Value isn’t there for Packers to keep DL Dean Lowry

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Brandon Carwile
·4 min read
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The decision to extend defensive end Dean Lowry is still baffling. The Green Bay Packers believed Lowry could replace Mike Daniels, but his impact hasn’t been anywhere close. We are one month away from the NFL draft, and Lowry still hasn’t been cut even though he will count $6.3 million towards the cap in 2021. For that kind of money, the value just isn’t there to pay Lowry for what he does on defense.

When the Packers did their first wave of cuts at the beginning of the offseason, they parted ways with right tackle Rick Wagner and inside linebacker Christian Kirksey. Both were additions from last year’s free agency and were easy to move on from. Many thought Lowry and Preston Smith weren’t far behind so the team could free up cash and possibly bring in outside help, but free agency has died down and both remain on the roster.

Green Bay has been busy this offseason to get under the salary cap and put together a good football team. So far, they’ve achieved that by re-signing Aaron Jones and restructuring contracts. However, for whatever reason, Lowry has remained untouched.

At one point, you could have considered Lowry an upward-trending player. In his third NFL season in 2018, he had 3.0 sacks, 44 tackles, and five tackles for loss. For a former fourth-round pick, it was a breakout year. Lowry also took on a more prominent role, playing 66 percent of the snaps on defense that season. So, the Packers moved on from an aging and hobbled Daniels to pave the way for Lowry.

That decision hasn’t gone well, but the team hasn’t been willing to admit it. Lowry failed to record a single sack in 2019 despite playing 61 percent of the snaps. He did have a career-high 47 tackles, but his tackles for loss dropped from five to two.

Looking back, you could justify Green Bay having some faith in Lowry. In 2018, Pro Football Focus gave Lowry a defensive grade of 72.6. He was a serviceable rotational player that appeared ready to take the next step. Unfortunately, that next step never happened.

PFF graded Lowry at a 59.0 in 2019, which was a considerable drop from the previous year. His tackling grade was the lowest of his career and so was his grade of rushing the passer. However, the Packers held on to Lowry in 2020. According to Over the Cap, his cap hit was $5.2 million, but his numbers continued to dwindle.

Last season, Lowry finished with 36 tackles. It was his lowest total since 2017 when he saw 47 percent of the defensive snaps. In 2020, he tied his career-high of 3.0 sacks, but his ability to pressure the quarterback was still stagnant. In 2018, Lowry was accredited with 29 quarterback pressures. Over the last two seasons, that number has stayed at 21.

If Lowry was an impactful run defender, it would be easier to see why the team would pay him, but that is not the case. In November, I examined Lowry’s film against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 7. Lowry didn’t play with adequate play strength to get off blocks and control his gap. If that’s what the Packers paying him to do, he’s not doing it.

For whatever reason, Green Bay appears content with rolling with Lowry and the unproven defensive linemen behind their stud Kenny Clark. They just re-signed Tyler Lancaster, who is your prototypical stopgap nose tackle that is unmovable but has a limited skillset. At this point, the Packers can’t expect Lowry to see a dramatic improvement in 2021. Nothing in his play from the last two years points to that, but they are still willing to pay him like an impactful starter.

If the Packers had cut Lowry or tried to restructure, maybe they could have gotten Clark some outside help by adding a cheap veteran. Perhaps, there is a player they will look at down the road, but that day may never come.

Instead, Green Bay appears to be banking on internal development, and Lowry is perceived as a worthy candidate. His cap hit will be $6.3 million in 2021 and $7.3 million in 2022, but if Lowry doesn’t show improvement in a new scheme, that money will have been a waste.

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