As Brian Gutekunst says, roster building is a 365 day a year job, and with the offseason now here, he has already begun adding to the Green Bay Packers 2022 roster.
On Tuesday afternoon, we learned that the team had signed 11 players to reserve/futures deals. These are one-year contracts handed out, and oftentimes to many players from the previous season’s practice squad, as a way for teams to begin building their 90-man roster before the new league year begins in March.
Many of these names will be familiar, but let’s take a look at the 11 players the Green Bay Packers signed on Tuesday.
Kurt Benkert – QB
I discussed this signing in greater detail on Monday, but in short, the signing of Benkert does not signify that Aaron Rodgers or Jordan Love is on their way out. While that could certainly happen, even if both are back, Green Bay needs more than two quarterbacks to get through training camp and the preseason–every team does.
Benkert would take his first NFL snap in Week 14 against Chicago and flashed his potential during the preseason as he completed almost 69 percent of his 48 targets for 300 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, according to PFF ($$).
Chris Blair – WR
Blair was an undrafted rookie in 2020 out of Alcorn State. He displayed his downfield abilities during his final season when he averaged 21.2 yards per catch on 44 receptions along with seven touchdowns. Blair was on the Green Bay Packers practice squad for much of the 2021 season and had two targets with no receptions during the preseason.
Kabion Ento – CB
Ento has been with the team since 2019 when he signed as a UDFA out of Colorado, where he actually played receiver. He really burst onto the radar of many fans this past summer, making what felt like a play or two every other practice.
During the preseason, he allowed five receptions on eight targets but for only 8.2 yards per catch, and he also came away with an interception. Ento also flashed on special teams, but tackling was an issue.
Danny Etling – QB
Just like with the signing of Benkert, the addition of Etling is not foreshadowing anything. Last year the Green Bay Packers — just like every other team — had four quarterbacks on the roster over the summer. Etling was a 2018 seventh-round pick by New England and has no career regular-season NFL snaps.
During his final two years at LSU, Etling would throw for 4,586 yards while completing 59.7 percent of his passes and averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. He also had 27 touchdowns to seven interceptions. Etling has spent time with Atlanta, Seattle, Minnesota, and Denver, not to mention that he was briefly on the Green Bay practice squad earlier this year when Jordan Love was on the reserve/COVID list.
Innis Gaines – S
Gaines was another young player, like Ento, who really impressed over the summer. He was an undrafted rookie in 2020 out of TCU, where he spent a lot of time as a box and slot defender. In coverage during the preseason, he allowed five receptions on seven targets for 8.2 yards per catch, along with a pass breakup. Where he really flashed was on special teams, playing the second-most snaps, but also like Ento, Gaines struggled with making consistent tackles.
La’Darius Hamilton – EDGE
The Green Bay Packers signed Hamilton off the Tampa Bay practice squad once Za’Darius Smith was placed on IR. Hamilton would then spend some time on the 53-man roster before being cut and ultimately re-signed to the practice squad. In 64 snaps over five regular-season games, Hamilton logged three pressures.
Michal Menet – C
Menet was signed to the practice squad in mid-December. He was a 2021 seventh-round pick by Arizona before he was cut. Menet was a three-year starter at Penn State, where he allowed eight sacks and 49 pressures over 2,463 snaps. He was also PFF’s 12th highest-graded center in 2019.
JJ Molson – K
There’s a not so unrealistic world out there where Molson is the Green Bay Packers kicker in 2022. The Packers can save almost $2.4 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap, if they choose to move on from the 37-year-old Mason Crosby. Molson has no NFL experience and went undrafted out of UCLA in 2020, where he hit 51 of his 74 attempts and 151 of his 152 extra-point attempts.
Cole Van Lanen – OL
Van Lanen was one of the Green Bay Packers’ sixth-round picks this past draft out of Wisconsin. He spent the entire season on the practice squad but was elevated for a few games when Green Bay was lacking offensive line depth due to injuries–he would see one snap mop-up duty.
At Wisconsin, Van Lanen would allow eight sacks and 24 pressures in 786 pass-blocking snaps. While he played tackle at Wisconsin, it is still unclear what position he will play in the NFL–although many believe guard will be his best path to playing time.
Ray Wilborn – LB
Wilborn went undrafted in 2020 out of Ball State, where he played in 24 games and tallied 166 tackles, including 13 for a loss, along with four interceptions, eight pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.
Like many before him on this list, Wilborn spent this past season in Green Bay and on the practice squad. He would play 83 snaps during the preseason, recording one pressure, 10 total tackles, five stops, and he allowed three receptions on five targets for 21 yards. Wilborn also saw plenty of time on the special teams unit during the preseason as well.
Rico Gafford – WR
Standing 5’10” and weighing 184 pounds, Gafford played cornerback at Wyoming and went undrafted in 2018. Once in the NFL, he would make the position change to wide receiver.
It’s certainly worth noting that Gafford has 4.22 speed. In terms of production, he has four career regular-season targets — two in 2019 and two in 2020 — and two receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. During the 2019 preseason, Gafford caught nine receptions on 13 targets for 114 yards and a touchdown.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus