Category Archives: Contracts

12

March

NFL Free Agency: Green Bay Packers Re-Sign DE/OLB Mike Neal

NFL, Green Bay Packers, Mike Neal, NFL Free Agency, Packers Free Agents, Packers free agencyAccording to his Twitter feed, defensive end/linebacker Mike Neal has signed a new two-year contract with the Green Bay Packers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Neal had his most productive season in 2013, but that was mainly due to the fact he was finally able to remain healthy for a full season.  Neal had 47 combined tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception in a season where he was moved from the defensive line to a linebacker position.

A second round pick of the Packers in 2010, Neal showed flashes of being a decent pass rusher during training camp but never was able to remain healthy and only saw action for more than half a season in 2012.  Neal had been rumored to be target by the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, but ultimately chose to remain a Green Bay Packer.

With Neal’s return, it’s becoming clear no major defensive scheme overhaul is in order for the Packers this offseason. Moving Neal back to his original position on the defensive line however would indicate Green Bay wants to get leaner at the position.   There is also the possibility Neal could be moved all over the front seven as a pass rush specialist, lining up both with his hands on the ground as well as standing up.

This move at the least sets the stage for more competition throughout the unit as training camp approaches.  Neal is still young and has a lot to contribute.  He has natural athletic ability and now that he’s proven he can stay healthy, Neal could be critical towards Green Bay finally establishing a consistent pass rush.

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Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke

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8

March

Cory’s Corner: B.J. Raji has regrets right now

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

After turning down $8 million from the Packers earlier this year, B.J. Raji must decide if he wants a one-year $4 million offer.

I am sure that B.J. Raji is probably kicking himself about now.

The Packers’ fifth-year defensive lineman was offered an $8 million contract in the middle of last season but defiantly turned it down.

And now, Green Bay is low-balling their one-time Pro Bowler with a one-year $4 million offer. Ted Thompson knows that a prove-it contract is the perfect situation for a guy that, despite playing out of position, was nearly invisible on the football field.

Thompson has also realized that if Raji has already turned down $8 million, how much more would other teams be willing to risk when the free agency signing period begins on Tuesday at 3 p.m.?

Raji is an interesting study because in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense, he needs an anchor up front. He needs someone that will eat a blocker or two and clear a path for the linebackers. You could almost call him a defensive fullback.

But here’s the rub with Raji: the rest of the starting defensive line are also free agents. Ryan Pickett will turn 35 next season and has lost a few steps. His career high for tackles was 48 in 2005 and last year he tallied 19. Mike Neal is interesting because he’s so versatile. He was tied for third on the team with five sacks and he did it as a defensive end and an outside linebacker.

Raji hasn’t done much to impress anyone the last two seasons — 29 tackles and zero sacks. But there are teams that would be willing to dig a little deeper into the wallet just because he’s a large human being and there aren’t a lot of those to go around.

Thompson is doing the right thing with the low-money offer. I was astonished when he offered $8 million this year and I was even more astonished when Raji turned it down.

It’s hard to believe that Raji was taken as the ninth overall pick in 2009. He clearly has motivation issues if you cannot get charged up to play in the NFL — in a contract year. You hate to label a guy as a bust before he has even turned 30, but Raji doesn’t really give anyone a lot to work with. The one Pro Bowl season and the interception return for a touchdown that put the Packers in the Super Bowl are his career highlights. At best, he’s a work-in-progress and at worst he’s a big oops.

6

March

Packers Reportedly Nearing Deal with Free Agent D-Lineman

B.J. Raji

The return of Raji would maintain some continuity on a defensive line that stands to see many changes this season

The Green Bay Packers are reportedly closing in on a one-year deal with free-agent-to-be and defensive lineman B.J. Raji.  This news came according to Adam Schefter at ESPN and via Jason Wilde at ESPN Milwaukee:

This news comes as a bit of a surprise to some, as the talk about Raji seemed to center around his wanting to possibly play in a different type of defense.  There was also talk about the Packers wanting to get more athletic on the defensive line, something that may not bode well for a lineman tipping the scales at close to 340 pounds.

No figures have been announced or released yet, but the fact that Raji would be taking a one-year deal in Green Bay versus testing the free agent market likely signals that he may not have felt that he would receive the type of offer he wanted.

Statistically speaking, Raji had one of his poorest seasons in 2013, tallying just 17 tackles and only three for a loss of yardage.

Another signal of this potential Raji deal could be the Packers intentions early in May’s draft.  With Raji returning, there would seem to be less chance that the Packers would be looking at a defensive lineman in round one.  Anything is possible under Ted so don’t rule it out, but it would at least appear that Green Bay has their eyes on another position early on.

Stay tuned for contract details if and when they are announced.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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14

February

Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.

22

January

Packers Free Agents: Top 10 to Re-Sign

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who's number one?

Sam Shields is only the second most important UFA the Packers need to re-sign. Who’s number one?

A couple weeks ago, our own Adam Czech took a look at the Green Bay Packers players hitting free agency this offseason.  Of the 19 offensive and defensive players, 16 are unrestricted and 3 are restricted. What I’ve done below is made a list of the top ten unrestricted players Ted Thompson should consider re-signing. They are listed in descending order of importance.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the ranking? Is there someone you would add or replace? Comment below!

