With free agency somewhat underway in that teams are free to contact players’ agents to discuss a deal, much of the talk in Green Bay has centered around wide receiver Greg Jennings. Jennings is unquestionably the marquis name out of Green Bay that has very solid potential to be wearing a different uniform this next season. He has even been debated as the top free agent receiver on the market with Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace the other half of that conversation.
But lost in the shuffle are some of the other free-agents-to-be in Green Bay, one of which is linebacker Brad Jones. According to a piece published by Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel, at least eight other teams have already contacted Jones’ agent.
Jones filled in for the injured DJ Smith in week six last season and remained the starter for the balance of the season. He did an adequate job in that role and gained some valuable playing time in the defense. With 2012 being Jones’ fourth in the team’s defensive scheme and with his contributions on special teams, Jones has become a stronger veteran presence on this roster.
Now I’m not saying that Jones is a “must sign”. If eight teams have already expressed interest, he will surely have some options to choose from, outside of Green Bay, when Tuesday rolls around. As a reminder, Tuesday is the first day that free agent deals can be finalized. But in possibly losing Jones, it does change the perspective of what the Packers may do in the draft and in free agency.
Many of you will recall that the Packers are hoping to get solid veteran linebacker Desmond Bishop and third year backer DJ Smith back in 2013. While there is a good chance that both will return, it is not a given.
Bishop needed to have his hamstring re-attached to the bone. He has been rehabbing the injury and has expressed his readiness when camp opens this summer, but that is going to be left up to the medical staff. My guess is that Bishop will be on a snap count initially and so therefore is a bit of a question mark.
Smith missed the last 10 games with an ACL injury. That the injury occurred in mid-October means that it’s all but certain that Smith will be ready by the time camp opens. Yes, some players have returned from this injury quickly, but we’re not at the point where we can expect Smith to be one of those players. My guess is that he will be given every opportunity to practice in camp and if he cannot, he will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Now imagine that the worst-case scenarios play out with Bishop and Smith and they are at least delayed in joining the active roster. If Jones leaves via free agency, a position that seemed one of the deepest now becomes one of need.
Now let’s say the Packers also decide that they need to part ways with AJ Hawk and his lofty contract. That leaves Terrell Manning, Robert Francois, Jamari Lattimore and Micah Johnson. Before that thought becomes too terrifying, I would say the Packers find a way to keep Hawk if all of the above do happen. But in doing so, Hawk will likely have the bargaining power to tell the team that he won’t restructure his current deal.
Yes, they can try to address this potential need early in next month’s draft, but do you really want to hinge the success of an entire unit on a rookie that was taken late in the first round? We talked about the linebackers in a recent podcast and looked at draft prospects. Kevin Minter out of LSU is a clear top choice at this position. He may be there when Green Bay picks late in the first round, but it’s not very likely. From there, names like Manti Te’o, Kiko Alonso, and Jon Bostic may be available but none of those players are expected to step in and be immediate starters in the NFL. There are also still many questions about whether any of those mentioned would even be the best choice for the Packers to make at that point.
In free agency, there aren’t many names out there who can likely make an immediate impact. Among those listed are Daryl Smith, Erin Henderson, Leroy Hill, Kaluka Maiava, former Packer Nick Barnett and Brian Urlacher, who will likely remain in Chicago. Not necessarily a list of saviors, if you ask me. One of them could prove valuable, but none are a sure-fire choice.
More will likely develop in the next few days and it has yet to emerge whether the Packers plan to be players for Jones in 2013 and beyond. While not a major impact player in 2012, Jones’ status has the potential to have a huge impact in the Packers offseason roster moves. Things just got a bit more interesting.——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: