PACKERS

Packers solidify strong defensive core by re-signing Rasul Douglas; tight end Robert Tonyan gets new deal

Cornerback Rasul Douglas made himself a valued free agent with a strong 2021 season.

GREEN BAY - When Rasul Douglas suggested after the season all it would take to play for the Green Bay Packers again was for the team to ask, it sounded like nothing more than conjecture.

Douglas will enter his age-27 season in 2022. He had five interceptions, including two for touchdowns and two more that sealed victories, last year in his age-26 season.

Young, playmaking corners get paid big in the NFL.

Yet the three-year, $21 million Douglas agreed to with the Packers (first reported by ESPN) will fall something short of blockbuster. The contract, reportedly worth as much as $25.5 million, is good money for a former third-round pick who started last season on the Arizona Cardinals' practice squad. Douglas earned that payday after developing into a star last fall.

It also protects the Packers in case 2021 was a mirage, and if 2022 fails to deliver the type of encore teams hope for from breakout players.

The Packers also agreed to a one-year deal with tight end Robert Tonyan on Saturday, a source told PackersNews. Tonyan tore his ACL midway through last season, an injury that undoubtedly helped facilitate his return. It would have been hard for the Packers to afford Tonyan's market without the injury.

Tonyan's deal includes a voidable year, the source said. It will allow him to become a free agent next spring. Tonyan isn't expected to return until midway through 2022, but if his knee heals as hoped, the Packers will have an athletic tight end with reliable hands capable of being a playmaker in the passing game.

At $7 million annually, Douglas will be tied with Houston's Desmond King and New England's Jonathan Jones as the 31st-highest-paid cornerback in the NFL. Even if he reaches the full $25.5 million, Douglas' annual $8.5 million average will rank outside the top 20. The extra incentives are another indicator the Packers are curious whether Douglas can build on his stellar 2021.

That Douglas' agreement came two days after the Packers traded All-Pro receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders isn't a coincidence. With the $20.1 million franchise tag on Adams off the books, the Packers have more room under the salary cap to make such deals.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling might be another example. There was little traction between MVS and the Packers on a new deal before Adams' trade, but a source told PackersNews the team has been in conversations with MVS since.

The Packers will need to figure out what to do at receiver this offseason, but re-signing Douglas further solidifies what was a strong defensive core in 2021. The Packers already agreed with All-Pro linebacker De'Vondre Campbell on a five-year, $50 million contract, retaining another breakout star from last season.

General manager Brian Gutekunst signed Campbell on a one-year, $2 million contract in June, and plucked Douglas off the Cardinals practice squad in October. In the past week, the pair agreed to extensions worth as much as $75.5 million combined.

The Packers will need to figure out what to do in their passing game even with Tonyan back, but re-signing Douglas was an obvious decision for Gutekunst based on talent. Corners with the type of ballhawking skills Douglas showed last season are hard to find. On the field, the Packers now have a challenge figuring out how to line up their top three corners.

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In Jaire Alexander, 2021 first-round pick Eric Stokes and Douglas, the Packers have talent triumvirate. The difficulty is that none of them are ideally suited to play slot corner. In the preferred nickel defense, one of the top three corners need to man the slot.

It's a challenge the Packers didn't have to address last season. With Alexander's shoulder injury, the trio only played together once. That came in the NFC divisional playoff loss to San Francisco, when Alexander played only eight snaps.

Alexander is the only corner among the three with the tools to line up inside, but that's a move he might be unwilling to make entering the final year of his contract in 2022. After missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Packers got a lesson in just how valuable Alexander can be shutting down half the field in coverage on the perimeter. Alexander, who stands to sign a potentially market-setting deal within the next year, would be subject to more contact against his shoulder in the slot.

The Packers' early offseason centered on re-signing reigning MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers, then figuring out a resolution with Davante Adams. With Douglas back, their next priority will be figuring out cornerback. Douglas' extension puts pressure on the Packers not only to figure out how to align a secondary consisting of only perimeter corners in the top three, but find a long-term solution with Alexander.