Cornerback Rasul Douglas was one of general manager Brian Gutekunst's best diamond-in-the-rough transactions during his time running the Green Bay Packers' football operations since 2018. The former Philadelphia Eagles third-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft totaled five interceptions and 25 passes in three seasons before the team released him following roster cutdowns in 2020.
After a year without an interception with the Carolina Panthers in 2020, Douglas began the 2021 season toiling away on Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Gutekunst and the Packers signed him onto their active roster early on in the 2021 season after which time he became one of their best defensive players. Douglas totaled five interceptions, including two interception return touchdowns -- which co-led the NFL --, including a game-sealing takeaway at the Cardinals to hand them their first first loss of the season that year on "Thursday Night Football" when the Packers were missing many top players, including receiver Davante Adams, because of COVD-19. His 10 interceptions since that season are tied for the third-most in the NFL as are his two pick-sixes. However, Douglas is now a Buffalo Bill after the Packers traded him away with a 2024 fifth-round pick in exchange for a 2024 third-round pick. The trade comes with Douglas in the second season of a three-year, $21 million contract, a fairly affordable price for a solid, starting cornerback. It certainly caught his fellow defensive backfield mate Jaire Alexander off guard.
"I was pretty surprised to say the least," Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander said Wednesday, via The Athletic, when asked about Douglas being traded to the Bills. "I was surprised. I actually found out this morning coming into work. I made sure I texted him right away. I didn't expect Rasul to be gone. He's vet who has made a bunch of plays in his time here, but that's just the NFL."
The deal was notable enough around Lambeau Field that Gutekunst went out of his way to kickoff off his post-trade deadline press conference to talk about Douglas before he took questions from local media.
"Real quick as we get started, I want to take some time to talk about Rasul," Green Bay Packers general manager said Wednesday. "Want to thank him for all his time here, the work and the leadership that he provided us. That was a nice practice squad signing in the middle of the season [in 2021], you don't see those very often. Appreciative of him."
Gutekunst rationalized the move because Green Bay now has five picks on the first two days of the 2024 NFL Draft: one first-round pick, two second-round picks (the second being from the Jets as Aaron Rodgers is unlikely to play 65% of New York's snaps this season following his torn Achilles) and two third-round picks, the second of which comes from the Douglas trade made Tuesday.
"It was tough one because of what he means to our team," Gutekunst said. "At the same time, we weren't looking to move anybody. I got a call out of the blue a few days ago. We weren't really interested in doing it, but at the end of the day, the offer was too good to pass up.... We thought it was in the best interest of the Packers. Obviously, in the short term, you lose a good player, and that's tough. Looking long term, it's going to be in our best interests. Any time you get a third-round pick that is going to be in the top 100 [picks in 2024] that will probably be one of the top 50 players that you have on your [draft] board that's something that I think was too good for us to pass up. We wish him well. He served us well while he was here. We're excited about the opportunities it presents some other guys."
Tough would be understatement around the Packers locker room. Green Bay slot cornerback and 2022 First-Tea All-Pro return man Keisean Nixon was "at a loss for words" upon hearing that Douglas was being traded.
"I understand it's a business, but I'm still sick to my stomach, honestly," Nixon said Wednesday, via The Athletic. "[Rasul was] Someone who stabilized the locker room and was a big part in preaching and approaching as a team, and now he's gone."
The other guys could include 2023 seventh-round pick Carrington Valentine, who has 12 tackles and is allowing a 65.9 passer rating against. Cornerback Eric Stokes, Green Bay's 2021 first-round pick (29th overall) had a nice rookie year but has dealt with injuries in each of the last two seasons. He suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 9 of 2022 against the Detroit Lions that ended his season. Stokes is already returning to injured reserve this season after suffering a hamstring injury against the Denver Broncos in Week 7.
"He [Douglas] mentored me and sat next to me every day," Valentine said, via The Athletic. "I'm sad to see him go. I learned a lot from him, and I appreciate everything. He didn't have to do that. With the opportunity, I just have to make the most of it.... Just being around him [Douglas] he taught me a lot."