Fans of the Green Bay Packers will have to find cures for their collective angst beginning on March 10 when 2015 NFL free agency kicks off for the 32 franchises.
Fifteen Green Bay Packer players are set to become Free Agents according to the Packers’ official web site. Included are five starters and several others who played pivotal roles this past season.
Key offensive players WR Randall Cobb and OT Brian Bulaga as well as cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Devon House on defense are set to hit the open market unless signed to a contract by next Tuesday at 3 PM eastern time. There is a chance that the Packers General Manager along with primary contract negotiator Russ Ball will have one or more of their own under contract by then. However that is far from a given.
Here is what I see happening with the Packer free agents.
Randall Cobb: It is becoming apparent the Packers have made their best offer and Cobb and his agent have rejected the offer. Reportedly that offer was a 4-5 multi-year proposal in the $8M per year range. With the top two UFA wide receivers, Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas, already tagged with franchise player designation; Cobb surfaces as the best of rest. At just 24 years old and coming off a very productive season it looks like Cobb and his agent feel he is the one in the driver’s seat. Unless competing offers don’t come in as high as expected (supposedly $10M – $12M/year) he will be lost to a desperate, free-spending club like Jacksonville or Oakland. I see Cobb as good as gone.
Bryan Bulaga: With the Cobb negotiations at an apparent stalemate, the next best FA Packer player comes more into focus – Bryan Bulaga. Bulaga could become the highest paid right tackle in the league, supplanting current leader Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus signed a 5 year / $35,000,000 contract in 2013 with the Indianapolis Colts, including a $10,000,000 signing bonus, $15,500,000 guaranteed and an annual average salary of $7,000,000.
Bulaga is only 25 years old and coming off a solid injury-free season. Look for the Packers to sign him prior to hitting FA on March 10.
Tramon Williams: The latest buzz has the Seattle Seahawks courting Williams and targeting him as their top outside FA acquisition. Seattle GM John Schneider is familiar with Williams from his days in Green Bay and the Seahawks may have a glaring need for a starting corner. The 32-year old Williams turned down a reported 2 year, $8M contract offer from the Packers. I see him gone on the first day of free agency.
Devon House: House is a young ascending player who is looking for a starting job with pay equal to the position. He is only 25 years old with a solid, if not spectacular, body of work to draw upon and plenty of upward potential. I see several other CB-needy teams looking to land House early in free agency, should he get that far. Look for the Packers to step up and make a contract offer to keep him on board – perhaps a 2 year deal with lots of incentives giving House the option of going back into free agency in his prime with starting credentials.
Letroy Guion: With his NFL football career in limbo due to his arrest for marijuana and gun violations in Florida which are about to be adjudicated, it appears that Guion will be able to play in 2015. That is not to say he won’t be disciplined with a suspension by the commissioner’s office. I predict that Guion will be re-signed well into free agency at a bargain basement price, serve at least a four game suspension and resume his career with the Packers.
BJ Raji: Raji comes off a lost year on injured reserve after signing a 2014, one year contract at $4M. Look for Raji to return to Green Bay on a one year deal at roughly half that amount.
John Kuhn: The security blanket of having someone like fan-favorite Kuhn on the field is a big plus for the offense and Aaron Rodgers in particular. Kuhn will be allowed to test the waters and if the All-Pro doesn’t sign elsewhere (and I doubt he will) the best guess is that Kuhn will be back to compete. With younger more versatile backs challenging him this could be the year that Kuhn doesn’t survive final cuts.
Jarrett Boykin: The strange case of the disappearing receiver. Boykin came into camp as the de facto third receiver behind Nelson and Cobb. A promising start deteriorated with injuries. And then upon his return, he disappeared. If the coaching staff thinks he might return to 2013 form, he may get an offer to compete. However, if 2014 is the true indicator of his ability to help this team, no offer of any kind will be tendered. Boykin is a restricted rights free agent. My guess is a one-year, near-minimum dollar contract and an uphill climb to make the team.
Scott Tolzien – Matt Flynn: I put the two quarterbacks together because as I view it only one will be invited back. Given age, experience and upside, I’m betting it is going to be Tolzien. Add in a draft pick or undrafted college QB brought in to develop behind him and you have a winning mix next year.
Jarrett Bush: After all other priorities are met, the 30 year old Bush may be invited back. Given his age there must come a time when younger players will be asked to take his place. I’m guessing a tepid market for his services. But he will be signed and return to compete this year as the Green Bay Packers Special Teams ace.
Jamari Lattimore: Poor production when given the chance to play and injuries coupled with the perception that there is little chance of any meaningful improvement means the end of the line for this once promising linebacker.
DuJuan Harris: Harris is the Packers only Exclusive Rights Free Agent. He couldn’t find the field for any type of meaningful playing time and was relegated to special teams, in particular kick return duties. There his tentativeness was his undoing. Harris ended the season being a healthy scratch for the season finale vs. the Lions and all of the playoffs. With a very strong running back draft class he won’t be back.
Don Barclay, Sean Richardson: The talented duo of Restricted Rights Free Agents Richardson and Barclay should receive contract offers and come to camp competing for meaningful playing time. Barclay might very well be the top back-up at both offensive tackle positions if not the starting right tackle job should Bulaga sign elsewhere. Richardson has promise and a legitimate chance to help the team in 2015.
Packer fans will have to take a deep breath and be patient while weathering the disappointments of not having their team sign any of the big name free agents during the early days of free agency. They will need to trust the tried-and-true system that has been the Packer template for success beginning with Ron Wolf in 1992 and elevated to a science under Ted Thompson.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .