The Green Bay Packers need to add depth at edge defender. There are some options, but no guarantees, behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Because of that, a former Packer deserves another opportunity.
Chris Odom just won the USFL Defensive Player of the Year Award playing for the Houston Gamblers.
Odom played for the Packers during the 2017 season when they claimed him off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons. Odom made the 53-man roster after promising training camp and preseason showings, and he appeared in seven games in the regular season. Green Bay retained him during the 2018 preseason, but they waived Odom during the final cuts.
He had some problems in Green Bay because of transitions in scheme and position. Odom played as a classic 4-3 defensive end at Arkansas State and arrived in Green Bay during Dom Capers’ last year as defensive coordinator. The edge defender is a 3-4 outside linebacker in Capers’ scheme. While the difference isn’t as big as it was in the past, there are real points that demand acclimation.
“It’ll take some time and repetition for me to get acclimated to the defense. But after the meetings and first practice, I can definitely see a future here,” Odom said when he first arrived in Wisconsin in 2017. The following year, there was another change because Mike Pettine replaced Capers as defensive coordinator.
Since then, Odom has had two other chances in the NFL. He played a second camp stint in Atlanta and had a regular-season opportunity with Washington. Odom even had a two-sack game against the Carolina Panthers.
But Odom has shown he can play in minor leagues. Even though the offensive line level tends to be low outside of the NFL, Odom’s dominance gets attention compared to his fellow edge defenders.
Odom was a reliable rotational edge for the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF in 2019. He recorded seven tackles, 2.5 sacks, eight QB hits, and two pass knockdowns in 10 games before the league folded.
The former Packer also had a brief stint in the CFL with the Calgary Stampeders.
In the USFL, Odom produced with all the potential he had shown in Green Bay five years ago. He led the league with 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles on defense. Odom also helped on special teams, with impressive four blocked kicks. He achieved those numbers in 10 games, every one of them as a starter. The Gamblers weren’t a successful team, finishing the USFL inaugural season with a 3-7 record – third-worst in the league and worst in the South Division.
USFL leaders in sacks:
- Chris Odom 12.5
- Adam Rodriguez 9.0
- DeMarquis Gates 6.5
- Davin Bellamy 5.5
- Carlo Kemp 5.0
- Reginald Howard Jr. 5.0
The USFL season has ended, so Odom is free to sign with any NFL team.
Odom’s evolution was clear from the AAF to the USFL, and he played against a similar level of competition in both leagues.
His performance was so good that more than one team will probably call. But the Packers have good reasons to convince him to sign with them.
First of all, there is familiarity within the organization. Even if Mike McCarthy was the head coach and Capers and Pettine were the coordinators, Odom knows the personnel staff and team facilities.
Moreover, there is a path to make the 53-man roster for a contender, a difficult combination for any other NFL team to match. Green Bay’s edge room is top-heavy, so a newcomer can arrive and realistically do enough on defense and special teams during training camp to justify a roster spot – or at least a practice squad contract.
Odom, 27, is still relatively young and has the size (6’4”, 256 lbs.) the Packers like at the position. If Green Bay gives him another chance, he would compete against Randy Ramsey, Kingsley Enagbare, Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai, La’Darius Hamilton, and some undrafted free agents for a roster spot. There is no downside to giving Odom a shot to prove he can carry his USFL production to the big league.