Although Green Bay is just past the midpoint of the 2018 season, it’s never too early to begin looking ahead at what the 2019 offseason might bring. Per Spotrac.com, Green Bay is projected to have over $42 million to spend in free agency next season, which bodes well for new GM Brian Gutekunst. That spending money always starts up front with Green Bay’s own free agents, where they have a total of 21 current players slated to hit free agency. Below is a complete list of Packers who are set to hit free agency in the 2019 offseason:
UFA (Unrestricted Free Agents, 10 players): WR Randall Cobb, TE Lance Kendricks, TE Marcedes Lewis, G/T Byron Bell, DL Muhammad Wilkerson, ILB Jake Ryan, ILB Korey Toomer, OLB Clay Matthews, CB Davon House, CB Bashaud Breeland
RFA (Restricted Free Agents, 3 players): WR Geronimo Allison, S Kentrell Brice, P Drew Kaser
ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agents, 8 players): RB Tre Carson, WR Jake Kumerow, TE Robert Tonyan, G Lucas Patrick, G Justin McCray, DL Tyler Lancaster, OLB Reggie Gilbert, DB Jermaine Whitehead
While a lot can change between now and and the start of the new league year in March, here are a few key players and impending free agents to consider throughout the rest of the season:
WR Randall Cobb, UFA: After an electrifying Week 1 showing against the Chicago Bears in which Cobb caught 9 passes for 142 yards and the game-winning touchdown, it appeared that the eight-year veteran might just live up to his lucrative 4-year, $40 million contract that expires after 2018. However, injuries have slowed him since, as he has played in only 5 of a possible 9 games in 2018, and he has not come close to replicating his Week 1 numbers. While Cobb is a trusted target of Aaron Rodgers, and still a dynamic presence, younger (and cheaper) receivers in Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown have stepped up in his absence. Unless Cobb is willing to take quite the hometown discount, don’t be shocked to watch the Packers to move on in the upcoming offseason in favor of getting younger at the position. Prediction: Cobb prices himself out of Green Bay and walks during the 2019 offseason.
WR Geronimo Allison, RFA: Speaking of young, ascending wide receivers, Allison had a strong start to the 2018 season before dealing with injuries of his own (including a groin injury that landed him on IR). The third-year undrafted free agent out of Illinois will become a restricted free agent in the spring, meaning the Packers have a few different options if they want to see him back in Green and Gold next season. First, Green Bay can assign him a First Round RFA Tender, valued at $4.419 million and the Packers receive a first round pick in compensation if another team decides to offer G-Mo more. Next, Green Bay can also sign him to a Second Round RFA Tender, which works the same way except at a price tag of $2.914 million with a second round pick as potential compensation. Finally, the Packers can offer him the lowest RFA tender, which is valued at $1.907 million and gives Green Bay compensation for whatever round the tendered player was drafted in should he sign with another team. Because Allison was undrafted, Green Bay would receive no compensation, a rather risky proposition for an established favorite of Aaron Rodgers’. Prediction: Green Bay assigns Allison the Second Round RFA Tender, a relative value for him but rich enough to keep other teams from trying to match the offer.
DL Muhammad Wilkerson, UFA: By the time free agency opens next March, Wilkerson will have been four seasons removed from his 12 sack season in 2015. As such, he will likely garner little interest at the age of 30, and seeing as Mike Pettine was the coordinator who got the most out of Wilkerson in his time with the Jets, he holds the most value in Green Bay. While the two-time All-Pro did not look like the dominant force that Packer fans were expecting in his three games this season, Wilkerson should be able to make an impact in Pettine’s defense with guys like Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels, and any other pass rushers Green Bay acquires over the offseason garnering most of the attention. Due to his season-ending ankle injury against Washington, and his lack of production in limited time beforehand, he likely could return to Green Bay on an even cheaper “prove-it” deal than what he signed last offseason. Prediction: Re-signs with the Packers on a one-year deal worth less than $4 million shortly after the start of free agency.
ILB Jake Ryan, UFA: After suffering a torn ACL early in training camp this season, Packer Nation has yet to see what kind of role Jake Ryan might’ve played in DC Mike Pettine’s defense. While Ryan has never been a difference maker at linebacker for the Packers, he has amassed 213 total tackles over his first three seasons. Assuming he can make a full recovery from his knee injury by next training camp, the Packers would be wise to bring back the former Michigan Wolverine as a solid run-stopping linebacker and dependable special teams player. Prediction: Ryan hits the open market, but re-signs with Green Bay to a team-friendly one- or two- year deal after a lack of interest from other teams.
OLB Clay Matthews, UFA: While the weekly box scores might not show it, Clay Matthews has looked like a revitalized player on a weekly basis dating back to last season. Last season, the ten year veteran led the team with 8.5 sacks, and has tallied 2.5 so far this season while playing in all nine games. While he may never again see the double digit sack seasons that he produced early in his career, Matthews has a lot of value left to this football team. If Green Bay decides to get out from under Nick Perry’s large contract after this season, Matthews would be a great fit as a mentor to a new stable of pass rushers in 2019 and beyond. Prediction: Green Bay re-signs Matthews to a much more affordable, 3-year deal prior to the start of free agency.