The NFL's legal tampering period began Tuesday, which means teams that have their sights set on the Green Bay Packers' unrestricted free agents may begin negotiating the terms of potential future contracts with them ahead of the beginning of free agency on March 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
The Packers still have plenty of players they have yet to re-sign, including outside linebackers Nick Perry, Julius Peppers, and Datone Jones; running backs Eddie Lacy and Christine Michael; tight end Jared Cook; guard T.J. Lang; and defensive back Micah Hyde, among others.
The Packers are currently projected to have about $40.5 million in cap space heading into free agency, so they can afford to re-sign a couple of those players. But getting the ones they want at a price Ted Thompson wants to pay could be tricky.
Cook is undoubtedly one of the Packers' top targets and it seems likely the two sides will get a deal done before the tight end becomes a free agent on Thursday.
Additionally, one of the players on that list who could have the biggest impact on the 2017 squad is Hyde. But what does his market look like?
The 26-year-old is coming to the end of his rookie deal and will be looking for a healthy second contract. The jack of all trades has lined up as a nickel corner, a safety, and an outside corner for the Packers over his last four seasons, and has been remarkably consistent over that time, as the table below shows:
|Season||Games Played||Total Tackles||Sacks||PD||INT|
Hyde, who has only missed one game in his career, has produced similar numbers in terms of tackles and sacks over his four years. But where he really took a leap forward, no pun intended, in 2016 was in passes defensed, posting a career-high of nine.
Comps for Hyde's second contract can get tricky because he's difficult to categorize. Should he look to match the second contracts of similarly aged safeties or cornerbacks? Does another team want him to start, which would skyrocket his average salary, or can the Packers retain him as a chess piece and pay him accordingly?
Let's use the Packers' own strong safety, Morgan Burnett, as an example. Burnett signed a four-year, $24.75 million contract that averages just over $6 million annually. Obviously, if Hyde were to stay with the Packers, he needs to make less than that. Ted Thompson and Russ Ball would likely open talks for a deal that would average closer to $4 million per season; let's say they want to lock him up long term for five years and $20 million.
But there might be a team out there who saw what Hyde can do and wants to pay him to start at either safety or cornerback. That would probably put Hyde in a position to become less effective, since he's at his best when he's moving around the field. But if that's the case, he could probably get an offer averaging between $5 and $6 million from another team.
Ultimately, Hyde will have to weigh whether he wants to continue doing what he's doing for the Packers and potentially win a Super Bowl, or possibly have the chance to see more starting snaps on another squad. But it's important to remember that three of the Packers' four starting defensive backs are still on rookie contracts, so theoretically, the Packers have the money to retain Hyde if it's truly a priority.
If Thompson and Ball and Hyde's reps can get a deal done averaging $4 or even up to $5 million per year, expect Hyde to be back in 2017.
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