A deep 90-man roster assembled by Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst will put several veteran players on the roster bubble as the team approaches the start of training camp in late July.
Terrific competitions within each position group look likely, and the last few spots on the 53-man roster will have to be earned the hard way. Expect tough cuts come late August.
Here is one veteran player on the roster bubble at each position group as training camp approaches:
QB: Blake Bortles
Green Bay Packers quarterback Blake Bortles (9) participates in minicamp practice Thursday, June 10, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
If Aaron Rodgers eventually returns, and Jordan Love isn’t an abject disaster during training camp, there would be little reason to keep Bortles, even at a cap hit of $850,000. It’s even possible the Packers will eventually gravitate towards Kurt Benkert as the No. 3 quarterback. All bets are off if Rodgers doesn’t return; Bortles’ experience would be valuable in that scenario.
RB: Dexter Williams
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It’s getting to be now or never time for Williams in Green Bay. He’s entering Year 3, and he should know Matt LaFleur’s offense like the back of his hand. It’s time for all that physical ability and running talent that was on display at Notre Dame to finally show up in the NFL. Kylin Hill and Patrick Taylor will be battling Williams for the No. 3 running back job during camp. If he doesn’t have a big summer, the 2019 sixth-round pick might be looking for a new home by early September.
WR: Equanimeous St. Brown/Devin Funchess
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess (11) participates in minicamp practice Wednesday, June 9, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Like most years, wide receiver will be a fascinating positional battle to watch during training camp. It’s often an overplayed competition between intriguing young players and fringe roster types, but there will be veterans fighting for spots in Green Bay this summer. Guys with NFL experience like St. Brown and Funchess will not be guaranteed a place on the initial 53-man roster. Keep an eye on Juwann Winfree, who spent most of last year in Green Bay and could surprise during camp. He fits the mold of what LaFleur likes at receiver.
TE: Jace Sternberger
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His first two NFL seasons were nothing if not rocky, and now he’ll start the 2021 season on the suspended list for two games. Tight end is an exceedingly difficult position for young players, but Sternberger is now going into Year 3, and he needs to show real flashes of improvement this summer. The position group has real depth, and opportunities will be limited with Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis topping the depth chart. Sternberger needs to find a specific role, something he can do consistently well within the scheme. He’ll be going into camp without much of one.
OT: Yosh Nijman
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The Packers drafted Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen, who could both get opportunities to develop at offensive tackle, and Ben Braden – a holdover from last year – was taking reps at left tackle over Nijman during minicamp. Not good signs. This summer will be Nijman’s third training camp with the Packers. Can he take a developmental step and prove capable of providing important depth, especially with David Bakhtiari’s status uncertain for the start of the season? The Packers have other options if he can’t.
IOL: Simon Stepaniak
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One of the Packers’ three sixth-round picks in 2020, Stepaniak still hasn’t played at the NFL level after recovering from a knee injury as a rookie. Now, he’ll go into his first training camp locked in a deep and competitive roster battle. Can his strength and playstyle win over the coaches as a backup guard? The Packers are loaded with intriguing players along the interior of the offensive line, and many of the competitors have more versatility. Stepaniak will have to be very good this summer to emerge with one of the few roster spots behind the expected starters.
DL: Tyler Lancaster
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The Packers are light on defensive linemen, making this one a tough decision. Still, Lancaster’s one-year deal includes only $200,000 of guaranteed money, and if the Packers like one of their young linemen – like undrafted free agent Jack Heflin – or rookie T.J. Slaton comes on as a real contributor, Lancaster could be in roster trouble.
OLB: Randy Ramsey
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Ramsey played in 12 games last year, mostly on special teams, but he’ll have to win back a roster spot as a backup edge rusher in 2021. The Packers like Jonathan Garvin, a seventh-round pick a year ago, and Tipa Galeai is another second-year rusher worth watching in camp. Ramsey needs to be great for new special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton to be the fourth or fifth outside linebacker.
ILB: Oren Burks/Ty Summers
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Both Burks and Summers have to be considered on the roster bubble after the Packers used a sixth-round pick on Isaiah McDuffie and signed veteran De’Vondre Campbell. Assuming Campbell, Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin are roster locks, it’s probably a safe bet that one of Burks or Summers won’t make the final roster. Both played a lot on special teams a year ago, but the Packers trusted Summers more at inside linebacker. We’ll see what Joe Barry – a former linebackers coach – thinks this summer.
CB: Josh Jackson
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The Packers brought back Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan and drafted Eric Stokes in the first round and Shemar Jean-Charles in the fifth round. It was probably the worst possible combination of offseason outcomes for Jackson, who played a lot as a rookie but has struggled to get on the field over the last two seasons. The 2018 second-round pick now has to compete within one of the deepest position groups on the roster. It’ll be an uphill battle, and major improvement and consistency will be required during camp. Can Jerry Gray finally get the best out of him? Ka’dar Hollman is in a similar boat.
S: Henry Black
(AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
The Packers brought back Will Redmond but otherwise didn’t make a splash-worthy addition at safety. Black played in eight games as a rookie, but expect competition between him and rookie Christian Uphoff for the final safety spot. As always, special teams will be the deciding factor. The Packers might also like Uphoff’s potential positional versatility.
Specialists: LS Hunter Bradley
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The Packers added Joe Fortunato as competition for Bradley this offseason. It’s clear the team wants more consistency from the long-snapper. It’s a position that is valued by little more than consistency, and Bradley was too up and down last season. Don’t be surprised if the Packers stay on the lookout for other options at long snapper, especially if Bradley and Fortunato struggle at all during camp.