The Green Bay Packers allowed 388 points last season, the second-most in the last three decades. The defense needs help but instead could lose two key performers when the free-agent signing period starts on Thursday afternoon.
The New York Jets are among the teams interested in standout outside linebacker Nick Perry. And, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, “multiple teams” will be in the mix for Hyde. Perry and Hyde were arguably two of the top three defenders on the team. If they sign elsewhere, a Packers defense that ranked 21st in points allowed in 2016 would be taking a significant step in the wrong direction.
The door isn’t closed on either player’s return just yet. No doubt the agents for both players will give the Packers a shot to make a comparable offer before signing elsewhere at 3 p.m. Thursday.
However, here's what works in GM Ted Thompson’s favor: The cornerback and edge-rusher classes in this draft are exceptional. There's a chance he drew his financial line in the sand on both Perry and Hyde, content that he can get a (potentially) equal or better player at a vastly reduced price tag — all while accumulating compensatory draft picks for 2018.
After recording 12.5 sacks in his first four seasons, Perry had a career-high and team-leading 11 sacks this past season. Moreover, he had 60 tackles. That’s twice as many as the next-best outside linebackers, Julius Peppers and Datone Jones. Those two are free agents, as well. The knock on Perry is health. He’s never played a full 16-game season and has missed 20 games in five seasons.
Hyde had three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, 61 tackles and one sack. He saved his best for last, with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed in his last eight games (including playoffs). The knock on Hyde is his average athleticism but he’s been a key player throughout his four seasons in Green Bay because of his skill, toughness, intelligence and versatility.
“It was important, definitely down the stretch, making some plays when we needed them most,” Hyde said at the end of the season. “We were dealing with a lot of adversity and a lot of guys were hurt, so I was able to move around to different positions, and make some plays in some positions that I didn't do in the past. I think that just showed my versatility and hopefully they see that.”
According to a source, Davon House is still an option for the Packers, though that wouldn’t be a one-for-one replacement since House is a pure outside cornerback and Hyde is at his best in the slot. Without Hyde, the Packers’ best option in the slot would be Quinten Rollins, who had a miserable second season due in part to a midseason groin injury.
If the Packers need to replace Perry, one veteran to keep in mind is Connor Barwin, who wants out in Philadelphia, where he is a miscast 4-3 end. Peppers and Jones are options, too, of course. Peppers, who turned 37 in January, finished second on the team with 7.5 sacks and would like to play for a 16th NFL season. Jones, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, has nine sacks in four seasons but did lead the team in quarterback hits.
Offensively, Green Bay’s key free agents are guard T.J. Lang, tight end Jared Cook and running back Eddie Lacy.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.