Packers Free Agency: Canty, Jenkins, Neither?

DE Cullen Jenkins (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

With Chris Canty in town and Cullen Jenkins a possibility, what makes sense for the Packers as they try to upgrade their defensive line this offseason? We talk to a scout who is familiar with both players.

Aside from signing Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett in 2006, general manager Ted Thompson's free agent history is short and sweet.

There was Frank Walker in 2007, Brandon Chillar in 2008, Duke Preston in 2009 and Anthony Hargrove and Jeff Saturday in 2012. Not a one of them are on the roster.

Between Thompson's player-acquisition philosophy and the need to conserve cap space for Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, Aaron Rodgers and others, it seems unlikely that Thompson will make any bold moves.

Still, there are some intriguing possibilities for a budget-conscious team, including defensive end Chris Canty, who is visiting Green Bay on Wednesday and Thursday.

At 6-foot-7 and 317 pounds, the 30-year-old Canty has what the Packers have lacked since shifting to Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme in 2008: A tall defensive end adept at handling the run and getting in the way of passing lanes.

"Chris Canty is very good in a rotation," said a scout whose team faced the Giants this season. "He's more of a two-down player than he is a pass rusher. He can push the pocket but in terms of a guy who's going to beat a guy one-on-one and get to the quarterback, Chris Canty's not that guy."

A fourth-round pick in 2005 out of Virginia, Canty was an unsung standout for a defensive line that came to Green Bay and knocked the Packers out of the playoffs in 2007 and 2011 en route to winning Super Bowls both seasons. He also had a sack when the Giants routed the Packers this season.

He spent the first six games of 2012 on the PUP list after knee surgery and played in just nine games. He still made his impact felt by tying for 10th out of 83 defensive tackles (4-3 tackles and 3-4 nose tackles) in ProFootballFocus.com's "run stop percentage" stat, with 13 stops in 151 run snaps. He had three sacks and tied for fourth on the team with five tackles for losses, according to the Giants' numbers.

Canty was released to save the Giants a base salary of $6.5 million in 2013.

In eight seasons and 113 career games, Canty has 19 sacks and 12 tackles for losses.

The other defensive line option is a reunion with Cullen Jenkins, whose role would be pretty much the opposite of Canty's.

Jenkins is a pass rusher, and the Packers have a need for some interior push with rookie second-round pick Jerel Worthy's torn ACL. That Worthy sustained the injury so late in the season makes him an extreme long shot to be ready for Week 1 and, given the conservative nature of the Packers' medical staff, it hardly would be a surprise if Worthy isn't on the field until midseason.

Jenkins, however, is 32, and the Eagles parted ways after just two seasons of a five-year deal worth a relatively modest $25 million.

"His number made sense," said the scout, whose team also faced the Eagles. "It's not like he was getting $10 million a year or anything like that. His number for the Eagles was a doable number. For the Cullen Jenkins who was playing for the Packers when you won the Super Bowl, shoot, that sounds like a good deal to me. But it seems like he may be nearing the end."

Still, he can get after the passer, and the Packers could use a boost in that department. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jenkins was the seventh-best pass rusher among defensive tackles in 2012 (four sacks, one hit, 25 hurries for 30 total pressures in 359 pass-rushing snaps) and No. 2 in 2011 (six sacks, eight hits, 25 hurries for 39 pressures in 375 pass-rushing snaps).

Certainly, a Jenkins-to-Worthy comparison isn't fair due to job responsibilities and experience, but Worthy had just nine total pressures in 287 pass-rushing snaps this season.

Pairing Jenkins with Mike Neal as the primary tandem in nickel would provide a quality interior rush. With his 20 total pressures in 191 pass-rushing snaps, Neal ranked third among 3-4 defensive ends.

So, which player is the best fit? Canty? Jenkins? Neither?

"With the draft this year, there's a number of defensive linemen who are going to be on the come," the scout said. "Sometimes, when you get a Chris Canty or a Cullen Jenkins, those guys are seen as being progress-stoppers for some of the young guys coming up because they're taking snaps, reps or even a job away from a young guy who might be able to help your team for the next four, five, six years."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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