The Green Bay Packers have gone through a youth movement after trading Aaron Rodgers. And they haven’t just changed the quarterback and the offenses. There will be new faces and competition everywhere on special teams.
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) start on Monday, and the Packers have two kickers, two punters, and two long snappers under contract. Of these six players, only punter Pat O’Donnell was already on the team in 2022.
Even though Packers management has frequently said the door is not closed to bring veteran Mason Crosby back, every move so far indicates the team will be a different kicker for the first time since 2007. The Packers drafted Anders Carlson in the sixth round, and he’s the favorite to win the job.
Green Bay drafted Carlson in part because of his connection with assistant head coach and special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. The former Las Vegas Raiders coach has a long history with Anders’ brother, Daniel Carlson. Bisaccia recruited Daniel to Auburn. Then he coached him in Vegas after the Minnesota Vikings drafted Daniel in the fifth round and cut him after two games.
Anders Carlson didn’t have good numbers during his college career, but that wasn’t a major concern for the Packers.
“I look at the makeup of the person,” Bisaccia said last week.
I think he’s a strong mental makeup person. I think he’s been his best regardless of the circumstance. He’s been in a lot of big games, kicked in a lot of situations in the SEC, and kicked in many bowl games. If Anders can perform like we think he can and can improve, I think we’re prepared organizationally with, as well as the majority of the other draft picks, to weather the storm to some degree positionally, and hopefully, they can keep improving and get better with time.
Packer White signed a futures deal in January and is the other kicker on the 90-man roster. He was undrafted last year after five seasons at South Carolina. White didn’t sign with any team as a rookie, but a workout with the Packers during 2022 put him in position to have an opportunity. He hit all eight of his field goal attempts and even hit a 60-yard kick in warmups.
“It’s obviously been a dream of mine to play in the NFL,” White highlighted after signing with the Packers. “I’ve been trying to get my leg stronger to be able to handle the wind up there and the cold and have more leg strength so I can be better-suited to do kickoffs and field goals.”
Throughout a solid career, White became South Carolina’s all-time leading scorer, with 368 career points, and converted six fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning field goals.
Finding a punter has been a tough task for the Packers. Brian Gutekunst spent a fifth-round pick to get JK Scott, who’s with the Los Angeles Chargers now. He also traded for Corey Bojorquez, who’s a member of the Cleveland Browns. They had good moments, but consistency was an issue for both. Last offseason, the Packers gave veteran Pat O’Donnell a two-year deal.
O’Donnell has a good track record as a holder, and the Packers mostly signed him to improve the kicking operation. O’Donnell’s performance as a punter was below average, though. He was 29th in average per punt. 30th in net average, 18th in punts inside the 20. If the Packers cut him, they will open $1.9 million in cap space.
That’s probably why it makes sense to create competition. Last week, the Packers signed Daniel Whelan, an Irish player that was named the All-XFL punter for the DC Defenders. He averaged 45.6 yards per punt and placed 11 of 29 punts inside the 20-yard line. Before playing in the XFL, he had a five-year career at UC-Davis. If the punting numbers are similar and Whelan isn’t a bad holder, he has the leverage to stay for financial reasons.
The Packers have a bad recent history with long snappers, something I mentioned in March when I suggested that the team should add competition trying to replace Jack Coco. Immediately after that, they signed veteran Matthew Orzech to a three-year contract, so he will presumably be the starter going forward.
The Baltimore Ravens signed Orzech as an undrafted free agent in 2019. They waived him after training camp, the Jacksonville Jaguars signed him, and he started every game his rookie season. He also had brief stints for the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans before being signed by the Los Angeles Rams. He played in LA in the last two seasons, which included a Super Bowl win.
Even if it’s a long-term deal for long snapper parameters, the money is basically a sequence of minimum salaries, with only $300,000 guaranteed. That means there’s still a chance for Broughton Hatcher, a rookie signed last week at the same time Jack Coco was released. He played 35 games for Old Dominion and was part of the Packers rookie minicamp.