Green Bay Packers: Mike Daniels signing saves D-line in 2016


The Green Bay Packers extension of Mike Daniels not only secures their present, but provides the defensive line with a cornerstone for the future

Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers continued their tidy and efficient ways earlier this week when they locked up standout defensive lineman Mike Daniels with a four-year, $42 million extension. After retaining both Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga on friendly deals last offseason, agreeing to terms with a premiere player like Daniels so close to his free agency may be an even more impressive accomplishment.

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The 26-year old joined Green Bay in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft, representing a rare “hit” for Thompson along the defensive line. His size limitations have easily been trumped by his motor, helping to produce one of the league’s more impactful interior rushers.

Extending Daniels is good business when viewed in a bubble, but this move becomes increasingly valuable when considering the front seven pieces around him in 2016 and beyond.

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Both B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are both set to become free agents at the end of this season, with Raji likely staring at a larger payday on the open market. Raji’s schematic fit and the numerous off-field concerns with Guion could tempt Green Bay to retain The Freezer, but neither are certainties. ESPN’s Rob Demovsky highlighted several other players on expiring deals, too, including linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry.

It’s conceivable that Julius Peppers could walk away at season’s end, as well, so Green Bay could watch several holes open simultaneously. At least with Daniels in the fold (and in front of Clay Matthews), there are cornerstone pieces to retool around.

Thankfully for Green Bay, a recent dedication of draft capital to their secondary has given that unit a quick influx of potential. Both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins have shown the ability to be starting corners long-term, and with Sam Shields playing beautifully atop the depth chart on a new deal, the future is bright. With this, it should be easier for Green Bay to let Casey Hayward walk in the offseason.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix continues to posses immense upside despite his flaws while Morgan Burnett remains strong alongside him, so essentially, Green Bay’s most important defensive pieces are in place. The amount of potential turnover entering 2016 is not ideal, but Thompson can replace a Mike Neal or Nick Perry far easier than he can replace a Mike Daniels. Far cheaper, too.

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Accepting that all of these pending free agents cannot be re-signed, Thompson and his front office will be facing an intriguing offseason. The open market has rarely been the Packers comfort zone, but may become a more attractive option if two or more starting positions must be filled. The draft can certainly accomplish one, perhaps two, but three is pushing it.

The defensive line and outside linebacker groups have not been Thompson’s strong points over his tenure. There have been strong picks like Matthews and Daniels, of course, but plenty of names from the other end of the spectrum such as Justin Harrell, Khyri Thornton and Jerel Worthy. With Daniels now locked up long-term, Green Bay can lean a little less on a risk of the latter.