The traditional inside linebacker position has been losing importance for the Green Bay Packers over the past few years. The team is now down to just two inside linebackers after Joe Thomas signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday.
Source: Cowboys have agreed to a 2-year deal with free agent LB Joe Thomas. He visited the Cowboys today. Thomas has played in 42 games over the last three seasons with the Packers. He had a career-high 70 tackles in 2016. Thomas spent time on the Cowboys' practice squad in 2015
While those 70 tackles in 2016 may look swell, especially for someone who wasn’t a full-time starter, that’s largely the result of other factors.
The Packers didn’t think Blake Martinez or Jake Ryan could cover anyone in 2016. That opened the door for Thomas, who was decent in coverage or at least the lesser of three evils. Thomas started seven games and played in all 16 in 2016. Toward the end of the season, he was the Packers’ primary inside linebacker. However, we always felt whatever Thomas provided in coverage was overshadowed by the fact that the Packers lost a lot in terms of stopping the run and tackling with him in the game.
Thomas has never been a big guy and in 2017 he became an afterthought. Martinez came on in his second season and became the Packers’ primary and often lone inside linebacker on the field. Thomas ended up playing in 12 games and starting just one for the Packers last year. He finished with just 14 tackles, as the Packers turned the secondary or hybrid inside linebacker role over to safety Morgan Burnett.
We didn’t figure the team had any interest in re-signing Thomas for a fourth season. That seemed to be evident when they non-tendered him.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the Packers restocking the inside linebacker position. The league is moving away from the traditional inside linebacker roles.
No, the real loss this week was safety Morgan Burnett, who manned that hybrid role last season. The Packers will presumably look to replace him with second-year man Josh Jones. Now we just need to hope Jones plays much, much better than what he showed during his rookie year.