin King:

2017 Stats: 9 games played, 28 total tackles, 5 passes defended

Contract Situation: Signed through 2020 season

While not a flashy rookie season by any means, King showed a lot of promise over 2017 and Packer fans have lots to be excited about heading into 2018. In only his second game as a pro, King did a phenomenal job limiting Atlanta Falcons’ superstar Julio Jones after he routinely burned the two cornerbacks listed above. It was also very reassuring to see King willingly stick his nose into running plays, lighting up ballcarriers instead of whiffing on arms tackles that Packer Nation is all two used to seeing out their defense. Of course, as most rookies, King had his ups and his downs, but after shoulder surgery after being placed on injured reserve (IR) to fix a nagging shoulder injury from his college days at Washington, the second round pick should take a huge jump in his second year.

Josh Hawkins:

2017 Stats: 15 games, 37 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, 6 passes defended

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

After a promising rookie season in 2016 as an undrafted free agent out of East Carolina, Hawkins regressed in his sophomore campaign and will undoubtedly need to fight to stick with the team. Hawkins made some fantastic plays on good throws by opposing quarterbacks, but overall was all too often burned by average NFL receivers in 2017. In addition, the third-year corner isn’t anything special in run support or on special teams. The physical talent is definitely there, but Hawkins needs to work on his consistency if he wants to become more than rotational player anywhere in the NFL.

Lenzy Pipkins:

2017 Stats: 15 games, 11 total tackles, 1 passes defended

Contract Situation: Signed through 2019 season

Despite limited action, Pipkins had a very impressive rookie season in the Green and Gold. An undrafted free agent, Pipkins didn’t get his first shot at extended action on defense until Week 6 against Minnesota, and played with passion and fire that the rest of the team didn’t seem to emulate. Of course, Pipkins had his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, occasionally allowing big plays when thrust on the outside against starting receivers, but the potential is definitely there. In addition, Pipkins, like King, is a physical tackler, and while the Packers shouldn’t rely on him to start opposite King in 2018, the second-year player could definitely blossom into a key rotational player for this season.

Quentin Rollins:

2017 Stats: 6 games, 19 total tackles, 2 passes defended

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

Rollins, a second round pick in the 2014 draft (the same class as Randall), had a similar career path as his draftmate up to the start of 2017. He had a phenomenal rookie season, playing primarily in the slot, had a disatrous second season as he suffered through injuries, and then played poorly to begin the 2017 season. However, unlike Randall, Rollins did not have time to turn around his season as he went on IR only six weeks into 2017 with an Achilles injury. While no injury is ever a good thing, this is especially true for Rollins as he was never known for his speed prior to the injury, and it may be hard to fully return from an Achilles tear at his position. The upside to Rollins’ situation is that despite his rocky 2017 season, he was arguably the Packers’ best cornerback in camp last offseason, and if he can return to that form he has the chance to be a contributor in 2018. If not, the former second round pick may very well not stick on the 53-man roster.

Demetri Goodson:

2017 Stats: Did not play in 2017 due to injury

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

Goodson, a sixth-round pick in 2014, started out the 2017 season on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list after a gruesome knee injury suffered late in 2016, which held him out through Week 13 of this past season. He then shortly went onto IR with a hamstring injury shortly after being activated off the PUP list, resulting in Goodson never playing a down over the course of 2017. The 28-year old corner has never become a regular contributor on defense and in his short stints on the field, he has shown he is more often a liability than not. If it weren’t for special teams ace and WR Jeff Janis‘ departure to Cleveland this offseason, Goodson would have virtually no shot to stick onto the roster in 2018, but the void left on coverage units and Goodson’s ability as a gunner might just give him a leg up on other cornerback prospects.

Donatello Brown:

2017 Stats: 4 games, no stats accrued

Contract Situation: Signed through 2018 season

A 25-year old undrafted rookie in 2017 season, Brown made enough plays in training camp to stick on the practice squad after final cutdown and eventually was promoted to the active roster in November of last season. Brown spent most of his time on the roster as a gameday inactive, and will have to make heads turn yet again in camp to convince the Packers to take a chance on him again instead of choosing other younger developmental cornerback prospects to round out the depth chart.

Level of Need: Extremely High

As I mentioned before, the departure of Damarious Randall left a significant void at the top of depth chart at cornerback, and the addition of Tramon Williams wouldn’t have been enough to patch this unit even if Randall was still on the team. While Williams did play extremely good football with the Cardinals last season, at the age of 35 it will not be long until Father Time comes knocking. The only other cornerback with the ability to start on day one currently on the roster is Kevin King, and so I would expect the Packers to target cornerback early and often in less than three weeks’ time at the 2018 NFL Draft (quite possibly with the 14th overall pick). In addition, making moves to add more veteran depth such as House, Delvin Breaux, or Bashaud Breeland would be smart additions to help lead what will certainly be a young cornerback room outside of Williams.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN.com.

All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

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