Trading for QB DeShone Kizer gives Packers another option behind Aaron Rodgers
In his first major transaction as Green Bay Packers general manager, Brian Gutekunst traded cornerback Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns last Friday and received quarterback DeShone Kizer, sources said.
According to a report from NFL Network, the trade also included the Packers and Browns swapping their fourth- and fifth-round picks. The Packers will now draft at the top of both rounds.
Randall’s departure likely forces the Packers into a cornerback makeover this spring. Kizer’s arrival gives the Packers another young quarterback to compete with Brett Hundley for the backup job behind Aaron Rodgers.
With the trade, the Packers have $21 million in salary-cap room with less than a week until free agency begins. They cleared the $1,428,263 that Randall counted against their cap while adding $689,928 from Kizer, a net gain of $738,335.
The Packers have long studied Kizer, a second-year quarterback out of Notre Dame who started 15 games last season for the winless Browns. Hours before the NFL draft’s second round last spring, a source said the Packers were tempted to draft Kizer with their 33rd overall pick, which they eventually used on cornerback Kevin King.
At the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week, it was apparent the Packers were searching for more quarterbacks.
“It’s about opportunities (to add depth),” Gutekunst said. “Whether it be in free agency or through the draft. Who becomes available? You look at all avenues.”
Hundley’s future with the Packers is uncertain. If he remains, coupling Kizer with Hundley removes any need for the Packers to draft a developmental quarterback this off-season.
Even before Friday, it was clear Hundley would have to fight for his job. The Packers were 3-7 in games Hundley played extensively, including his nine starts. He finished 30th in the league with a 70.6 passer rating, 31st with 5.81 yards per pass allowed, and 23rd with a 60.8 completion percentage.
Randall’s departure leaves plenty of work for Gutekunst at the cornerback position.
It was not a smooth third season for Randall, the Packers’ first-round pick in 2015. After a dismal sophomore slump two years ago, Randall still showed plenty of room for improvement last fall. The low point came in Week 4 when Randall was benched and later sent to the locker room midway through a win against the Chicago Bears.
By season’s end, Randall rebounded enough to become the biggest playmaker in the Packers’ porous secondary. With the Packers out of playoff contention, he did not play in the final two games because of a knee injury. Randall still led the team with a career-high four interceptions. He had one interception in each of his three games following the benching.
After openly criticizing coaches at the end of this past season, Randall might have fallen out of favor in Green Bay. Two days after a loss at Detroit in their finale, Randall said coaches needed to hold players accountable for their mistakes. It was an odd observation, since Randall led Packers cornerbacks last season with 717 snaps (68%) despite inconsistent play.
Gutekunst has former colleagues in Cleveland, including Browns general manager John Dorsey. While Gutekunst was an area scout, Dorsey served as the Packers’ college scouting director.
Whether Gutekunst got the better end of this deal depends not only on whether Kizer gives the Packers a better backup option than Hundley, but how he builds the cornerback position this spring.
Randall figured to be a starter in the slot. Now, the Packers are down to just one solid starter on their roster in King, who’s coming off season-ending shoulder surgery.
Randall’s departure puts the cornerback position in play both in free agency and when the Packers are on the clock with their 14th overall pick.
They still need to build their edge rush as well. But multiple top defensive backs said they had formal interviews with the Packers in Indianapolis, including Ohio State’s Denzel Ward and Florida State’s Derwin James.
“I think it’s a strong secondary group,” Gutekunst said at the combine.
Former Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer will now challenge Brett Hundley for the backup spot in Green Bay. The Packers considered drafting Kizer last year.