Former Chiefs cornerback KeiVarae Russell earns chance with Packers

Former Chiefs cornerback KeiVarae Russell has earned another chance in the NFL with the Packers.

The Green Bay Packers are the latest team in the National Football League to take a flyer on KeiVarae Russell, a move that shows just how hard it is to find dependable cornerbacks in a pass-happy league.

Russell joins the Packers practice squad after trying out for the team last week. He passed COVID-19 protocols and was able to practice on Wednesday.

The Kansas City Chiefs were the team to draft Russell after he turned heads at Notre Dame. Former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey selected him in the third round at No. 74 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft to help Sean Smith and the rest of the team’s secondary. Unfortunately, Russell would barely make it to the regular season before being released by the franchise.

The odd draft-and-release of Russell was always one of the biggest questions or concerns of Dorsey’s tenure. The idea of using such an early pick on a player who would never even suit up to play a single game for the team makes no sense. At the time, there were no reports of any egregious character concerns or off-putting behavior. The simple explanation was that he wasn’t a good fit and/or wasn’t able to pick up the defense. That was it.

Prospects taken on Day 2 typically receive much greater leash than that to learn the game. The same was true of Breeland Speaks, for example, and he was given multiple opportunities to acclimate to a Chiefs team that’s much deeper than the one Russell joined in 2016.

Still, the fact that Russell is trying to find a permanent home after four seasons shows the Chiefs knew something at the time. To his credit, however, Russell did find a home with the Cincinnati Bengals for three seasons, from 2016 to 2018, and provided reps on defense and special teams over 20 career games in that span.

Since 2018, Russell has earned chances to impress the New York Giants and L.A. Chargers, but both signings were short-lived. Now the Packers will hope Russell can turn the corner in Mike Pettine’s defensive scheme.