May 30, 2024

Packers Cut Ties With Rookie Cornerback, Sign Ex-Bears Rookie Receiver

he Green Bay Packers have shaken things up with a few roster moves following their loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, releasing one of their rookie cornerbacks and signing a rival’s former rookie wide receiver.

According to the team’s official transaction wire for December 12, the Packers released rookie cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly — a fifth-round pick for the Baltimore Ravens this year — on Tuesday after making him a healthy scratch in their Week 14 loss to the Giants.

The Packers had signed Kelly to their 53-man roster to provide depth for their depleted cornerback room, but he played just two defensive snaps and three special teams snaps in Week 12’s win over the Detroit Lions and has since not seen the field in either phase. While his departure could be performance-motivated, it is also possible the Packers are preparing to get back either Eric Stokes or All-Pro Jaire Alexander in the week ahead.

The Packers also signed former Chicago Bears undrafted rookie receiver Thryick Pitts to their practice squad and cut rookie linebacker Austin Ajiake in a corresponding move.

Packers Roster Move Clears Space for Stokes’ Activation
The Packers decided not to activate Stokes from injured reserve ahead of Monday Night Football, but all signs point toward the 2021 first-round pick returning in Week 15.

Stokes made a strong case for activation ahead of the Packers’ matchup with the Giants, working as a full participant in all three of Week 14’s practices. The Packers even listed him as “questionable” in their final injury report before deciding to leave him inactive.

The road to recovery has been tough for Stokes. He began the 2023 season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while he continued to recover from last year’s season-ending foot injury. After the Packers activated him in Week 7, however, he only made it four special teams snaps before suffering a new hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve and forced him to miss at least the next four weeks.

Now, though, Stokes is entering the final week of his 21-day activation window, forcing a decision upon the Packers: either activate him from injured reserve or commit to leaving him there for the remainder of the 2023 season. Considering his status in practice has improved over the past two weeks, it seems only logical that the Packers will take the activation route with him and welcome him back into the fold in Week 15.

Christian Watson’s Injury Could Open Door for Others
The Packers signing a third wide receiver to their practice squad makes sense in light of Christian Watson’s latest hamstring injury. Aside from him, they have just five other receivers on the 53-man roster, and while rookies such as Jayden Reed and Dontavyion Wicks have impressed, another injury could create depth issues.

The real question is: If the Packers decide to promote a receiver from their practice squad for their upcoming game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which one will they choose?

Pitts offers an intriguing option from a developmental standpoint, especially for a coaching staff that has developed undrafted receivers into quality contributors (Allen Lazard and Malik Heath) over the past five seasons. His fresh arrival in Green Bay indicates he will need time to get up to speed with the scheme and playbook, though, so it seems best to turn attention to the other pair: Bo Melton and rookie Grant DuBose.

The Packers signed up Melton, a 2022 seventh-rounder for Seattle, for one game earlier this season, but he played just two offensive snaps and had little chance to make an impact before they demoted him back to the practice squad. It is possible he would earn first consideration if the Packers looked to promote again, but DuBose is also one of their own draft picks — seventh round in 2023 — and is worth considering as well.

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