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Packers trim list of needs with re-signings

3/30/2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Scratch defensive line off the list of immediate needs for the Green Bay Packers.

General manager Ted Thompson should be able to do that now defensive tackles Letroy Guion and B.J. Raji are coming back to the Packers on one-year deals that were finalized Monday.

It's a short-term solution given that both signed one-year deals, but it could turn into a long-term answer if Guion shows the same form as he did last season -- when he set career highs in tackles and sacks -- and if Raji comes back motivated after getting snubbed on the open market last offseason and then missing all of 2014 because of the biceps tendon he tore in August.

How coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers decide to use Guion and Raji remains to be seen, but if both are healthy the Packers' 23rd-ranked run defense has a chance to improve.

Last season, the Packers had planned to move Raji from defensive end back to nose tackle, his original NFL position, and then signed Guion to back him up. But that plan had to be ditched after Raji's injury in the preseason. Guion went on to start every game, while Raji watched from the sideline.

It's possible the Packers could open with a run-stopping defensive front that includes Raji, Guion and Mike Daniels in their base 3-4 with the likes of former first-round pick Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Khyri Thornton (a 2014 third-round pick who missed all of his rookie season because a hamstring injury) also in the mix in various defensive packages.

Now Thompson and McCarthy have to decide how they will proceed at two other key positions: Cornerback and inside linebacker. They have players on the roster to fill the first spot, and Casey Hayward most likely will get the first chance to replace veteran cornerback Tramon Williams, who signed earlier this month with the Cleveland Browns. Micah Hyde also could be in line for more playing time.

That wouldn't preclude Thompson from taking a cornerback with his first-round pick, No. 30 overall. In fact, ESPN's Todd McShay had the Packers going that direction in his latest mock draft.

There's better cornerback value at that spot than there is at inside linebacker, a position McShay believes will be ignored in the first round. Not only did McShay decide not to put an inside linebacker among the first 32 picks but you have to go all the way to No. 8 on his list of the next 10 prospects still available to find the first inside linebacker, UCLA’s Eric Kendricks.

As usual, Thompson decided to re-sign his own free agents. Re-signing receiver Randall Cobb, tackle Bryan Bulaga and now Raji and Guion, might limit the list of needs in the draft.