When the Oakland Raiders released sixth-round pick Stryker Sulak before signing him to a contract, it cost the former Missouri star a signing bonus of more than $93,000.
Sulak's major loss was the beat-up Packers' gain, with Green Bay signing him on Thursday morning to fill the roster spot of tight end Tory Humphrey, who was put on season-ending injured reserve with a broken forearm. With the Packers conserving their rookie signing pool for unsigned first-round pick B.J. Raji, Sulak likely received only a token signing bonus.
The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Sulak had 10.5 sacks and led the nation with six forced fumbles last season for the Tigers. He was the 199th pick in the draft, taken 17 spots after the Packers took defensive end Jarius Wynn and six spots after the Packers took cornerback Brandon Underwood. Sulak was seen as one of the many collegiate defensive ends who would be better suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
"Sulak is a hardworking player who doesn't possess great athleticism, but plays with a lot of energy and has the ability to get in the backfield and make plays," Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber said. "He's not an every-down player and is most effective as a situational pass rusher. With the Packers going to a 3-4, he could be a solid backup at OLB and a quality special teams contributor."
Considering Sulak didn't run afoul with the law, his release — while probably not unprecedented — certainly is rare, considering teams treat draft picks like gold and low-round picks are cheap labor.
"I'm thankful to have this opportunity," said Sulak, who visited Cincinnati, Seattle, New England and Carolina since his release on July 13. "What's happened happened, so right now, I'm just thankful to be able to be in this position. I've been out for a month just jumping around team to team."
Sulak said neither he nor his agent were given an explanation by the Raiders. In fact, they didn't know about the move until a day after the Raiders sent the paperwork to the league.
"I don't know. I still haven't heard anything," Sulak said. "It's something I'm not too worried about now. It's in the past. Right now, I'm just focusing on Green Bay."
Sulak is a welcome addition to the Packers' depleted outside linebacking corps. With Jeremy Thompson (groin), second-round pick Clay Matthews III (hamstring) and seventh-round pick Brad Jones (back) fighting injuries and Aaron Kampman, Brady Poppinga and undrafted rookie Cyril Obiozor taking all of the reps, Sulak will get ample opportunity to prove whether he belongs.
"I think so," Sulak said. "Hopefully, all the guys get better soon. I'm walking into this having never played outside linebacker and this is an all new playbook."
And a new position. While Sulak said the Tigers had some packages in which he played as a standup end who dropped into coverage, his primary role was as a hand-down defensive end.
He immediately was thrown in the lineup on Thursday morning, with Kampman getting the morning off and the coaches giving Poppinga a bit of a breather. Perhaps it was fresh legs or perhaps he was playing with a bit more fire than his teammates during an 11-on-11 period late in the practice, but Sulak manhandled tight end Devin Frischknecht on one running play and beat tackle Breno Giacomini around the corner on a passing down.
"All I can bring is intensity right now because I'm learning the plays and learning the position," Sulak said.
Along with Sulak, the outside linebackers got a boost from two-way candidate Spencer Havner. Havner, who had been lining up as an inside linebacker when not playing tight end, was moved to the outside for the morning practice. He was impressive, using a quick swim move to get around Dane Randolph to pressure Matt Flynn at one point.
"He does it al," outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said. "Next week, we're going to have him playing wide receiver. He's that kind of guy that can do a lot of things on our team. The old adage is the more you can do, the more valuable you are to the program."
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