Green Bay Packers: Irony could bring Theo Riddick to Green Bay

    Following Mike Daniels signing with the Detroit Lions after being released by the Green Bay Packers, could the man who made way for him, Theo Riddick, move in the opposite direction?

    On the eve of training camp and the unofficial kickoff to the NFL season, a bombshell was dropped by the league’s smallest market. The Green Bay Packers announced that they would release pro bowl defensive linemen Mike Daniels. Daniels had been hyped up during the offseason and was looking for a huge bounce back in 2019 after an injury-riddled 2018 campaign. It took all of two days for him to find a new home; Green Bay’s division rivals the Detroit Lions.

    For the Lions it was a tremendous move, adding even more talent to an already stacked defensive line which includes Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Trey Flowers. But signing him also meant the team was forced to release a player in order to create an open roster spot for Daniels. That player released was running back Theo Riddick.

    Riddick’s release was a somewhat shocking move (although not nearly at the level of Daniels leaving Green Bay), but it’s easy to see why the organization went in that direction. In fact, his release mirrors almost identically Daniels’ release in Green Bay.

    Decreasing Value

    For NFL general manager’s, it’s a meticulous song and dance between putting the most productive roster possible together, while also maintaining leverage on the salary cap. The New England Patriots for years have done a masterful job at this by adopting the philosophy of letting players go a year too early rather than a year too late. It’s clear that both Green Bay and Detroit are proponents of this philosophy, and it was used in their decisions to let both Daniels and Riddick go respectively.

    While Daniels still has much in the tank left to offer and can compete at a pro bowl level, his age and recent injury history show that his best days are likely behind him. For each snap he is on the field in 2019, his value will continue to diminish. The $10.7 million of the Packers’ salary cap that Daniels would have eaten this upcoming season may have been worth it for this year, but that value will continue to decrease in the coming seasons while the price tag won’t.

    Similar for Riddick. At 28 years old, Riddick is entering what is typically the last leg of a running back’s career. That by no means suggests his value is completely gone, but $3.6 million for a guy who has basically been relegated to a third-down receiving back is a steep price to pay in today’s NFL.

    The contract that Detroit gave Daniels is much more consistent with what his current day worth is. With a one-year $9.1 million contract, Daniels will make a large sum on par with his projected production in 2019, but Detroit won’t be handcuffed moving forward as he continues to regress. With Riddick still unsigned, we will have to wait and see where the rest of the league sees as his value. 

    Roster Depth

    Besides value and cap savings, both guys were let go because of the depth on each roster. For the Packers, they had one of the deepest and most talented defensive lines coming out of the 2019 offseason. Kenny Clark is emerging into a star, Rashan Gary and Keke Kingsley look like promising rookies, and although Preston and Za’Darius Smith are both technically linebackers, they will both play a massive part in Green Bay’s pass rush. Adding Daniels to that group would have made one hell of a defensive front, but knowing there are guys behind him and can step up made it easier to move on.

    For Detroit, releasing Riddick accomplishes two goals; it removed a log jam at the running back position for the team, and it cleared the way for Kerryon Johnson to blossom in year two. Johnson was considered the favorite to be the feature back in Detroit for the 2019 season, but behind him were Riddick, Zach Zenner, and newly acquired CJ Anderson who would have all been battling over limited reps. With Riddick gone, Anderson likely slides into the backup role with Zenner getting touches sparingly, while there are no qualms about who the lead back will be: Keep calm and Kerryon.

    Green Bay Packers offense is perfect for Riddick

    The market for Daniels was substantial, and that should be no different for Riddick. While he isn’t the transcendent player that Daniels is, Riddick is still a quality back that can be a perfect complement to any offense in the NFL. What makes him so unique is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Too often is that ability hyperbolized in running back analysis, but with Riddick, it stands true. In his six years with the Lions, he only had three more carries (288) than he did receptions (285). 

    Matt LaFleur has promised to get his backs more involved in the Packers passing game, and adding Riddick to that offense would be a huge part in fulfilling that promise. A few weeks back I wrote an article profiling the depth of the Packers running backs heading into 2019. While there is undoubtedly a lot of talent and potential, outside of Aaron Jones, there is a lot of uncertainty. A veteran like Riddick would do a lot to change that.

    Of course, bringing in Riddick absolutely could not come at the expense of Jones. Jones is on the verge of a breakout year – he’s certainly the best running back Aaron Rodgers has had – and stunting his growth by giving an older less talented player more touches would be a travesty. But if LaFleur is the offensive guru that Packers fans want to believe he is, he could find the perfect way to integrate Riddick and allow both backs to thrive.

    One final Daniels-Riddick comparison: Daniels decision was heavily influenced by his desire to play against the Packers. Maybe Riddick is motivated to stick it to the team that spurned him as well.

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