Should the Packers Take a Look at LB DeAndre Levy?
Linebacker DeAndre Levy was released by the Detroit Lions recently, and is an intriguing option for the Packers defense.
The Packers fortified their offense with former Badgers tight end Lance Kendricks earlier this offseason, and general manager Ted Thompson often roams the sidelines at practice in Madison.
Could another Badger enter the fold this offseason?
Milwaukee native Levy played with Badgers
The linebacker attended Milwaukee Vincent High School, where he ranked as the nation’s 38th best outside linebacker and skillfully played tight end.
"He has a work ethic that is unbelievable,” Milwaukee Vincent football coach Elliott Lightfoot said of Levy in a 2004 article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He's not going to let anybody outwork him. He's decided upon himself that he's going to make things happen."
Three Big Ten schools – Wisconsin, Pittsburgh, and Indiana – along with Northern Illinois all offered Levy, who ultimately chose to play for the Wisconsin Badgers in Barry Alvarez’s final recruiting class.
Levy was a three-year starter at outside linebacker, but is most remembered for a sideline tackle against Penn State that drove him into coach Joe Paterno and broke the coach’s left leg. Last year in an interview with Men’s Journal, Levy called this “my proudest moment in college.”
Levy moves from outside linebacker to inside linebacker with Detroit
Levy joined the Lions following their historic 0-16 season, and this NFL.com scouting report described Levy as an athletic addition to Detroit's defense:
The former Badger is an athletic linebacker with good straight-line speed and toughness. He's an above-average blitzer off the edge and flashes the ability to stack lead blockers in the hole. He gives the Lions a developmental linebacker with good special teams potential.
Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham moved Levy from his collegiate position of outside linebacker to play middle linebacker in the team’s 4-3 scheme.
For four years, Levy plodded by as an above-average defender before breaking out in 2013. There, he was one of the league’s top linebackers, especially in coverage: he finished second in the NFL with six interceptions.
He was rewarded with a four-year, $33 million contract before the 2015 season, but injuries struck hard shortly thereafter. Hip surgery kept Levy sidelined for all but one game of the 2015 season. Last year, quad and knee injuries limited him to only five games.
How DeAndre Levy would help the Packers
Less than 24 months ago, Levy earned one of the NFL’s richest contracts for a linebacker. Now, he’s been on the free agent market with little activity. But that doesn’t mean there’s not interest.
Aaron Nagler of PackersNews.com during Tuesday’s Facebook Live stream mentioned he’d be interested in bringing the former Lions and Badgers linebacker to Green Bay.
Members of the Packers also respect what Levy brings to the table.
"Looks like he reads offensive formations," former Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said of Levy in a 2014 interview. "He knows what to expect. You have to know where he is and where he's going to be, because very rarely is he ever out of position. And, whenever he seemingly guesses, he tends to be guessing right."
The Detroit News reported after Levy’s release that the Lions were unsure whether the linebacker would ever return to his old self, and were said to have floated his name in trade discussions with other teams last month.
Given his injury history, it’s unclear just how much of an upgrade he could provide over the Packers core of Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Joe Thomas. Levy physically is almost identical (6-2, 234) to Martinez (6-2, 237), but ran the 40-yard dash at 4.47 seconds in 2009 compared to Martinez’s 4.62 seconds in 2016.
Projecting free agent DeAndre Levy’s contract in 2017
Levy may be looking at a contract similar to Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Undrafted in 2005, Alexander made his second Pro Bowl at 33 years old. Buffalo signed Alexander to a two-year, $5.95 million deal last week.
Detroit’s previous contract with Levy called for the linebacker to make $5.99 million in 2017, but his injury history will keep him from reaching those heights in 2017. Look for Levy to sign a one-year deal worth between $2 million and $3 million