NFL Green Bay Packers

10 Free Agents the Green Bay Packers Should Target This Offseason

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10 Free Agents the Green Bay Packers Should Target

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was not exactly how many expected the Green Bay Packers season to end. Personally, I thought they were catching fire at just the right time to make a deep playoff run. Not to mention the fact that the return of Aaron Rodgers injected positivity into the football team.

Unfortunately, the Packers were faltered by the San Francisco 49ers for the second consecutive postseason, which is a team that definitely got hot at the right time. For that reason, it is time to talk about what free agents, and yes Green Bay must sign a couple, the Packers should target in the offseason.

At the rate Green Bay’s season went it is quite clear the organization needs to target some defensive playmakers. I understand that the incredible amount of injuries definitely played a role in the rest of the NFL not getting to see what the Packers were fully capable of this season. Regardless, the defense still needs some improvement in several areas. More specifically, the defensive line and safety needs some upgrades immediately. Not to mention, the exit of some players via free agency could solve even more problems than the average fan even wants to comprehend.

Remember, the Packers don’t have a lot of money to spend, even with some players coming off the books. However, this slideshow isn’t going to get too focused on the finances. Instead, the focus will be more about which players will help improve the team.

Make sure to click through the slideshow to see 10 free agents the Packers should target this offseason. Also, don’t forget to comment below on which free agents you would like to see Green Bay go after.

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10. Packers Defensive Free Agents

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The Packers have several defensive players that will turn to free agency this offseason. However, Sam Shields, Johnny Jolly and Mike Neal are three players in particular that Green Bay can’t let reach the open market. Shields is the top cover cornerback on the team, Jolly proved to be a major spark on the defensive line and Neal has the proven ability to get to the quarterback. Losing any one of these players would set the defense back instead of forward, which is the direction it desperately needs to go.

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9. Packers Offensive Free Agents

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Green Bay has a few players on offense that could test free agency. James Jones, James Starks and John Kuhn are the three players that must be retained by the organization. Jones is an incredibly underrated wide receiver who has proven to be a consistent playmaker. Starks ran with authority and showed that he is a great complementary back to Eddie Lacy. Kuhn is a fan favorite who is solid on special teams and is by far the best back when it comes to protecting Rodgers.

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8. Charles Woodson S

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Yes, Charles Woodson is a free agent. And yes, the Packers really do need to sign him. The cornerback turned safety had a very productive season for the Oakland Raiders in 2013. He posted 97 total tackles, two sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and three defended passes.

Why must Green Bay bring him back? The main reason is leadership. The Packers have zero on the defensive side of the ball since Woodson was let go a year ago. Clay Matthews hasn’t filled the void nor has Tramon Williams. It’s a ship lost without her captain. That needs to change in the offseason.

Still not good enough for you? Safeties Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were targeted 60 times in 2013 in which they allowed 46 passes to be completed for 612 yards, 9 touchdowns and an incredible passer rating of 148.1. Even worse, Burnett was the only safety in the NFL who played for at least 900 snaps and didn’t record a single interception. Jennings was the only safety in the league who suited up for 800 snaps and didn’t defend one pass. Neither of them forced a fumble. The safety position is the last line of defense. Their job is to create turnovers and defend passes.

As you can see, an upgrade at safety is imperative. Considering the Packers have made Burnett one of the highest-paid safeties in the league means that Woodson should replace Jennings.

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7. Paul Soliai DT

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The unfortunate reality is that B.J. Raji won’t be back in 2014, at least as of right now. Raji rejected Green Bay’s $8 million per season offer, which means there’s no way he’s coming back. On top of that, he wasn’t very productive in 2013, or at least his 17 total tackles didn’t indicate it. And yes, I do realize that Ryan Pickett played a majority of the snaps at defensive tackle this past season, but I don’t believe he will be back in 2014 either. Therefore, the Packers must target a defensive tackle in free agency.

