General manager Brian Gutekunst specifically mentioned Carrington Valentine, a 2023 seventh-round pick, and Eric Stokes, a 2021 first-rounder who is on injured reserve for at least the next three games, as cornerbacks the Packers want to see more of down the stretch this season.
“We’re excited about the opportunities it presents other guys,” Gutekunst said Wednesday. “For us right now, we have some young players at that position that we really like, we want to see play, we need to see play.”
Valentine, the 234th overall pick, has played 139 snaps through the first seven games. He could be a starter on the perimeter in place of Douglas come Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams. Stokes, who suffered season-ending foot and knee injuries last November, was off the PUP list and back on the field last month in Denver but injured his hamstring on special teams. He is eligible to come off injured reserve before the Packers play the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.
“I do like the young guys in that room, Stokes, Valentine,” Gutekunst said. “I expect those guys to fill the gaps.”
The evaluations over the next two months will be important ones.
The Packers need to know if Valentine can be a long-term starter. On Stokes, the team must decide if it makes sense to pick up his fifth-year option for 2025 or let him go into 2024 on the final year of his rookie deal.
There’s also an evaluation period ongoing for Keisean Nixon, who has been manning the slot since Week 1. He’s on a one-year deal and will be a free agent when his contract voids following this season.
Corey Ballentine and Robert Rochell, two cornerbacks signed to the 53-man roster from practice squads last week, are two other young players that will get a chance to play this year.
Are Valentine, Stokes and Nixon foundational pieces of the puzzle at cornerback? Can either Ballentine or Rochell surprise? Or will the position — a premium one on defense — go into the 2024 offseason as a major need? The Packers have 10 games — or six, for Stokes — to evaluate in a post-Douglas world at cornerback.