Green Bay Packers: A Position-by-Position Primer to Free Agency
The Green Bay Packers enter free agency this year with a bevy of their own players to make decisions on. Some positions have a number of free agents the Packers could potentially lose, while other positions are relatively set for the 2014 season.
As of right now, the Packers have about $18.5 million to work with this offseason. That number could change drastically as they restructure contracts or release players they no longer want, but we shouldn't be expected a drastic change in salary cap for Green Bay.
Today we're going to look at a position-by-position primer to free agency. We'll break down each position with players on the roster for 2014 and free agents. We'll also briefly look at some potential targets for the Packers to look at outside of their own free agents.
*All contract and salary information courtesy of Spotrac.com.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien
Team Free Agents: Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace
Potential Free-Agency Targets: None
With both Rodgers and Tolzien under contact for the 2014 season, the Green Bay Packers don't need to address this position in free agency. It also might be wise to move away from both Flynn and Wallace this offseason.
Look, it's easy to understand why fans of the Packers absolutely love Mr. Flynn. He's got a good place in their heart and he engineered one of the best comebacks in franchise history. Unfortunately, Flynn was also quite bad in every other game he played in this year, and his issues aren't getting fixed at this point in his career.
The most likely scenario for the Packers in free agency at the quarterback position is to do absolutely nothing. They won't sign any players from other teams and they won't re-sign their own players.
If they decide they need to add a third quarterback to the roster, then they're likely to do it in the later rounds of the NFL draft.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris
Team Free Agents: James Starks, John Kuhn
Potential Free-Agency Targets: None
Much like the quarterback position, the Green Bay Packers aren't likely to target any running backs around the league in free agency. In fact, if they decide to add more running backs to their team, they'll bring back either Starks or Kuhn, or both, before they go out and sign a new player.
The big question with this position is if the Packers are happy with the trio of running backs. It's definitely possible that they are happy with Lacy, Franklin and Harris and decide to move on from Starks and Kuhn.
If that happens, the Packers will have to figure out what to do with Kuhn's "fullback" role on the team. The obvious choice would be to use either Franklin or Harris as a receiving back and use tight end Ryan Taylor as a lead-blocker for Lacy.
It wouldn't be overly surprising to see the Packers be absolutely content with the running backs they have signed through the 2014 season. Of course, if both Starks and Kuhn are willing to take hometown discounts, Green Bay would probably welcome them back with open arms.
Team Free Agents: James Jones
Potential Free-Agency Targets: None
The most set position on the roster, except for maybe quarterback, is wide receiver. With Nelson, Cobb and Boykin, the Green Bay Packers have three legitimate receiving weapons. Throw in the potential of Harper, Dorsey and Cunningham and it's possible that the Packers could once again boast one of the most talented receiver corps in the league next year.
Does this mean that Green Bay doesn't need Jones? Not necessarily, because Jones still has the talent to be an impact player in this offense. However, he'll be 30 years old in March and could demand more than the Packers can afford to pay.
Jones had this to say about the uncertainty of upcoming free agency, according to Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
I'm not one of those guys who goes home and says I'm worth 30, 40 million. We'll see what happens when the market comes and guys start making offers. If they start making offers, we don't even know. We're sitting here talking about free agency and I could be going to Canada. You never know.
The only wide receiver the Packers could potentially sign this year would be Jones, but if he leaves, then the Packers will move forward with their current roster of receivers.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Brandon Bostick, Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner
Team Free Agents: Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless
Potential Free-Agency Targets: Fred Davis, Brandon Pettigrew
Finally, our first position that may actually warrant the Green Bay Packers to seek free agents outside of their own 2013 roster. Of course, that'll all depend on the health of Finley and the confidence the Packers have in Quarless as their starting tight end.
Should the Packers feel good with Quarless being their No. 1 tight end, then they will likely re-sign him and stay away from targeting another tight end in free agency. While Quarless played well at times this year after Finley's injury, he didn't display the consistency that the Packers need from a starting tight end.
With Finley, it's all about his health. Even if Green Bay feels good about Finley's health, it may be wise for them to re-sign Quarless or bring in a free agent.
The two outside names that make the most sense are Fred Davis from the Washington Redskins and Brandon Pettigrew from the Detroit Lions. Both players are similar to Finley in that neither has reached his full potential so far in his career. The talent is certainly there, but they've just been unable to tap into it.
The Packers face a number of difficult decisions at this position this offseason, but there is an extremely good chance that this is one of the stronger positions on the team in 2014 no matter what the Packers do.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Don Barclay, J.C. Tretter, Derek Sherrod, Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor, Greg Van Roten
Team Free Agents: Marshall Newhouse, Evan Dietrich-Smith
Potential Free-Agency Targets: Brian de la Puente
Outside of the center position, the Green Bay Packers are pretty well set across the offensive line. Lang and Sitton will start at the guard position, Bulaga will come back from injury and play either left or right tackle and Sherrod, Bakhtiari and Barclay will battle over the other tackle position.
At center, the Packers have a handful of options. The first option would be to simply re-sign Dietrich-Smith to a long-term contract and make him the center of the future. He's coming off a productive season in his first year as a starter and has plenty to offer the Packers.
If Green Bay doesn't feel good about Dietrich-Smith, for whatever reason, they could look to free agency for their starting center. While a player like De la Puente would probably be a little more expensive than Dietrich-Smith, he'd also be a slight upgrade.
Once the Packers get set at center, they could potentially keep a rather solid offensive line together for quite a few years.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Datone Jones, Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Josh Boyd
Team Free Agents: B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett
Potential Free-Agency Targets: Randy Starks, Paul Soliai
No position will be more difficult for the Green Bay Packers this offseason than the defensive line.
As it sits right now, the Packers simply don't have have the personnel or the talent to field a productive defensive line. They'll need to re-sign some players, but being active in free agency is also likely to be necessary.
The only free agent Green Bay needs to re-sign is Jolly. He was easily the most productive starter on the defensive line and deserves a contract with this team.
Outside of Jolly, the Packers have a handful of tough decisions to make. Should they re-sign Raji and Pickett, who struggled so badly last year? Does Wilson deserve another chance?
If the Packers only re-sign Jolly, then Randy Starks and Paul Soliai from the Miami Dolphins would make sense as potential defensive tackle replacements. While there is still quite a bit to figure out along the defensive line, one thing that's almost certain is that this unit will look quite a bit different than it did this year.
Players Under Contract in 2014: A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Sam Barrington, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Nate Palmer, Andy Mulumba, Victor Aiyewa
Team Free Agents: Jamari Lattimore, Rob Francois, Mike Neal
Potential Free-Agency Targets: Brandon Spikes
The biggest reason why the Green Bay Packers didn't get enough production from their linebackers this year was due to injuries. With Perry, Matthews, Jones and Lattimore all suffering injuries, the Packers were never able to get a cohesive unit on the field.
Hopefully that will change this year and Green Bay can stay healthy, but even if they do, we could see some changes at the linebacker position. For starters, the Packers may want an upgrade at inside linebacker opposite Hawk.
Jones wasn't overly impressive when he was on the field this year. The Packers could replace him by re-signing Lattimore and giving him the starting position, or they could go after a player like Brandon Spikes in free agency.
What Spikes brings to the field that the Packers lacked this year is the ability to stop the run. He was graded as the best inside linebacker in the league against the run this year by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
While there isn't likely to be too many changes at linebacker in 2014, the Packers could make a move or two to shake things up.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Tramon Williams, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward, Davon House, Micah Hyde, James Nixon, Jumal Rolle
Team Free Agents: Sam Shields
Potential Free-Agency Targets: None
The only move that the Green Bay Packers absolutely have to make this year is re-sign Sam Shields. He's that big of a priority for this team.
Outside of re-signing Shields, the Packers are pretty well set at cornerback. They'll get Hayward back from an injury that kept him out the majority of last year, and that alone should provide a huge boost in the secondary.
In fact, if the Packers re-sign Shields, get Hayward back and Williams gets back to being a dominant cornerback, Green Bay could boast one of the better cornerback units in the league.
Players Under Contract in 2014: Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson
Team Free Agents: M.D. Jennings, Chris Banjo
Potential Free-Agency Targets: Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward, Donte Whitner
No position needs more attention and more improvement this offseason than the safety position. The only known decision for the Green Bay Packers right now is that they won't be re-signing Jennings.
That leaves at least one starting safety spot open for the 2014 season. Now, it's absolutely possible, and likely, that the Packers will draft an instant-impact safety early in the draft.
The good news for Green Bay if they decide to address this need via free agency this year is that there could potentially be a handful of extremely solid players available. Jairus Byrd, T.J. Ward and Donte Whitner would all provide instant upgrades at one safety position.
Sure, they're all likely to be a little expensive, but it might be worthwhile for the Packers to spend some money this year to improve their worst position. Don't be surprised if Green Bay makes a big splash in free agency at this position in the offseason.