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With Cap Space to Burn - Ranking the Packers Free Agents Who Deserve a Contract Extension

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With Cap Space to Burn - Ranking the Packers Free Agents Who Deserve a Contract Extension

The Green Bay Packers are a model of pay-as-go in the National Football League.  There will be no mortgaging of their future by pushing salary owed today into signing bonuses that impact future years.   No Tony Romo type hocus-pocus for the Packers.

Under the watchful eye of head negotiator Russ Ball and General Manager Ted Thompson the Packers currently have the eighth highest available salary cap dollars in the league.  According to the official NFL Players Association web site the team currently sits with $15,118,975 of available salary cap room.

None of the seven teams ahead of the Packers in available salary cap would be considered to be in the mix for a Super Bowl appearance this year.  The teams with the most cap space are (in order) the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons.  Of those teams only the Bengals have a real shot at making any noise this upcoming season.

The Packers seem to be alone on an island when it comes to consistently saving significant salary cap money while also fielding a winning team.

That puts the Packers in great shape for investing in their own players whose contract expires after the 2015 -2016 season.  The team currently has a whopping 19 players who fit into that category.  There is a probability that not all of these players will even make this year’s final roster.

They are:

Mike Neal                           DE          28           $4,250,000

Mason Crosby                   K             30           $3,550,000

Letroy Guion                      DT          28           $2,750,000

Sean Richardson               S             25           $2,550,000

Nick Perry                           OLB        25           $2,386,125

James Starks                      RB          29           $1,837,500

BJ Raji                                 DT          28           $1,750,000

Mike Daniels                      DE          26           $1,617,146

Don Barclay                       RT          26           $1,542,000

Scott Tolzien                      QB          27           $1,200,000

Casey Hayward                 CB          25           $1,053,154

John Kuhn                           FB           32           $   635,000

Lane Taylor                        OG         25           $   587,134 *

Andy Mulumba                  OLB        25           $   586,667 *

Chris Banjo                         S             25           $   585,000 *

Bruce Gaston                     DT          23           $   510,000 **

Garth Gerhart                    OC          26           $   510,000 *

Justin Perillo                      TE           24           $   510,000 **

Matt Blanchard                 QB          26           $   435,000 *

*Restricted Free Agent

**Exclusive Rights Free Agent

The smart money is on the Packers extending offers this to their most coveted free agents prior to the end of the upcoming season. 

But who has earned an early extension?

I have prioritized the 2016 free agent players into four classifications:

  1. High Priority: Likely to sign an extension this season
  2. Medium Priority: A good bet to be retained and signed prior to the start of next season.
  3. Low Priority:  A bubble Player who must show this season to be offered a contract.
  4. Good as Gone

High Priority (1)

Mike Daniels – High performer, high motor, relentless preparation possesses all of the intangibles including team leader. Has ‘star’ written all over him and is just entering his prime.

Medium Priority (6)

Casey Hayward – If he wins the starting CB job and stays healthy he may flip to high priority status.

Mason Crosby – Steady as of late after imploding in 2012. If his performance continues - a lock to return.

Sean Richardson – Packers matched an offer to retain his rights and they obviously value him.   

Don Barclay – A reliable backup who can step in at tackle and guard - but probably not a full time starter.

Letroy Guion – Hard working, dependable and productive – now if he can do without the weed.

Scott Tolzien – The Packers will want a dependable low-cost veteran alongside Hundley and Rodgers.

Low Priority (6)

Mike Neal – Must have a breakout year or the Packers will look for younger alternatives.

B.J. Raji – Even if healthy he must produce in a big way to have a shot at returning.

Nick Perry – He should be an every down player but cannot stay healthy – make or break year.

Justin Perillo – Must show that he can both catch and block consistently to earn playing time.

Chris Banjo – ‘Special Teams Ace’ must headline his resume - ala Jarrett Bush - for him to stick.

Andy Mulumba – Productive when he wasn’t injured.  A valuable player or just a guy?

Good As Gone (6)

John Kuhn – His farewell season unless rookie Aaron Ripkowski beats him out this year.

James Starks – Hard to envision a 30 year old backup running back returning in 2016.

Matt Blanchard – A practice squad player - with Brett Hundley there is no roster spot for him.

Garth Gerhart – A one trick pony - not enough bulk, height or quickness to play guard.

Bruce Gaston – Game is not well rounded and competition too fierce for him to survive.

