Literally as I was composing a league-wide free agency update, I came upon news that the Carolina Panthers are in talks to bring back cornerback LaDarius Gunter. I thought Gunter was under contract with Carolina, but I’m seeing that Carolina did not tender a restricted free agent offer to him by the March 14 deadline, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The bad part of the news is that Carolina is in talks to re-acquire him, but they obviously don’t value him. We know that because because: (1) of the non-tender, (2) he sat on the bench virtually all last season, and (3) because they are only talking with him and haven’t made an offer he’s ready to sign. Gunter and Carolina know each other – he’d be back under contract by now if he was willing to return on Carolina’s terms.
As soon as I learned that the Green Bay Packers had hired Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator, my thoughts flew to Gunter, who strikes me as having just the kind of skill set and attitude that Pettine has had success with elsewhere.
Now he’s FREE! This should be a no-brainer for general manager Brian Gutekunst. Go get him.
Gunter started 15 games for the Packers in 2015. He had 50 tackles, two forced fumbles and 12 passes defended. Gunter was the Packers’ best cornerback in what we’ve become accustomed to – a season in which the Packers’ cornerbacks were garbage as a whole.
The Packers unceremoniously released Gunter on September 12 of 2017. He played in one game for the team last season.
Gunter will never be described as fast. Fast is something he isn’t and he had games when he got burned by big, fast, No. 1 receivers during the 2016 season. Most notably, that happened in the playoffs against Dez Bryant and Julio Jones. However, he also shut down Odell Beckham Jr. in the Wild Card round that season.
Gunter was a solid No. 2 corner forced into the role of a No. 1 because guys like Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins proved to be nothing that the Packers’ brass expected.
The thing is, Gunter doesn’t excel at playing zone or off coverage because of his lack of speed. He excels at playing press-man coverage — getting in a guy’s face and being physical with him at the line. That’s the exact type of coverage Pettine is known for.
As we have noted before, Al Harris wasn’t the fastest guy. He was good because he could get his hands on receivers, jam them at the line and then be physical with them. Gunter may not be Al Harris, but he’s cut from the same mold.
Unfortunately, if the Packers want to bring Gunter back, they’ll have more competition than Carolina. The San Francisco 49ers have also kicked the tires on Gunter.
It’s unknown if Green Bay even has any interest, but considering their current cornerback group, why shouldn’t they?