3 budget free agents the Packers should bring back

The Packers could strengthen their 2022 roster by bringing back three low-cost free agents.

Almost a month has passed since the Packers’ season ended, and as heads turn towards 2022, the conversation has been dominated by the futures of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, De’Vondre Campbell and other prominent players.

With the Packers facing a serious salary cap crunch, there are three less heralded and less expensive pending free agents whom Green Bay should attempt to bring back for next season.

Equanimeous St. Brown

EQ has had a somewhat star-crossed career so far, tallying just 543 receiving yards in four seasons with the Packers.

The former sixth-round pick has dealt with various injuries, including a high ankle sprain which caused him to miss the entire 2019 season, and he only made Green Bay’s practice squad to start the 2021 season.

He was elevated to the active roster in October and while St. Brown didn’t fill up the box score, he was singled out for praise by Rodgers and Matt LaFleur. He also made an increased commitment to his role on special teams, something the receiver had previously been reluctant to do.

St. Brown has shown flashes of his ability when he has been available, and with the future of pretty much the entire wide receiver room up in the air, bringing him back for another year could be a prudent move.

Retaining St. Brown may at most cost a bit more than the veteran minimum, and he still has plenty of room to grow at just 25 years old. EQ is almost a full year younger than Allen Lazard and is two years younger than Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who will both cost significantly more to keep around.

Dennis Kelly

The veteran tackle Kelly was a free agent until July 29th last year, when the Packers picked him up for just $1.3million on a one-year deal.

He spent much of the year waiting for an opportunity to get on the field, but when injuries struck and Kelly was thrust into the lineup, he offered a steady and reliable presence at right tackle.

The difference in quality between Kelly and Billy Turner was negligible at worst, with some arguing Kelly actually played better in his limited action.

Turner is set to carry a cap hit of more than $9million in 2022, and the Packers could save over $4million by parting ways with him.

Kelly is 32 years old, so he may only want to return if the Packers are going to be a contender again in 2022.

Green Bay’s ability to bring Kelly back may therefore hinge on whether Aaron Rodgers decides to stick around.

Rodgers has also made no secret of his love for Billy Turner, so releasing him may not be well received by the back-to-back MVP.

But if Green Bay is able to bring Kelly back for one more year on a contract similar to the one he signed last summer, they could maintain a high level of tackle play while also making a savvy saving.

Kevin King

I purposely left King until last as I didn’t want people to close the article as soon as they saw his name. Just hear me out…

Joe Barry always says “you can’t have enough corners”, and the Packers are currently pretty thin at the position

Jaire Alexander is of course an absolute star and Eric Stokes enjoyed a tremendous rookie season, but after that, only Shemar Jean-Charles, Kabion Ento and Kiondre Thomas are under contract.

While Rasul Douglas very generously suggested he might be amiable to return for only a “little bit” more than the veteran minimum, his agent will not be so kind when negotiating with the Packers.

If King was to come back, he would be Green Bay’s third cornerback at absolute most, and he’s a perfectly fine third cornerback.

The Packers could also actually save money by bringing him back. Due to the way King’s contract is structured, it may cost more to not have him on the team in 2022 than to re-sign him.

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Mark Oldacres is a sports writer from Birmingham, England and a Green Bay Packers fan. You can follow him on twitter at @Marko7LW

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4 points

Comments (28)

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egbertsouse's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:10 pm

Maybe Kelly, but the other two? C'mon man!

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TheVOR's picture

February 21, 2022 at 01:12 pm

You hit the nail on the head. Kelly of the three is worth brining back. St. Brown was a ball washer Tundra Dropsy in 2020, and lets face it, he's on the field because we have a lousy receiving corp.

Rodgers is in love with MVS because of his speed, and simply nothing else, the dude is no good either. I like Lizard over either St. Brown or MVS. I couldn't believe I was watch either St. Brown or MVS in a Packers Uniform in 2022, other that Arod had a say, and we had nobody else.

This team needs to rebuild the WR room from the top down. I would never resign Adams without 2-3 years of Rodgers under center. If Rodgers goes, forget the Adams contract, he's not going to make Love-less any better than the panthodic talent he is.