Green Bay will need someone who can plug the middle and be an asset when it comes to defending the run, which is why Paul Soliai needs to be on the team’s list of interest. The 6’4”, 340-pound defensive lineman has the necessary size to prevent any momentum up the gut. More importantly, he’s very active in getting after ball carriers as his 34 total tackles prove. He also recorded one sack and forced one fumble in 2013.

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6. Antonio Smith DE

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If Green Bay learned anything on defense the past few seasons, it’s that they need someone opposite of Matthews to pressure the quarterback. Defensive end Antonio Smith has done a terrific job of that over the past several years. Smith, who works brilliantly with J.J. Watt in Houston, would be a perfect fit in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. The Packers need defensive linemen, along with the outside linebackers, to record sacks. Smith posted 30 total tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble this past season.

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5. Corey Graham CB

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As much as I appreciate the hard work of Shields and Williams in the secondary, the Packers really need to find an additional cornerback in free agency. One such player the team needs to target is Corey Graham. The 28-year-old really stepped his game up in 2013 in which he posted 74 total tackles and one forced fumble. He also had a career-high in sacks (one), passes defended (12) and interceptions (four).

I understand the Packers think a lot of Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde. However, if Green Bay wants to reach the Super Bowl in 2014 they must upgrade the secondary as much as possible. The Packers ranked 24th in the league in opponent passing yards (247.3 per game), which is simply unacceptable.

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4. Karlos Dansby ILB

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A.J. Hawk had a career year and led the team in tackles (118). At the price the Packers are getting him for there’s really no reason to think about replacing him as of yet. Brad Jones is a different story. He was productive in 2013 and the organization appears to be a huge fan of his. The reality is the team will most likely not cut ties with him. With that being said, there were too many times during the season that running backs were able to run right up the middle. In fact, there were too many times where the inside linebackers were nowhere to be found.

Karlos Dansby might be out of reach financially for the Packers. However, the team really needs to make a lucrative splash on defense. Dansby is someone that would have an immediate impact on the team and improve the defense to the point where Green Bay would be contenders once again. Dansby recorded 122 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, four interceptions and defended 19 passes in 2013. Needless to say, he’s the complete package.

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3. Randy Starks DT

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In a 3-4 defense, the nose tackle is the anchor. It’s actually a job that rarely sees any recognition, unless your name is Vince Wilfork or you return an interception for a touchdown in a conference championship game. Randy Starks is a defensive tackle who gets after the quarterback. He might not be suitable to play nose tackle because he weighs in at just 305 pounds, but there’s no question the Packers could find somewhere to use his services along the defensive line.

Starks recorded 49 total tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery this past season. He’s aggressive, fierce and wants nothing more than to win. He’s exactly what Green Bay needs in the trenches.

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2. Alterraun Verner CB

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Alterraun Verner is the very definition of a playmaker in the secondary. Once again, I appreciate the services of current players for the Packers, but changes must be made if the team wants to reach the ultimate goal this year. Verner is one of the more underrated free agents on the market, which could work brilliantly in Green Bay’s favor.

He posted 57 total tackles, five interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one defensive touchdown and a whopping 23 defended passes. For a team that struggled to get takeaways for a majority of the season, Verner would be a fantastic addition. On top of that, he would be a great asset in coverage.

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1. Brian Orakpo OLB

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The Packers need another pass rusher to go along with Matthews. In fact, if Green Bay could ever find someone else to match his intensity and production there would be no stopping them. Enter outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. The 27-year-old wants out of Washington, which means he will be signing elsewhere in free agency. Orakpo needs to be Green Bay’s top priority in the offseason, as he would become a matchup nightmare with the Packers. Could you imagine Matthews on one side and Orakpo on the other? It would be a dream come true for Dom Capers.

Orakpo recorded a career-high 60 total tackles, 10 sacks, two fumble recoveries, one interception and defended five passes in 15 games. The fact that his sack numbers have remained consistent throughout his career means he’s definitely worth spending the money on. Ted Thompson has to come to the realization that the Packers will not get a top-notch pass rusher in the draft. It will have to come in free agency, and there’s no one better than Orakpo as far as outside linebackers are concerned.