Packers Projected to Give $12 Million to Unproven Draft Pick

The Green Bay Packers have a difficult decision to make regarding cornerback Eric Stokes before the start of the 2024 season.

Packers CB Eric Stokes starts 2023 season on PUP list

Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay gave out projections for every fifth-year option decision that needs to be made before May 2. There are some obvious decisions for the first-round picks from the 2021 NFL Draft, but it’s not as easy for Stokes.

“Like Horn, Stokes has flashed plenty of skill when healthy, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field,” Kay wrote. “After appearing in all but one game as a rookie, he has missed 22 contests over the last two years. His option is a tossup due to his injury concerns, but he’s likely done enough to warrant it being exercised.”

Stokes would make nearly $12.5 million on the fifth-year option in 2025. That’s a lot of money for an unproven first-round pick. Still,, the Packers could exercise the option for some long-term security at cornerback.

Eric Stokes Has a Lot to Prove in 2024

This will be a big season for Stokes. After being a surprise first-round pick, a healthy season from him could remind Packers fans why he was drafted.

Stokes was a 3-star recruit coming out of high school. His offers included top SEC programs like Florida and Ole Miss. However, he decided to stay in his home state to play for the Georgia Bulldogs.

It took some time for Stokes to find his footing in college. He finished his career on a high note, however, earning All-SEC honors in each of his final two seasons.

Stokes turned heads in the pre-draft process after declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds despite being listed at 6’0″ and 194 pounds.

That athleticism helped Stokes get drafted by the Packers with the 29th overall pick. He got off to a solid start as a rookie, playing 16 games with 14 pass breakups and an interception.

Injuries have unfortunately derailed Stokes’ career since that rookie breakout season. An ankle injury ended his 2022 season after nine games, and a nagging hamstring injury in 2023 was re-aggravated shortly after being activated onto the roster.

Stokes has only 12 games over the last two seasons. 2024 could be his final season in Green Bay, but staying healthy would allow him to sign another NFL contract in 2025.

Cornerback Is a Long-Term Packers Need

Regardless of what the future holds for Stokes, the Packers have a long-term need at cornerback.

Jaire Alexander is hoping to return to All-Pro form in 2024. The Packers have shot down any trade rumors for the star cornerback, but they’ll need to find another long-term outside cornerback to play alongside him.

Stokes was supposed to be that running mate with Alexander, and still could be in 2024. However, he’ll be competing with Carrington Valentine, who showed flashes as a seventh-round rookie last season.

If neither option pans out, the Packers don’t have many other viable options at cornerback. Other options currently on the roster include the likes of Robert Rochell, Corey Ballentine, and Gemon Green.

None of those players are starting-caliber players, so don’t be surprised if the Packers take a cornerback early in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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