Thursday, May 5, 2022

Texans fire ex-Packers defensive lineman from roster

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A former Green Bay Packers defenseman is back on the market after the Houston Texans dropped Kingsley Keke from their roster Tuesday, May 3.

Keke — who played 901 defensive snaps in his first three seasons with the Packers and was a fifth-round pick in 2019 — had achieved his proven performance escalator for his season with the Packers and his 2022 base salary should be $2.54 million boosting season, which Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson said was a key reason for his release.

Another reason, according to Wilson, was the arrival of several rookie defenders. The Texans used a fifth-round pick, Stanford’s Thomas Booker, in the 2022 NFL draft and signed former Nebraska defenseman Damion Daniels as the UDFA.

Keke recorded 54 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 41 appearances for the Packers and showed the potential to become a every-game starter during his 2020 four-sack season. If teams are confident about his health given his history of concussions, he could be an attractive, low-cost option for teams looking to bolster their defenses.

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Keke formally clears the waivers on Wednesday, May 4 and is now free to negotiate with any interested teams, but a reunion between him and the Packers looks like a long shot given the circumstances of his departure from the team earlier this year.

When Wilson originally reported, the Packers abruptly renounced Keke in January after he fell out with coaches – including head coach Matt LaFleur – over his practice role with the team, which was recovering from a concussion. Keke did not play in the Packers’ last three regular-season games, missing two as a healthy scratch and one on the COVID-19 list.

The New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys were all interested in Keke when the Texans initially claimed him in January, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. So it’s likely he’ll be making some phone calls while trying to figure out where he’s going to spend year 4.

While Keke’s departure was sudden and unexpected to those outside the organization, the Packers have spent the past few months aggressively recharging their space on the defensive line and are now prepared to head into the 2022 season with their strongest unit in years.

The Packers doubled defensive linemen in the 2022 NFL draft, selected Georgia standout Devonte Wyatt with the second of their two first-round picks, and returned to Miami starter Jonathan Ford in the seventh round. Additionally, they signed three undrafted rookie free agents — Baylor’s Raleigh Texada, Missouri’s Akial Byers, and Utah’s Hauati Pututau — to create more competition for the deep roles.

Aside from the rookies, the Packers also signed veteran Jarran Reed on a one-year deal to bring more experience to the space. He joins Pro Bowl nose tackle Kenny Clark and veteran defensive end Dean Lowry as the only other fullback on the roster with more than a year’s experience. The Packers have decided not to re-sign Tyler Lancaster for the 2022 season, but they are also returning with TJ Slaton and Jack Heflin.

As far as squad battles go, with 10 defenders on the roster and less than half of them team-banned, there should be plenty of entertainment.

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