Green Bay Packers' 2018 free agency: Davon House brings insurance at CB

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Packers release Nelson, add Graham (1:36)

Adam Schefter discusses the big changes to Green Bay's offense through the signing of TE Jimmy Graham and release of WR Jordy Nelson. (1:36)

A breakdown of the Green Bay Packers' 2018 free-agent signings.

Davon House, CB

The Packers agreed to terms Thursday with House on a one-year deal. He told ESPN he still has to come to Green Bay for his visit and pass his physical, which is expected to take place Friday if he can make it from his offseason home in Hawaii by then.

Grade: B. This deal is expected to be for less than the $2.8 million House signed for last season, which makes him a solid value. He's a strong presence in the locker room and served as a mentor last season for top pick Kevin King and the other young cornerbacks.

What it means: It gives the Packers a second veteran option in case the draft doesn't fall the way they want and first-year GM Brian Gutekunst doesn't find an immediate starter. King is all but certain to have one of the two outside cornerback jobs locked up. The other spot is wide open at this point. Veteran Tramon Williams, who was re-signed earlier this offseason, could be the one. But if the 35-year-old Williams doesn't play as well as he did in his first go-around with Green Bay -- or even as well as he did last year in Arizona -- then the Packers have options. It also could be important to have as many veterans as possible for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to properly install his system.

What's the risk: As always with veteran players at speed positions, there's the chance that the drop-off could come quickly. But House is only 28 and his best attribute always has been his ability to play physical, so that shouldn't be as big of a problem as it might be for cornerbacks who have always relied on speed.


Tramon Williams, CB

The Packers are expected to re-sign cornerback Tramon Williams. NFL Network reported that it’s a two-year deal.

Grade: B. To be sure, this is a stopgap move made for insurance purposes. But in that realm, the Packers hardly could have done much better. Williams was a key member of the Packers’ defense from 2007-14. During that time, he missed only one regular-season game. He made 99 starts in 127 appearances. He showed last season that he still has something left in the tank. He played 13 games for the Cardinals, recorded two interceptions and was solid in coverage.

What it means: It takes some pressure off the Packers to find another immediate starter at cornerback after they traded Damarious Randall to the Browns for quarterback DeShone Kizer earlier this month, and it gives last year’s top pick, Kevin King, another veteran mentor just like he had as a rookie in Davon House. It’s still possible House could return on another short-term deal; he played 2017 on a one-year contract. But it only slightly lessens the urgency to find another long-term starter at this position. The advantage Williams has is that he has already played under new Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine for one year (2015) when Pettine was head coach of the Browns.

What’s the risk: Williams turned 35 last week, and even though he played well last season for the Cardinals, players at speed positions can drop off at any moment. The Packers signed Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet that the Bears matched, and they showed interest in Bashaud Breeland (who could still be an option once his foot injury is healed). Both are much younger than Williams.


Muhammad Wilkerson, DT

The Packers agreed to terms on a one-year deal with Wilkerson on Tuesday, a source told ESPN.com. Here's a closer look at the signing, which is expected to become official on Wednesday.

Grade: B. This is one way to improve the Packers' defense. While the holes on that side of the ball were more obvious at cornerback and outside linebacker, new general manager Brian Gutekunst decided to build up the defensive line. He already had two impact players there in Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark, in addition to an up-and-comer in Dean Lowry. There's nothing wrong with making your strength even stronger.

What it means: It frees Gutekunst up to address the secondary and the pass rush in the draft. ESPN's draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have consistently paired the Packers with UT-San Antonio defensive end Marcus Davenport. That move could still make sense for the Packers at the No. 14 pick in the first round, but now they have more flexibility if they want it. The Packers still have to address their two biggest needs on that side of the ball.

What's the risk?: Which Wilkerson are the Packers getting? In the 2015, he recorded 12 sacks (along with 16 disrupted dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information data). Then he signed a five-year, $86 million contract. In the two years before the Jets cut him earlier this month, Wilkerson combined for just eight sacks (including only 3.5 last season) and 13 disrupted dropbacks. Wilkerson had disciplinary problems with the Jets, leading to his benching late last season.


Jimmy Graham, TE

The Packers will sign tight end Jimmy Graham, who played the past three years for the Seattle Seahawks. Here’s a closer look at the signing, which was reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter and is expected to become official when free agency opens on Wednesday.

Grade: B. On the surface, it looks like a move that could pay significant dividends for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense. But how many people said that same thing last year when the Packers signed Martellus Bennett? Graham doesn’t come with the big personality that Bennett had, so that’s one big difference. But Graham is another 30-something tight end who has played for multiple teams, which is always something of a red flag.

What it means: Rodgers often has been at his best -- and the Packers’ offense has operated at its best -- with a receiving threat at tight end, à la Jermichael Finley and Jared Cook. Graham might not be the deep threat that Finley and Cook were -- his receiving yards dropped to just 520 last season from 923 in 2016 -- but he’s a touchdown machine, with 69 in his career. Since Graham entered the NFL in 2010 as a third-round pick, only Rob Gronkowski has more touchdown catches (76) than Graham among tight ends. Last year, the Packers had only two touchdown catches by tight ends -- one by Lance Kendricks and one by Richard Rodgers, who is headed for free agency.

What’s the risk: Graham dropped seven passes last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That was tied for the second most in the NFL. His lack of production other than in the red zone suggests he might have lost a step at age 31 (he’ll turn 32 midway through this season). He also had a significant knee injury -- a torn patellar tendon -- in 2015, when he missed the final five games. However, he did not miss a game in either of the past two seasons. The Packers cut Jordy Nelson on Tuesday, so they essentially replaced one aging veteran pass-catcher with another, and this one doesn’t have any history or chemistry with Rodgers.