For the Green Bay Packers, finishing 7-9 was not the way they envisioned their 2017 NFL season going. Of course, they didn’t exactly plan to be without All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers from Week 7 through Week 14.
With their franchise player healthy once again, the Packers will look to regain their rightful spot on top of the NFC North as they look to dethrone the Minnesota Vikings who nearly made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Doing so won’t be easy, but how they spend their estimated $18.7 Million in cap space will have a big impact on their efforts.
The team was exposed on defense and exposed for not having the offensive infrastructure to absorb the impact of losing Rodgers.
Let’s look at what they need to do to improve those things.
Green Bay Packers Unrestricted Free Agents
Defensive Tackle – Quinton Dial
Guard – Jahri Evans
Long Snapper – Brett Goode
Offensive Tackle – Ulrick John
Linebacker – Ahmad Brooks
Safety – Morgan Burnett
Tight End – Richard Rodgers
Wide Receiver – Jeff Janis
Three of these players appeared on 50 percent or more of their respective sides of the ball for the 2017 Green Bay Packers.
Of them, Jahri Evans will be 35 before the regular season kicks off, Davon House missed four games due to lingering injuries, and Morgan Burnett also missed four games due to injuries.
House and Burnett aren’t across the 30-year-old mark yet, but both will be 29 before it’s all said and done for 2018.
Despite these facts, Burnett and House both finished Top-10 on the team in tackles with the safety even coming in Top-5.
These are the kinds of decisions Brian Gutekunst was brought in to make and without much room in cap space, he’s really got to feel good about their health before he brings them back.
Prediction: Evans’ days in Green Bay are done. Either Burnett or House will come back, but not both. My money is on Burnett.
Green Bay Packers Restricted Free Agents
Linebacker – Joe Thomas
Punter – Jake Schum
Schum was injured before the 2017 season ever began and Justin Vogel punted well enough to warrant bringing him back without much in the way of competition. Still, another camp leg never hurt anything, so if there’s a spot, Schum may get a shot to at least lay some tape down for another team to look at.
Thomas played just over 100 snaps on defense last season and came away with 14 tackles and his share of one sack.
Restricted guys who don’t garner a whole lot of attention are good depth pieces to flesh out your roster. Considering Thomas’ experience, no matter how limited, he should get a shot at 2018 as well.
Prediction: Thomas is back in camp with a chance to make the active roster. Schum is a camp leg at most.
Green Bay Packers Exclusive Rights Free Agents
Cornerback – Donatello Brown
Fullback – Joe Kerridge
Safety – Jermaine Whitehead
Long Snapper – Taybor Pepper
Quarterback – Joe Callahan and Jerod Evans
Offensive Tackle – Adam Pankey
This is where the easy decisions come. At the end of the day, barring serious injury concerns or discipline issues, there’s no real reason not to bring these guys back.
Even if it’s on a minimum deal for just one-year. Get them in camp, get them in pre-season and see what they can do.
Prediction: This long list comes back to Green Bay.
Potential Cuts by the Green Bay Packers
This team isn’t in the worst cap situation we’ve talked about in this series, but they’re not in the greatest either.
Finding a way to bump their cap number over $20 or even $30 million would definitely be a positive.
Wide Receivers, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb
Now, the two receivers are competing for their jobs it seems.
Releasing either receiver gets the Pack close to $10 million back in free money.
Prediction: Cobb stays as the younger and healthier option.
Tight End, Lance Kendricks
Finding a solid receiving tight end isn’t as easy as it seems maybe it should be. Find a big guy with decent athleticism, fearless route running, and strong hands. Pair him up with an All-Pro quarterback, and voila!
Unfortunately, it’s been quite some time since Green Bay has had a really good tight end to match with Rodgers.
Kendricks had his chance to be the guy and turned in 18 receptions for 203 yards and one touchdown.
He just turned 30 and the college ranks are churning out receiving tight ends at a breakneck pace it seems.
If the Packers get a shot to draft one of this year’s guys, then it may be lights out for Kendricks and his days in Green Bay.
It doesn’t net much in cap space, but every penny counts when you’re under $20 million.
Prediction: Kendricks might get to play this one out. Considering he’s only got 2018 left on his contract.
The Packers will once again be a favorite out of the NFC when the 2018 season starts.
Hopefully, for their sake, they are taking a good hard look at the names on these lists when they decide who to bring back and who to let walk.
A newsworthy move by shipping Nelson to the unemployment line, or possibly trading him for some draft capital would benefit the team in the long run, and help usher in Davante Adams as the official No. 1 receiver in Green Bay.
Thanks for checking out this look into the Packers’ free agent picture. Come back to Lifestyle Sports 101 for even more as I make my way through all 32 teams in the National Football League.
David Harrison is a Senior Columnist and NFL Draft Analyst for Lifestyle Sports 101. You can find him on Twitter, on the Locked on Bucs podcast, and at The Pewter Plank where he is a co-expert producing Buccaneers focused content.