The Packers positional previews continue with the defensive line. Here’s a look at where the roster stands currently:
Mike Daniels (29, eighth NFL season)
Kenny Clark (23, fourth NFL season)
Dean Lowry (24, fourth NFL season)
Montravius Adams (23, third NFL season)
Muhammad Wilkerson (29, ninth NFL season)
James Looney (23, second NFL season)
Tyler Lancaster (24, second NFL season)
Fadol Brown (25, second NFL season)
When it comes to the combination of experience and upside, Green Bay’s defensive line has the potential to be a real strength for the team moving forward – if the team wishes to reinvest in the current talent on the roster.
The most pressing issue for the Packers in the immediate future is whether or not they will bring back Muhammad Wilkerson for another season. Wilkerson, signed in free agency last offseason, was viewed by many as a candidate for a renaissance in Green Bay after reuniting with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. His opportunity to make an impact was cut short when he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in week three at Washington. At 29, Wilkerson isn’t necessarily an age risk when it comes to re-signing, and his injury history isn’t significant enough to cause a ton of concern, so I don’t think it would surprise anyone to see Wilkerson back in Green Bay for 2019.
Outside of Wilkerson, the bulk of the Packers’ defensive line production will be around for at least one more season. Daniels, the established veteran in the room, is entering the final year of a 4-year, $41 million extension and has dealt with various nagging injuries over the past couple years. Green Bay will hope for a bounce back season from the former Hawkeye.
Kenny Clark has quickly positioned himself as a rising star not only in Green Bay, but in the NFL. There is not much you can say about Clark that he hasn’t consistently said about himself through his play. With a frightening combination of strength and athleticism, Clark has proven equally capable of defending the run and getting to the quarterback. At just 23, and with Daniels likely approaching the back nine of his career, Clark has established himself as the building block of the Packers’ future on the defensive line.
As far as knowing what the rest of the players in the defensive line room bring to the table, Dean Lowry has certainly shown the most in terms of production. While he may not evolve into an elite player, Lowry has shown a high motor and a proclivity for finding himself near the ball, putting himself in line for rotational duty at the very least, if not a regular role.
This is where the picture starts to get murky, if only because the rest of the defensive line depth chart is filled with unknowns.
Montravius Adams, a third-round draft pick in 2017, found himself behind the eight ball after suffering a foot injury during his rookie training camp. He appeared in all 16 games in 2018, but his impact has been nowhere near what the Packers hoped they would get from a third-rounder.
Looney, a seventh-round pick, and Lancaster, an undrafted free agent, both began their careers as practice squad players. Lancaster was promoted to the active roster in October and appeared in 12 games as a rookie, while Looney was promoted in November and played in three games.
The lack of proven depth along the defensive line makes it a virtual certainty the Packers will look to add talent to the group this offseason. It remains to be seen what kind of names will be available in free agency, though with holes at a couple more high-profile positions, it seems more likely Green Bay looks to find depth in the form of lower-tier free agents or through the draft.