The Green Bay Packers shelled out a total of $49,000 of signing bonuses to 17 undrafted free agents.
Illinois wide receiver Geronimo Allison, Mississippi State inside linebacker Beniquez Brown, Northern Iowa cornerback Makinton Dorleant, Nevada running back Don Jackson and Miami receiver Herb Waters pocketed the highest bonuses at $5,000.
Speaking generally, the greater the bonus money, the better the prospect. Of course, as with all things involving the NFL draft, it doesn’t always work out that way. In 2010, the Packers gave Sam Shields a $7,500 bonus; Chris Campbell received $6,000. In 2011, the Packers gave Vic So’oto an $8,500 bonus; Ray Dominguez also received $8,500. In 2012, Tommie Draheim received an $8,500 bonus, and only one of the six players to receive more than $4,000 (Sean Richardson) made the final roster. In 2013, Lane Taylor got a $7,000 bonus and Andy Mulumba received $5,000; Matt Brown and Gilbert Pena also received $5,000. In 2014, Jayrone Elliott and Joe Thomas got $5,000 signing bonuses. So, too, did John Fullington, Adrian Hubbard and Jake Doughty. In 2015, 10 players received $5,000 bonuses, ranging from the good (Ladarius Gunter and John Crockett) to not-so-good (receivers Ricky Collins, Adrian Coxson and Jimmie Hunt).
In all, the Packers signed 22 undrafted rookies following the draft. Who’s got the best shot at cracking the roster? It’s opportunity, not money, that shows the way.
— ILB Beniquez Brown ($5,000) and Manoa Pikula ($2,500): Brown left Mississippi State following a redshirt junior season of 100 tackles, four sacks and 11 tackles for losses in 2015. That’s better than Pikula. As a senior, he missed spring practice due to academic issues and was suspended for the final two regular-season games for what he called “BYU stuff.” In 11 games, Pikula recorded 55 tackles, including two sacks and 3.5 for losses.
Pikula wins athletically, though, among the three additions at inside linebacker. Fourth-round pick Blake Martinez (6-1 5/8, 237) ran his 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds with 22 reps on the 225-pound bench press, a 28.5-inch vertical and a 4.20 in the 20-yard shuttle. Brown (6-0 3/4, 229) ran his 40 in 4.77, with 18 reps on the bench, a 31-inch vertical leap and a 4.28 clocking in the 20-yard shuttle. Pikula ran his 40 in 4.57, with 24 reps on the bench, a 36.5-inch vertical leap and a 4.23 in the 20-yard shuttle. In those four measurables, Pikula won in the 40, bench press and vertical jump and was second in the shuttle.
With Clay Matthews back at outside linebacker and Nate Palmer released, there’s an opening on the roster for at least one more fresh face at inside linebacker.
“I knew that even before the draft had actually started,” Brown said. “When they called, I felt like it was the best fit for me. I feel like I can go in and compete and fight to make the 53-man roster.”
— RB Don Jackson ($5,000) and Brandon Burks ($1,000): In high school, a teacher predicted Jackson would be dead or in jail by his 17th birthday. Jackson turned his life around. After two years at a junior college, Jackson rushed for 957 yards in 2014 and 1,082 yards in 2015 for Nevada. At 5-foot-10 and 208 pounds with a 4.50 clocking in the 40 and a 38.5-inch vertical, he’s got a nice combination of size and athleticism.
Burks rushed for 2,264 yards during his final three seasons at Troy. Perhaps more impressively, he caught 88 passes during that span. At 5-foot-8 5/8 and 208 pounds with a 4.56 in the 40 and a 37-inch vertical, he’s not quite the physical package that is Jackson.
In the backfield, only Eddie Lacy and James Starks are assured roster spots. Jackson and Burks will battle incumbent John Crockett for the No. 3 back.
— CB Makinton Dorleant ($5,000) and Josh Hawkins ($3,500): After two seasons at Maryland, Dorleant was a three-year starter at cornerback for Northern Iowa. He had one interception and 17 passes defensed as a senior. Hawkins, a former walk-on at East Carolina, had two interceptions, including a pick-six, and six passes defensed as a senior but five thefts as a junior.
Dorleant looked rail-thin at the rookie camp. Sure enough, at 5-foot-10 3/4, he weighed just 177. He’s an impressive athlete, however, with a 4.40 in the 40 and 39-inch vertical. Hawkins is 5-foot-10 1/2 and 189 pounds with a 4.39 in the 40 and 40.5-inch vertical.
The Packers didn’t draft a corner and lost Casey Hayward in free agency. Plus, Demetri Goodson certainly isn’t in the team’s good graces with a four-game suspension to open the season. So, there’s a potential hole to fill, and the Packers have an impressive undrafted history at the position with Shields, Gunter and Tramon Williams.
— DT Tyler Kuder ($3,000) and Brian Price ($2,500): The Packers are short-handed up front. While they drafted Kenny Clark in the first round and Dean Lowry in the fourth round, B.J. Raji decided not to play, Josh Boyd was released, Mike Pennel was suspended for four games and Datone Jones will split his time between defensive end and outside linebacker. That creates an opportunity for Kuder or Price.
Kuder (6-3 1/4, 307) was a two-year starter at Idaho State, landing there instead of a bigger school because of poor grades in high school.
As a senior nose tackle, he was unblockable with 92 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 11 tackles for losses. He ran in 5.23 with 31 reps on the bench.
Price (6-2 3/4, 322) was far less productive, dealing with a torn labrum and starting only as a senior at Texas-San Antonio — recording 33 tackles, with one sack and two TFLs in 2015. He’s best known for infamously shoving a referee to the turf during a game late in 2014. He ran in 5.17 with 20 reps on the bench.
— S Kentrell Brice ($2,000): The Packers didn’t draft a safety, making Brice their best offseason acquisition at the position. Brice (5-11 1/2, 200), who had one interception as a senior and two picks and four forced fumbles as a junior, has the physical tools with a 4.44 in the 40, a 42-inch vertical, 11-1 in the broad jump and 21 reps on the bench. The final three of those numbers would have ranked at or near the top of the safeties at the Combine.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.