Lane Taylor – Benched after poor performances on special teams – just a guy.

For the first time in a long time the list of must-sign starters is very short.  The Packers have shown loyalty to their own high-achievers and rarely lose an impact player due to money. 

The salary cap is expected to be in the $150,000,000 range next year, an increase of about $7,000,000 over this year.  With a healthy carry-over and manageable contracts the Packers will have the ability to sign any of their free agents without fear of salary cap issues.


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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bearmeat's picture

Good stuff Jeff. But if I had one thing to disagree with, it's that I just don't think many of the guys on your list are going to be TT "core guys". They won't get high dollar contracts here, and thus will be gone during 2016 FA.

My list would be:

1. Daniels (must sign long term)

2. Raji -IF he plays this year like he did in 2010, he will get PAID by TT. Not saying I love the idea unless the lightbulb goes on, I'd just bet that's what happens.

A big drop. Then

3. Hayward. Unless he goes all 2009 CWood style on the league (and obviously stays healthy along the way), then he's gone. TT loves his draft picks. And he's got 2 of them just waiting to play.

4. Guion - maybe a long term deal in the mid range salary area. Versatile piece. Not a star deal.

5. Crosby - if he has another good year.. Sure.

The rest? They're gone. Just JAGS or too old. All of them.

Since '61's picture

Agree with Bearmeat and the article. Daniels is the only high priority on the list. Everyone else is TBD based on their performance during the 2015 season. I expect this will be the final Packer season for many of these players. Thanks, Since '61

dobber's picture

The central idea in draft and develop is to locate those key guys who make your team go, and pay them. Be willing to replace everyone else. Daniels is a key guy.

Tundraboy's picture

I doubt last 4 (of Good as Gone) list and Banjo will make team this year. Plenty of other talent to try versus giving these guys another crack.

dobber's picture

How much cap space does a kicker merit? Even if he plays well, I wonder if this is Mason Crosby's last year in GB...

Savage57's picture

I agree with a lot of the posts that outside of Daniels, maybe Crosby, none of these guys are Have To Have guys. At the same time, when a third of your roster can be considered expendable, the bucks behind 'em better be ready to rut.

Wouldn't it be a nice surprise to see Perry round into form and have a reason to pay him?

Bearmeat's picture

Won't happen. He's not an outside linebacker, he's a defensive lineman. He's been miscast since day one.

Let him go to a 43 team in another division.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I agree. I previously suggested that Perry might have welcomed, or at least have taken it it philosophically, when GB decided not to exercise his 5th year option. I think those who disagreed with me made some valid points in suggesting that it might be difficult to make a position change in year 5 and making such a change might negatively affect his value. We will see what happens.

Ferrari Driveer's picture

Even if he plays well, I would suggest caution in signing BJ to any contract longer than two years and certainly not with a higher signing bonus.

He may have already lost whatever "quick twitch" in his legs that good younger defensive linemen possess. He has given management plenty of reasons to question his motivation; even during contract years, he disappeared. What would happen if given a "larger" longer term contract.

Negotiate with extreme caution!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture


Idiot Fan's picture

Sign Daniels and then start working on the Oline 2017 FAs.

Tundraboy's picture

Going to be very difficult to keep a roster spot tied up by many of these guys, even Kuhn this year.

Icebowler's picture

Crazy talk I know, but we may have enough cap space for TT to sign an Unrestricted Free Agent or two from another team next spring.

Or do we need to save it all for critical players coming due in 2016-2017?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Agree with the article and commenters. Mike Daniels is a must sign, since GB has little in the pipeline. No, Ringo and Guion don't count as DEs in the pipeline for replacing Daniels. [It would be an unrealistic to expect Ringo to replace Daniels, and Guion, even if he can play 3-4 DE at a high level, is on a one year contract.] Datone is all that is in the pipeline. He counts, but he hasn't played at a truly high level yet. He will be cheap if he blossoms for the next 2 years. I was in part playing money ball when I advocated drafting Malcom Brown, since I viewed him as a 3-4 DE (many don't), and as the BPA at #30.

Daniels likely will command $10 to $12.5 million per year as a FA. That's a lot of dough. Cam Jordan just signed a 5 yr., $55 mill extension (sometimes one sees it listed as $60 mill but there are $5 million in unlikely to be realized in-season bonuses. Here is a link to Jordan's recent contract:

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