 

10. Ryan Pickett

This could be the first year where Pickett’s age has been noticeable. The “Big Grease” has never been a flashy player, and he’s a true two-gap guy, but even in that role he saw some decline. Pickett could still be useful as a veteran leader and run-stuffer; there’s just not much more than that. If he returns, it shouldn’t be at a price anywhere near his last contract.

9. Matt Flynn

It seems like Matt Flynn is destined to be the back-up to Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his career. He got his payday in Seattle, never really saw the field as a starter, and eventually ended up back in Green Bay. The Packers have Scott Tolzien as a project this offseason, but wouldn’t they want to avoid the mess of a situation they had this year and sign Flynn as insurance?

8. B.J. Raji

This guy is going to be the biggest free agent storyline for the Packers. His performance doesn’t command a big contract, but his draft position does. It will all depend on the market, and I have a feeling Ted Thompson will let him test it. Still, if the price is right, it would be foolish for the Packers not to bring him back on board.

7. James Jones

Yes, James Jones can be considered “replaceable.” But this is the same guy who caught 14 touchdown passes for the Packers in 2012. In 2013, he was second in most statistical categories only to Jordy Nelson, and the only player who had fewer drops than him was Randall Cobb. (And Cobb was out most of the season.) James Jones didn’t get much from the market the last time he was a free agent, and he probably see less interest now that he’s hitting 30.

17

January

Veterans Kuhn and Pickett Mull their Packers and NFL Futures

Packers Ryan Pickett - Free Agent

Packers Ryan Pickett – Free Agent

In this year of the free agent (20 of them) for the Green Bay Packers, there are two players in particular where difficult decisions must be made. As much for their leadership and veteran smarts as for their play on the field, John Kuhn and Ryan Pickett will make it hard for the Packers to leave them behind.

But the possibility exists that both players could be looking at very different futures than the ones they’d like to have, thus impacting the official NFL Futures of the Packers. Both have expressed a desire to remain with the Packers, but a cut in pay would surely be required for both. If given a “home town” discount, should the Packers re-sign these grisly veterans? Let’s explore…

John Kuhn has been with the Packers for seven seasons, thriving at a position that is quickly becoming cast aside in the NFL. For Kuhn, the key has been making himself valuable in as many ways as possible. Need to gain a tough yard for a first down? Need someone to lead the way for Eddie Lacy? Need an ultra-reliable pass protector? Need a receiver out of the backfield? Need help with protection calls? Kuhn is your man.

To top things off, Kuhn is a “company man,” having been quoted recently as saying “”I love it in Green Bay, and I love playing for the Packers.”

It’s the little things that all add up to Kuhn being a very good value for the Packers. Not flashy in any way, it’s easy to lose perspective on John Kuhn. This writer is guilty of the same, having recently questioned his value to the Packers on a recent CheeseheadRadio episode.

In an offseason where money must be paid out to more “impactful” players, I found myself wondering if keeping John Kuhn made sense. After all, Kuhn earned a healthy 2.5 million in 2013. Well, after more closely watching his performances against the Bears and in person against the 49ers, I have to change my tune and say YES.

Aaron Rodgers recently said there is no one he trusts more on the field than John Kuhn. If he’s good enough for Rodgers, he’s good enough for me.

10

January

Can the Packers Afford Sam Shields?

Packers CB Sam Shields

Shields is one of Green Bay’s top free agents heading into 2014

This will come across as pouting and before we get into Green Bay Packers cornerback Sam Shields in free agency, I have to say that I really wish I were still writing about a Packers team who was preparing for their next playoff game.  Such is life.

So what about Shields?  Well, last year Shields was a restricted free agent and the Packers placed a second round tender on him, meaning that if Shields negotiated a deal with another team and Green Bay chose not to match it, the receiving team would have owed the Packers a second round draft choice.

At the time that the Packers were gathering for training camp and there was talk that he might hold out if he was not given a long-term deal.  Shields’ agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who is no stranger to a holdout, an interview or an attempt to pan for the camera.  Shields eventually signed his tender with the Packers and played out his one-year, $2.023 million deal this season.

A likely motivator for Shields to get signed and into camp was that there was expected to be competition at the cornerback position.  Shields missed significant time in 2012 due to an ankle injury suffered early in the season but returned late in the year to help the Packers earn another division title.

Shields also had an interception for a touchdown early in the divisional round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.  Still, looming over Shields’ shoulder were cornerbacks Casey Hayward, Davon House and rookie Micah Hyde.

Shields kept his starting spot and had a stellar 2013 season, tallying 61 tackles, 17 passes defensed and had four interceptions in just 14 games.

Two of Shields’ interceptions will not soon be forgotten.  The first was a game-saver late in the win against the Dallas Cowboys on a play that, had Shields not made, likely would have gone for a touchdown and prevented the Packers from winning that game.  The second was the last play of Green Bay’s week 17 win over the Chicago Bears to seal the division title.  Shields intercepted a Jay Cutler Hail Mary pass that somehow failed to make it to the end zone.