Greg DePalma’s take on the Packer’s free agency outlook. Hear Greg & Ourlads’ Dan Shonka weekly on Thursdays on the Prime Sports Network: http://primesportsnetwork.com/category/pro-football/
Green Bay Packers
G.M. Ted Thompson has some tough decisions to make including how to keep both T.J. Lang and Nick Perry. He also has to decide what to do with the running back position. Because with time running out on Aaron Rodgers prime, Thompson needs to remember why they won that 2011 Super Bowl and it starts with getting tougher on defense.
Top free agents
RB Eddie Lacy
OG TJ Lang
C J.C. Tretter
TE Jared Cook
OLB Nick Perry
OLB Julius Peppers
DB Micah Hyde
RB – How serious are the Packers going to be in moving forward with TY Montgomery full-time? If they’re serious, look for G.M. Ted Thompson to add a cheap free agent or a middle to late round player in the draft. If they’re unsure about the move, they can either look at a veteran like DeAngelo Williams or a younger player in his prime like Latavius Murray.
TE – This depends on whether Jared Cook returns. If he doesn’t, Thompson will have his choice of interesting draft options.
WR – This is not a top priority position, but with recent injuries to star Jordy Nelson the Packers should look to add a player here.
OG – Like the tight end position this all depends on the decision of re-signing one of their own. If T.J. Lang returns this no longer becomes a priority, but if he doesn’t the Packers are going to need an upgrade here.
NT – The Packers have not enjoyed a big season from this spot since B.J. Raji in 2010. Letroy Guion is not the answer.
OLB – Lots of decisions to make here. 2012 first-round pick Nick Perry is coming off his best season. That will hurt the Packers chances of bringing him back though. If Perry fails to return this becomes a key area of concern. 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones has been a bust so he won’t be back and veteran Julius Peppers is 37. With Clay Matthews’ best days appearing behind him, Thompson knows this could be his top off-season priority. Would he dare cut Matthews to use the money on the younger and now better player in Perry? Well if Brett Favre is expendable…
CB – When Thompson spent his first two picks in 2015 on corners Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins he must have figured he would be set at this spot for seasons to come. But that hasn’t materialized yet as both players disappointed last season as did second-year free agent Ladarius Gunter, another 2015 pick-up. There are some intriguing free agents available here, but unless Thompson decides to spend some cash he’ll probably opt to try his hand again in the draft.
Key Injuries/games missed
The Packers did not have to deal with many long-term injuries last season besides corner Sam Shields who suffered a concussion in Week 1 and missed the rest of the season. Shields was arrested on pot charges in January and was then released weeks later to cut salary.
The biggest issue though was at running back where both Eddie Lacy (missed 11 games) and James Starks (missed 7 games) combined to miss 18 games which precipitated Ty Montgomery’s position switch. With Starks recent release and Lacy’s impending free agency the former Stanford receiver could be the Packers opening day starter.
Another position that played out interestingly was at center where Corey Linsley regained his starting job for the second time in his career due to an injury to J.C. Tretter. Tretter was placed on IR after Week 7.
Knowing how Ted Thompson operates, I think he’ll do his best to re-sign both Lang and Perry even if that means freeing cap space by cutting Matthews. If he has to decide on one player I would go with Perry. While the Packers have a solid line they need pass rushers and unless Perry’s asking price is way too high than he must be brought back.
It’s almost impossible to try and predict what player the Packers will select in round one based on the myriad of key decisions that have to be addressed in free agency. Will Thompson sign a starting running back? Will he re-sign T.J. Lang? What about Jared Cook or Nick Perry? Once we know what spots need to be filled we’ll have a much better understanding of his top draft priorities. If Thompson does figure out a way to bring back Lang, Cook and Perry then he might look to add a top skill position player like a Christian McCaffrey or Jordy Nelson clone, Cooper Kupp.