The Packers should add this free agent to bolster the roster.
The Green Bay Packers came within one game of reaching the Super Bowl in Matt LaFleur’s first season as head coach, but the San Francisco 49ers’ running game proved to be too much for Green Bay’s defense. With the first-round selection of Jordan Love seemingly limiting Green Bay’s title window under Aaron Rodgers to just two more years, the team would be wise to shore up its run defense and go all-in on the 2020 season.
Free agent defensive tackle Damon Harrison is the perfect man for the job. Alongside 24-year-old phenom Kenny Clark, Harrison would be part of one of the NFL’s most potent run-stuffing duos. At 6-foot-3 and 350 pounds, “Snacks” has developed a reputation as a force on the interior defensive line, and could likely be signed to a team-friendly deal.
While he does not provide much of a pass-rushing threat with just 11 career sacks, his run-stuffing ability has been lauded by Pro Football Focus. While the resurgent Green Bay defense ranked ninth in total yards allowed in 2019, Mike Pettine’s unit ranked 23rd in stopping the run and were exploited by the 49ers in both meetings between the teams.
Still a free agent in July after being cut by the Detroit Lions in February, Harrison could likely be signed at a low price point. The 31-year-old has no plans to retire, according to the New York Post, but will still likely be a two-down player in 2020. If Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst can agree to a one-year deal with Harrison, he could preserve the team’s 2020 cap space while simultaneously patching the defense’s biggest weakness.
Some may argue that Green Bay should instead bring back veteran cornerback Tramon Williams or sign a wide receiver like Taylor Gabriel, but the run defense is undoubtedly a more pressing need. Green Bay’s pass defense remains strong even without the 37-year-old Williams, and Chandon Sullivan looked capable of filling his role in limited snaps in 2019.
Receiving depth behind Davante Adams is certainly a concern, but Green Bay’s passing game was surprisingly stellar in Adams’s four-game absence last season, with Aaron Jones acting as the offense’s motor. If Allen Lazard can build on his strong 2019 season and Devin Funchess, Jace Sternberger, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, or Equanimeous St. Brown can pitch in, the receiving corps could find success in 2020.
While Green Bay replaced Blake Martinez with Christian Kirksey in the offseason, the No. 2 defensive tackle position was never addressed. Harrison would bring the run-stuffing swagger that the Packers desperately need without infringing on Gutekunst’s ability to re-sign Kenny Clark and David Bakhtiari in the offseason.