We are now getting towards the middle of May, we passed the NFL Draft and the Green Bay Packers still have only one viable option at inside linebacker. During the draft; the Packers picked TCU linebacker, Ty Summers, but from what scouts are saying, he is a special teams player at best. After losing Jake Ryan to the Jaguars this offseason the only other player currently on Green Bay’s roster that could step in at inside linebacker is, Oren Burks. Burks had a fine rookie season last year but is nowhere near ready to play alongside Blake Martinez and make an impact from week one. Packer fans wanted guys like Zach Brown, D.J. Alexander, and Preston Brown but Green Bay decided to not to sign those guys. The best available option right now is for the Green Bay Packers is to sign six-year veteran, Manti Te’o.
From 2009 through 2012 Te’o was one of the most polarizing players in college football history due to his domination on the defensive side of the ball. In college, Te’o played a whopping 51 games at Notre Dame and registered 437 tackles, 34 of them for a loss and had 8.5 sacks. The more impressive number was that Te’o intercepted 7 passes in college and proved he could cover receivers as well as runs. In 2012, he even finished 2nd in the Heisman voting behind Texas A&M quarterback, Johnny Manziel. After that season he was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Te’o’s professional career has been plagued by injuries but every time he is fully healthy on the field, he has been impactful. In 6 seasons, he has only played 59 out of a possible 96 games. In his 59 games, he has made 313 total tackles (about 5 per game) and 22 of them have been for a loss. His ability to cover pass catchers has translated well from his college game to his professional career. He has a total of 13 pass deflections and 2 interceptions which are respectable numbers for an inside linebacker. He has the same amount of tackle for losses after his first 6 seasons as veteran linebacker, Wesley Woodyard, had after 6 years. Also, he has more total tackles after his first 6 seasons than Pro-Bowl linebacker; Brian Orakpo, had after 6 years. When given the opportunity to be the lone linebacker, Te’o showed in the past that he can succeed. For example, back in 2014, in the last two games of the season, Te’o put on a show by getting 11 tackles and 13 tackles in the two games.
At 6’1”, 241 pounds, and a bit undersized, Te’o is able to use his speed and agility to be an excellent cover linebacker. He also has great tackling abilities which would make him a good fit next to jack-of-all-trades, Blake Martinez. Green Bay’s defensive coordinator, Mike Pettine, runs a lot of one inside linebacker defensive packages but Green Bay still needs a backup. They need a player better than Oren Burks for two linebacker packages. At this point in the offseason, there are not too many good options for the Packers in free agency. Some of the other names include Will Compton and Zach Vigil. However, Te’o is better than both of these players. Walterfootball.com even has him ranked as the #1 free agent inside linebacker right now. If Green Bay wants him, they will have to make a move relatively quickly based on the fact that the Raiders and Lions have shown extensive interest in the former Notre Dame standout.
A contract could look as simple as something like 1 year, $2 million with incentives. Manti Te’o could be a buy low with solid payoff option. He can add depth for a thin linebacker group. I’m not saying he will be a star in Green Bay but he will be a fine player who will make a very nice addition to the Packers’ defense.