GREEN BAY — Whether they end up signing Ahmad Brooks or not, the fact the Green Bay Packers are bringing the two-time All-Pro outside linebacker in for a visit seems like a pretty clear indication they’re concerned about their depth at arguably the most important position on their defense.
The NFL Network first reported Brooks’ visit Sunday afternoon.
The 33-year-old Brooks, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers on Friday in a cost-cutting move after eight seasons with the team, could help a group that entered training camp with unproven depth — despite coach Mike McCarthy’s proclamation to the contrary this spring — and now might be facing even bigger questions.
Veteran Nick Perry, who starts opposite Clay Matthews, left Saturday night’s 20-17 preseason loss to the Broncos in Denver with a right ankle injury, and while it didn’t appear serious at the time, it’s unclear whether Perry will be ready for the team’s Sept. 10 regular-season opener against Seattle.
Behind the starting duo, second-year man Kyler Fackrell and fourth-year pass-rusher Jayrone Elliott have had quiet camps, and Elliott exited Saturday’s game because of a back injury. Elliott had dropped out of each of the Packers’ two practices last week because of back spasms.
Rookie fourth-round pick Vince Biegel remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason foot surgery, though the former University of Wisconsin athlete indicated late last week he does not expect to land on the in-season PUP list, which would keep him from playing in the first six games.
All this is happening at a position where McCarthy insisted during organized team activities that the Packers have “as good as depth as we’ve had there in some time.” With Perry and Elliott out, Reggie Gilbert, who spent last season on the practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, played extensively and was up and down.
The Packers made no effort to re-sign likely Pro Football Hall of Famer Julius Peppers during the offseason, and Peppers — and his 143.5 career sacks — went to the Carolina Panthers, the team he began his NFL career with in 2002. The Packers also didn’t bring back 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones, who went to the rival Minnesota Vikings on a one-year deal with an eye on moving to his original position on the defensive line.
Brooks was set to count $6.1 million against the 49ers’ cap this season and became expendable in the eyes of new general manager John Lynch and new head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“Ahmad can still do things,” Shanahan said after Brooks’ release. “I think everyone knows that and he’s going to help somebody this year. But it really comes down to the final 53. And I’m starting to get a better feel for what that is now. … And it’s really been nothing against Ahmad.
“Once we really came to the conclusion he wasn’t going to be a part of our final 53, we weren’t going to keep him around just to let him know nine days from now. We know there’s a lot of teams that will be interested in him. So we gave him that opportunity to go out and find them.”
The Broncos are also reportedly interested in the 6-foot-3, 259-pound Brooks, who began his NFL career with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006. He played in 128 of a possible 136 games (including playoffs) in eight seasons in San Francisco, finishing with 58 career sacks, including 6.5 in postseason play.
Brooks has a checkered past. In 2015, he was charged with misdemeanor sexual battery by the Santa Clara, California, district attorney’s office — in a case that remains open — in connection with a 2014 incident at then-49ers teammate Ray McDonald’s home. According to the Sacramento Bee, a pretrial motion is scheduled for Sept. 29 at which point a trial date will be set in Brooks’ case.
In 2013, Brooks allegedly hit then-teammate Lamar Divens in the head with a beer bottle three times but was not charged. And in 2008, Brooks, then with Cincinnati, was accused of punching a woman in the face and accepted mediation on the charges.