Packers Free Agent Overview: Defense
With 17 free agents and just under $10 million in salary cap space carrying over into 2014, changes are coming to the Green Bay Packers roster.
Debate about whether it’s time for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to finally dip into free agency will heat up as the offseason rolls along. Just as important for Thompson is deciding which of his own free agents to retain and which to let walk.
Everyone asks if the Packers should resign (insert name of pending free agent). The answer to that question is almost always, “Sure, if the price is right.” Unfortunately for the Packers, the price isn’t always right and not everybody can be retained.
Let’s take a look at pending free agents on offense and dig into a few reasons why they might stay or go. We’ll examine free agents on offense later today.
CB Sam Shields
Getting Shields signed to a long-term deal should be the Packers top offseason priority, but it might not be possible. Shields will likely command around $9 million per season and a shade under $20 million guaranteed. That’s a lot of dough to squeeze under the salary cap and remain flexible enough to address other areas of the team. With Casey Hayward coming back, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shields walks. And if the Packers want to slap the franchise tag on Shields, it will likely cost around $11 million, so that probably won’t happen.
DL B.J. Raji
Raji became the first player to depart his team via free agency smack dab in the middle of the season. Wait, what? You say Raji didn’t leave the Packers in the middle of the season? He was on the active roster the whole time and even on the field while real live games were going on? Hold on a minute, what? Repeat that again, please? You say that not only was Raji still on the team after week seven, but he turned down an $8 million per season contract extension? LMFAO. Quit kidding around. This is a serious football site with serious football analysis. Nobody in their right mind would offer Raji $8 million per season ever again would they? Right?
DL Ryan Pickett
The Packers need more athletic defensive linemen, which leads me to think Pickett is as good as gone. His age doesn’t help, either. That said, it’s going to be tough to see him go. I’ve been expecting a serious decline from Big Grease for the past couple of seasons, but it hasn’t came. He’s still effective in his role tough as hell.
DL Johnny Jolly
Could Jolly replace Pickett as the old-man space eater on the defensive line? The neck injury worries me, but it could actually work in the Packers favor if it heals. Jolly’s age (30), combined with his past arrests and current health status could scare off other teams and keep his price low enough for the Packers to retain.
I doubt any other team will be inclined to offer Wilson a significant contract so he could wind up back in Green Bay as a backup run stuffer. I always thought Wilson showed flashes of athleticism, but he hasn’t been able to put it together and become a difference-maker.
OLB Mike Neal
I laughed hysterically when the Packers announced that Neal was going to convert to an outside linebacker. Turns out, he wasn’t half bad. I wonder if Neal is the type of player that could command a decent chunk of change from a team desperate at outside linebacker and willing to take a gamble on a young and still developing project. Hey, the Packers fit that criteria. Brad Jones and the Packers were in a similar situation at inside linebacker last offseason and Thompson gave him a $20 million deal.
LB Robert Francois
A torn ACL leaves Francois’ status up in the air. The Packers could always use solid special teams players, so maybe he comes back at the minimum.
*LB Jamari Lattimore
Lattimore became the defensive version of a backup quarterback late in the season: A fan favorite mainly because the starter in front of him was struggling. Lattimore showed promise in early game action with Jones sidelined, but he looked slow and lost when he got another chance against Pittsburgh. The Packers could slap the lowest tender on him because of play on special teams and chance for further development.
*S M.D. Jennings
I don’t see any reason to keep Jennings around.
*restricted free agent——————