King? Nope, spend that money elsewhere. King needs out of GB. For the record, coming out of college, Loved King, thought he was a baller for a couple of years and then the injuries and decline started. You pay him less? Big Deal, he'll miss 1/2 the season with injury, he's not worth it.

Kelly? wow, thank god we had him in the OL pool, he saved our bacon when BT went down..

I think you nailed it, 1 of the 3 is worth retaining.

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SanLobo's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:20 pm

I did some back of the envelope math on our wide receivers. Catch percentages last season for each were:
72%. - Adams
71.8 - Cobb
66.7 - Lazard
52.9 - EQ
50.0 - Amari
47% - MVS

Food for thought when thinking about who to bring back.

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Coldworld's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:33 pm

Cobb —- no, Availability and cost.
EQ — probably no, if not at absolute minimum a no, just can’t make an impact after 4 years. Better to try drafting. Negligible sample.
Rodgers— we have him anyway, but like EQ, too small a sample to matter.
Adams— cost driven and discussed elsewhere aplenty
MVS —- We saw what he brings when we lacked it in the playoffs. Find better (this season) for less and maybe, but unlikely, so bring him back if we can.
Lazard —- almost certainly RFA tendered.

We need to balance ability to play a role now with space to find future talent.

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SanLobo's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:50 pm

My point was, we only have three WRs who you can count on catching the ball better than half the time, and the two best are very expensive and the most likely to leave.

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Coldworld's picture

February 20, 2022 at 03:34 pm

To which I gave my thoughts. I think other sources question the MVS rate particularly, but that’s an argument that has been well travelled.

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dobber's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:45 pm

In the end, the Packers have some fixation on ESB. They keep bringing him back...and I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the 90 man when camp opens.

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Coldworld's picture

February 20, 2022 at 02:00 pm

Nor would I. That doesn’t mean I think it’s wise. At some point one needs new blood there in enough numbers to have the chances of growing better as a group. Promise went unrealized yet again last season as far as EQ goes. Unless it’s Rodgers, why after 4 seasons?

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dobber's picture

February 20, 2022 at 03:57 pm

If these were Biblical times, Lazarus would be saying, "how many chances does this guy get?"

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BruceC1960's picture

February 20, 2022 at 01:35 pm

Can we trade ESB for his brother?

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Leatherhead's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:54 pm

I would encourage you to go to www.playerprofiler.com and check out the "True" catch percentages. For example, if the QB throws the ball away to avoid a sack, or throws it AT you but not TO you. those shouldn't count against your catch percxentage, particularly when you're only getting a couple of targets a game.

Lazard, for example, has a catch% about 20 points higher when you only factor in balls that were actually catchable.

The model you're using assumes that ALL in complete passes should somehow count against the receiver.

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barutanseijin's picture

February 20, 2022 at 10:17 pm

You could do the same thing for every receiver. For that reason, it’s best to look at his rank. When you factor out the uncatchable targets, his rank goes from dismal to middle of the pack.

That sounds reassuring until you think about it some more. If Rodgers can’t get him the ball consistently, he’s not really a deep threat. Can Love?

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Pigel85's picture

February 20, 2022 at 04:33 pm

EQ only had 17 targets. 1 Drop. 5 of the targets came against Detroit with Jordan Love at QB
He should be kept but probably won't.
Faster than Lazard if only the Packers would throw him the ball once in a while. Many including AR have mentioned that Lazard was open against San Fran when Rodgers threw deep to Adam's , but so was EQ running deep on the left side. Would have been a TD if ARod would look for another receiver beside Davante every now and then.

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dobber's picture

February 20, 2022 at 05:25 pm

"EQ only had 17 targets."

Your point about the sample size being small with St. Brown is about right.

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Coldworld's picture

February 20, 2022 at 06:10 pm

The real point with EQ is why only 17 targets on so many snaps?

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canadapacker's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:34 pm

Totally agree on bringing King back. Didnt last year when they did it but he was used differently last year - mostly on the line of scrimmage and he tackled and he worked well in that D. I think that he ( as long as he doesnt get too many boo boos) can be effective - especially against teams and their new jet sweeps - using fast playmakers to run the ball. He manages to clog the sweeps up. Kelly may have some poorer games but he is a good back up and one never knows how many guys one needs to slot in for a game or two as happened last season. Dont know how well St Brown could play on special teams as a gunner - but we need to consider that as well . Depth for special teams needs to be a focus this year with a new coach.

