A couple weeks ago, our own Adam Czech took a look at the Green Bay Packers players hitting free agency this offseason. Of the 19 offensive and defensive players, 16 are unrestricted and 3 are restricted. What I’ve done below is made a list of the top ten unrestricted players Ted Thompson should consider re-signing. They are listed in descending order of importance.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree with the ranking? Is there someone you would add or replace? Comment below!
10. Ryan Pickett
This could be the first year where Pickett’s age has been noticeable. The “Big Grease” has never been a flashy player, and he’s a true two-gap guy, but even in that role he saw some decline. Pickett could still be useful as a veteran leader and run-stuffer; there’s just not much more than that. If he returns, it shouldn’t be at a price anywhere near his last contract.
9. Matt Flynn
It seems like Matt Flynn is destined to be the back-up to Aaron Rodgers for the majority of his career. He got his payday in Seattle, never really saw the field as a starter, and eventually ended up back in Green Bay. The Packers have Scott Tolzien as a project this offseason, but wouldn’t they want to avoid the mess of a situation they had this year and sign Flynn as insurance?
8. B.J. Raji
This guy is going to be the biggest free agent storyline for the Packers. His performance doesn’t command a big contract, but his draft position does. It will all depend on the market, and I have a feeling Ted Thompson will let him test it. Still, if the price is right, it would be foolish for the Packers not to bring him back on board.
7. James Jones
Yes, James Jones can be considered “replaceable.” But this is the same guy who caught 14 touchdown passes for the Packers in 2012. In 2013, he was second in most statistical categories only to Jordy Nelson, and the only player who had fewer drops than him was Randall Cobb. (And Cobb was out most of the season.) James Jones didn’t get much from the market the last time he was a free agent, and he probably see less interest now that he’s hitting 30.
6. Mike Neal
During the offseason OTAs, reports were leaking out that Mike Neal was taking practice time at OLB. It caused a decent amount of controversy; yet, when he saw real game action in that role, fans were pleasantly surprised. He’s done much better in his new place, and the corps of outside linebackers are a bit thin as it is. Thompson still needs to weigh the injury risk, though.
5. Johnny Jolly
This guy was a leader on defense this year. Not only could you see it in his on-the-field play, but you could hear it when other guys talked about him. Jolly brought an energy to the Packers that has been lacking, and he still has gas left in the tank. Provided he clears his neck injury without problems, Jolly should be even better next year with more football conditioning.
4. John Kuhn
Some people call John Kuhn “just a guy,” and I it’s because the bulk of his work rarely gets noticed. Sure, he’ll pick up some yards on fullback dives and draw plays from the shotgun, but he really makes his money as an extra protector. In 77 snaps as a pass blocker, Kuhn allowed zero sacks, zero hits, and just three hurries. He also has very sure hands, making the most out of his dump-off receptions.
3. Andrew Quarless
Beyond Quarless, the Packers are dealing with some very young and unproven players at tight end. He’s not the star we wanted him to be, especially after the gruesome knee injury, but he’s a solid player that has experience in the system. Thompson will likely be looking to pick up a tight end in the draft, though he’ll still have to keep his best options on the team, and right now that’s Andrew Quarless.
2. Sam Shields
This is beyond obvious. Sam Shields has become the team’s best cornerback, surpassing Tramon Williams. Even though there is a plethora of other cornerbacks in the wings, none of them have risen to the same level yet. For a defense that lacks playmakers, it can’t afford to lose one in Shields.
1. Evan Dietrich-Smith
The only reason Shields isn’t number one on this list is because of EDS. If there’s one position you can’t afford to toy with, it’s the center. Beyond just snapping the ball, this guy needs to set the protections and be on the same page with the quarterback. The injured J.C. Tretter will apparently be groomed to take over, but is that a risk anyone wants to take right now? As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.——————Follow @ChadToporski