While a significant portion of the season remains, it is never too early to start thinking about some of the deals the Packers will need to make in order to keep some of their own key players in green and gold for the 2018 season. Green Bay has a whopping 23 players with contracts set to expire this upcoming spring, 11 of which are unrestricted free agents (UFA), headlined by WR Davante Adams and S Morgan Burnett. Here is a complete list of Green Bay’s 2018 free agents:
UFA (11 players): S Morgan Burnett, OLB Ahmad Brooks, CB Davon House, G Jahri Evans, WR Davante Adams, LS Brett Goode, DL Quinton Dial, TE Richard Rodgers, C Corey Linsley, CB Demetri Goodson, WR Jeff Janis
Restricted Free Agents (RFA, 3 players): P Jake Schum, ILB Joe Thomas, OT Ulrick John
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA, 9 players): WR Geronimo Allison, QB Joe Callahan, FB Joe Kerridge, G Lucas Patrick, OL Justin McCray, OT Adam Pankey, WR Herb Waters, LS Taybor Pepper, DB Jermaine Whitehead
Once glance at this list and most Packer fans would really only recognize the UFA’s, and maybe a few of the free agents like ERFA Geronimo Allison or Joe Callahan. Providing an analysis on all these players would take some time, and about half of these free agents are no more than camp bodies or guys who have been stashed on injured reserve. Therefore, I’ll simply provide my thoughts on only a handful of the Packers’ impending free agents and try to predict whether Green Bay will resign them or let them walk. Bear in mind that quite a lot can change between now and March and some decisions may be made late in the season.
WR Davante Adams, UFA: Perhaps the most talked about free agent that Green Bay will have to decide on, Adams has shown an ability to be this team’s future at wide receiver over the course of the season. The fourth-year pro has led the Packers in all areas of receiving this season, with 50 receptions for 620 yards and 6 touchdowns. His status as the #1 receiver in the offense has been made clear as he has put up 269 yards on 20 receptions over the last three weeks with Brett Hundley at quarterback, and he made numerous plays earlier in the year with Aaron Rodgers as well. While both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb make about $10 million a year on average, the Packers need to do everything in their power to keep Adams in Green Bay for 2018 and beyond, even if it means that only one of Nelson or Cobb remain as well. Prediction: Re-signed before he can hit the open market.
S Morgan Burnett, UFA: While I just got done saying that Adams may be the most talked about impending free agent, I believe that Burnett is the most pivotal free agent in this year’s class. Due to a nagging groin injury that has held Burnett out for 5 out of a possible 11 games, we have been able to see how the Green Bay defense operates both with and without him on the field. The second-longest tenured member of the defense (behind only OLB Clay Matthews), Burnett has taken on a leadership role on this defense that has been proven irreplaceable during the time he has missed. He may not be the ball-hawking safety that fans want to see on the back-end of the secondary, but his versatility as a safety/linebacker/slot cornerback have proven invaluable as of late and make him a priority to be resigned by Ted Thompson and Co. The only knock I see on Burnett is his age, as Thompson has historically shied away from signing guys to third contracts or approaching the age of 30. However, I feel that Burnett plays too important of a role on this defense to be replaced. Prediction: Re-signed before he can hit the open market.
CB Davon House: House was brought back this past offseason after two years in Jacksonville to help remedy the loss of Sam Shields over a year ago. While House looked like a solid contributor in his final years in his first stint in Green Bay, as well as his first year in Jacksonville, it appears as though he has lost a step over this season as he either misses time due to injury or gets burned while on the field. House was brought in to help take pressure of off rookie Kevin King and third-year corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. However, both King and Randall have looked better than House this season and have more upside for the future. Expect Green Bay to yet again add another cornerback early in the 2018 draft and move on from a veteran like House. Prediction: Not re-signed and Green Bay drafts a CB early in the 2018 draft.
C Corey Linsley: A prime example of a Ted Thompson diamond-in-the-rough pick, the former 5th round pick is exactly the type of the player that the Packers have historically re-signed to a second contract. Linsley, a tough run-blocker and built like an ox, has been just what the Packers wanted ever since Scott Wells departed for the Rams following the 2011 season. Linsley, along with G Jahri Evans, has been the only Packer offensive lineman to start every game this season. After losing T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton the past two offseasons, as well as the offensive line struggles from earlier this season, I don’t see the Packers letting him walk and creating the need to replace a budding young star along the offensive line. Prediction: Re-signed before he can hit the open market.
OL Justin McCray, ERFA: A name that perhaps many casual Packer fans don’t recognize, McCray has been a savior of sorts for the offensive line group this season. The ex-Tennessee Titan was an overlooked free agent acquisition over the offseason that many projected to be cut during training camp, including yours truly. Against all odds, McCray not only made the roster but has started 6 games this season, 4 at right tackle and 2 at left guard, while also seeing extensive action at left tackle. While McCray, 25, has some work to do in pass protection, he is arguably one of the best on the team at run blocking and will be a cheap option to keep on the roster and develop into a potential swing lineman similar to ex-Packer OL Don Barclay. Earlier this month, head coach Mike McCarthy even went as far to say that “he’d definitely be in the conversation” if the Packers awarded mid-season MVP honors. Prediction: Re-signed to an inexpensive one- or two-year deal well before free agency opens.