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packer132's picture

February 20, 2022 at 12:37 pm

I'd be fine with these 3 coming back, as the cost will be minimal. There are 10 restricted or exclusive rights players, and Lazard is probably the most important one. I think Nijman, Benkert, and Barnes will be kept. There have been posts about restructuring and extending many players showing its possible to bring back most of the free agents. I doubt if that will happen, and it still hinges on Rodgers and Adams, who will gouge $75 million. I would like to see Douglas, Campbell, Preston, and Turner return. The only given I see today is Z Smith and Lancaster will not be back. It will be a long four weeks until Packers fans will have an idea what the 2022 roster will look like.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 20, 2022 at 01:12 pm

I agree on EQ. He'd be Lazard's backup and he's another tall, big bodied receiver, so we'd be pretty well set at the number 2/3 spot. Amari Rodgers as #4/3, Lazard as #2.

He's experienced, knows the system, is a smart guy, etc. AND he'd be very affordable.

I've been back and forth on King a lot, but not anymore. The reality is that Stokes, Alexander, and Douglas are all ahead of him as players. I'd rather resign Sullivan, who would not only be cheaper but he doesn't miss as much time with injury. And I'm not going to pay King, or anybody else, multimillions to be our #5 CB. I'll go with someone younger and cheaper who has an upside.

I'm going to decline on Kelly, too. I see our gameday offensive linemen as being Bakhtiari and Turner at the tackles, Runyon and Patrick at the guards, Myers at the center. Jenkins will probably not be available right away but we can put him anyplace on the line, IMO. Then we still have Nijman and Newman Those are my Top 8, and I think the rest will be youngsters who might improve.

Retaining Campbell and Douglas would be at the top of my wish list. We could put a better defense on the field next year than the one that held SF without a TD.

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dobber's picture

February 20, 2022 at 04:01 pm

I don't think any of these guys would command so much $ that they would impact the Packers' ability to resign Campbell or Douglas. Douglas or King could transition into that 3rd safety we were talking about, too.

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stockholder's picture

February 20, 2022 at 01:27 pm

If I was EQ. I wouldn't sign with the packers. Kelly is a dump. He still moved, costing the packers in the red Zone. King needs a fresh start. Going ,Going, Gone.

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HarryHodag's picture

February 20, 2022 at 03:50 pm

EQ is a no--brainer because of the need. He also knows the system.

Kelly should be signed if Turner is cut. Kelly might get some attention from other teams.

I'm torn with King. He's been hurt so much and on occasion gets toasted but he knows the defense. If Douglas leaves town(likely) he should be kept depending on the draft or other factors. But he should be replaced if a better candidate is around.

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BirdDogUni's picture

February 20, 2022 at 03:56 pm

Personally, I don't think we should bring any of the three back, for various reasons. ESB has been a big disappointment and never really lived up to any of our expectations, with no reason to think he would next year.

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mbpacker's picture

February 20, 2022 at 04:30 pm

Concerning EQ- If I recall he is also a decent and willing downfield blocker.

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MainePackFan's picture

February 20, 2022 at 06:07 pm

ESB. Yes. Unless someone see's something we don't see, He knows the system and he's running out of opportunities.
King Yes. Cheap with a new role that accentuates his positives
Kelly no.

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ImaPayne's picture

February 20, 2022 at 07:51 pm

what system. If he knows it so well why is he third string. He sucked at ND and we got it this pig in a poke for cheap. I want reliable receivers who can catch. he's been a busy since day one

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ImaPayne's picture

February 20, 2022 at 07:48 pm

I can't see gb cutting any of them. they will come cheap and none will find suitors so it's a no brainier considering the teams financial mess. I don't like any of they, they are anchors in on this team going forward but gb has spent like drunken sailors on Rodgers. the bill is due in a few weeks.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 20, 2022 at 08:25 pm

Unless GB can find better prospects, these guys are all probably cheap enough to be considered. That's the trick after all, finding better players.

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BirdDogUni's picture

February 20, 2022 at 11:40 pm

I suppose that's the kicker. If they come cheap enough, we can always have them on the 90. That won't hurt anything. If we find better players, they won't make the 53, will they... ; )

I was looking at it wrong. ; )

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