Does Jamari Lattimore deserve a salary paying him $1.4 million in 2014? Probably not for a player that's made 46 career tackles in three NFL seasons.
However, the Packers risk losing Lattimore if they don't offer him an original-round tender that assures them the right to match another team's offer, which appears to be the case according to a report from Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette earlier this week.
That doesn't mean the Packers aren't interested in re-signing Lattimore. They just don't want to do so at a $1.4 million price tag.
But considering the NFL's minimum salary for a fourth-year player is in the realm of $730,000, the Packers would be refusing to sign Lattimore over a difference of less than three-quarters of a million dollars.
Remember, this is a team that has nearly $35 million in salary-cap space now that the NFL's new cap for the 2014 season has been set at $133 million.
This isn't the first time the Packers have taken a hard-line stance with a restricted free agent. Just last season, the Packers refused to tender tight end Tom Crabtree and linebacker Rob Francois.
The approach worked with Francois, who re-signed with the Packers on a one-year deal worth $725,000 last year. But by getting into a staring contest with Crabtree, the Packers were the first to blink when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offered the tight end a two-year deal.
If the Packers have to pay Lattimore $1.4 million for the right to keep a key backup, a core special-teams player and a locker-room leader, it's worth the relatively small investment. It's also a salary that gets wiped off the books after just one season if things don't work out.
Now, if the Packers want to part ways with a pedestrian veteran linebacker, they should be looking in the direction of Brad Jones, who has a $2.5 million base salary for 2014.
The difference in production between Jones and Lattimore was probably negligible in 2013, and by releasing Jones, the Packers leave themselves open to more flexibility at the position.
With the potential of using a high-round draft choice at inside linebacker and the possibility of Sam Barrington becoming a viable option in his second year in the NFL, the Packers do have other options.
Of course, the drawback in releasing Jones would be $2 million in dead money he'd cost against the salary cap.
The Packers could also take a wait-and-see approach with Jones, depending on the outcome of the NFL Draft. Should they select a player such as Alabama's C.J. Mosley or Ohio State's Ryan Shazier, they can always cut Jones at a later date.
However it plays out, it's not worth losing Lattimore in the same fashion as the Packers lost Crabtree.
Just give him the tender.
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