After losing out on Kyle Fuller, should Packers make a (Davon) House call?
GREEN BAY — With their creative play for Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller having gone for naught and the free agent market at their most uncertain position drying up before their very eyes, it sure looks like the Green Bay Packers need to bring back veteran Davon House.
And maybe even reach further back into their cornerback history and reach out to veteran Tramon Williams, too.
The Packers signed Fuller to a reported four-year, $56 million offer sheet on Friday, only to see their NFC North division rivals match it within a matter of hours.
With a less-than-stellar class of veteran free agents having hit the open market while Fuller was saddled with the transition tag, first-year Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst might’ve been tossing a contractual Hail Mary with Fuller, one the Bears had no trouble matching because they had $66 million in salary-cap space at the time. It was an out-of-the-box move that had little downside and at least gave the Packers a fleeting chance at perhaps the best veteran cornerback out there.
Having watched as the most expensive cornerbacks got rich elsewhere — Trumaine Johnson went from Los Angeles Rams to the New York Jets on a five-year, $72.5 million deal, while Malcolm Butler left the New England Patriots to join the Tennessee Titans on a five-year, $61.5 million deal — it’s reasonable to think the Packers didn’t see enough from any of the big-ticket cornerbacks to throw significant money at them.
Truth be told, the contracts Gutekunst signed tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to last week aren’t blockbusters.
Graham’s three-year, $30 million deal could turn out to be just a one-year, $13 million rental if the 31-year-old five-time Pro Bowler doesn’t pan out, and Wilkerson’s one-year, $5 million deal is an inexpensive, prove-it contract that looks like a bargain if he can regain his previous form under Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached him with the Jets in 2011 and 2012.
Perhaps that’ll lead Gutekunst to look for other inexpensive veteran options, of which House would be one. The 2011 fourth-round pick returned to the Packers last season on a one-year, $2.85 million deal, having been cut by Jacksonville after two seasons with the Jaguars.
When healthy, he was a steady player who started all 12 games he appeared in and finished with 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and nine pass break-ups.
He also played through multiple injuries to finish games and lent a veteran presence to a young cornerback room, having played with Williams and the great Charles Woodson earlier in his own career.
“This is where I always want to play,” House said after the season. “I don’t know how other people were thinking. With me, there shouldn’t be any question about my toughness this year or if I really want to play or things like that. I left all that I’ve got out there.
“I’m excited to see what happens. I did some good things. I feel like I got better. But I know the nature of the business.”
In addition to House, the Packers have eight other unrestricted free agents who are on the market: safety Morgan Burnett, tight end Richard Rodgers, defensive tackle Quinton Dial, right guard Jahri Evans, wide receiver/special teamer Jeff Janis, long-snapper Brett Goode, outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, and tackle Ulrick John.
Having traded former first-round pick Damarious Randall to Cleveland earlier this month, the Packers’ cornerback depth chart currently includes Kevin King, who is coming off shoulder surgery; Quinten Rollins, who tore his Achilles’ tendon last season; special teams ace Demetri Goodson, who hasn’t played much at corner and couldn’t get healthy after coming off the physically unable to perform list last season; and youngsters Josh Hawkins, Lenzy Pipkins, Donatello Brown and Herb Waters.
Williams, who spent eight seasons with the Packers from 2007 through 2014 and was a top-five cover corner in his prime, turned 35 last week but wants to continue playing.
He spent last year with the Arizona Cardinals, registering 41 tackles, two interceptions and 12 pass break-ups in 13 games, but he played for Pettine in Cleveland when Pettine was the Browns head coach.