Why the Packers Traded Damarious Randall

Brian Gutekunst picked a big one for his first significant move as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, trading cornerback Damarious Randall to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for backup quarterback DeShone Kizer.

The Packers and Browns also swapped fourth and fifth round picks in the deal, essentially moving the Packers up in both rounds. Here’s where the Packers stand in terms of draft picks after the deal:

Why the trade happened

Though the draft pick considerations are nice, the real pieces in the trade are Randall and Kizer.

Packers fans are well acquainted with Randall’s up-and-down play through his three year tenure in Green Bay. His 2017 season got off to a rough start, culminating with a benching in Week 4 after a horrendous first half against the Chicago Bears.

Following his benching, Randall bounced back, reeling in an interception in each of the next three games and playing some of the best football of his career down the stretch of the season, for all it was worth.

Even with his mini-redemption tour, Randall’s reputation never really recovered in Green Bay, to the point that some in the locker room reportedly asked that he be cut outright.

But the Packers moved to trade him instead, leaving whatever reclamation project remains to the Browns and the trio of former Packers front office personnel in charge of the Cleveland.

The Packers sought Kizer for at least two obvious reasons: they don’t like what they have in Brett Hundley and they really like Kizer.

For all of Mike McCarthy’s talk about belief in Hundley, the Packers can’t have been happy with what he showed last year. Certainly, some of the blame for his lack of development rests on McCarthy, but Hundley showed virtually no week-to-week growth during his extended run as the starter, repeating the same basic mistakes again and again.

And though he was anything but an overwhelming talent in Cleveland, the Packers have long been fans of Kizer as well. After trading back in the 2017 draft, the Packers were reportedly strongly considering taking Kizer with the first pick of the second round before ultimately settling on Kevin King.

As we wrote at the time, the interest in Kizer centered around his playmaking ability as both a runner and a passer, though that praise didn’t come without caveats.

At 6-4 and 233 pounds, DeShone Kizer is a big, imposing quarterback. He started at Notre Dame for each of the past two seasons, putting up good but not eye-popping stats through his two years as a starter.
Kizer is considered a solid dual-threat quarterback, posting a 4.83 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He rushed for 997 yards and 18 touchdowns while at Notre Dame.
Though he has great physical attributes, scouts knocked Kizer for a simplistic offense at Notre Dame, a low completion percentage, and generally sloppy pocket mechanics.

What this means for the Packers

There are three obvious early returns on this trade for the Packers, and at least two of them seems particularly good.

First, the Packers seem to have opened a needless hole at cornerback. Despite Randall’s foibles, he was at the very least a known quantity. The Packers knew what he could do and, assuming they picked up his fifth-year option, controlled him for the next two years for a relatively affordable price.

Now, the Packers are without one of their two presumed starting cornerbacks, leaving them with yet another position to be addressed this offseason. Whether Gutekunst chooses to do that through the draft or free agency remains to be seen.

But secondly (and positively), the Packers are at least spared the decision on what to do with Randall’s fifth-year option. Though he is something of a known quantity, his future is all but secure. Who knows what he’ll offer from one week to the next, much less from season to season. Will the Browns get the late-2017 Randall or the 2016 Randall? If nothing else, that question is someone else’s problem now.

Thirdly, the Packers have taken a step toward addressing their backup quarterback situation, though whether it’s a step in the right direction is very much debatable. Kizer is a big, athletic prospect (an inch taller and seven pounds heavier than Hundley while nearly as fast), but he is still very much a project. Based on his performance last season, the Packers don’t seem to have improved their backup quarterback situation much, if at all. On its face, it seems like a lateral step at best.

The Packers will now likely have to pursue backup quarterback help elsewhere or risk the same situation as 2017 all over again: heading into another season with big questions behind Aaron Rodgers and very little to show for it.