NFL free agency begins this week with the “legal tampering” period starting Monday followed by the time to officially sign free agents which starts Wednesday. For the Green Bay Packers, the prognosis is that the team will be looking for bargains this year while trying to minimize their own losses.
GM Brian Gutekunst has been known to spend money on free agents when the Packers have the need and the available cap space to do so. The most recent example came before the 2019 season when the Packers added four quality starters via free agency in Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner.
Don’t look for a big splurge like that this offseason. The Packers are more likely to be looking for value, players that can provide a quality return on a reasonable investment. De’Vondre Campbell fit that mold last season although he was far better than anyone could have expected when the Packers signed him.
There are still many unknowns heading into the free agent period. Aaron Rodgers announced he was returning to Green Bay for 2022, but we still don’t know for how long and for how much. Rodgers currently has a cap hit of more than $46.6 million but we don’t know how much the new deal he will sign will lower that number.
The Packers will also be trying to reach a multi-year extension with Davante Adams. The team placed the franchise tag on Adams, meaning his cap hit will be roughly $20.1 million for 2022 if they can’t reach a deal with Adams which would lower his cap hit for this season.
Between now and Wednesday, the Packers still need to clear up cap space by either signing players to extensions, reworking contracts that convert salary to signing bonus or releasing players outright. The extent of these moves will depend in part on the numbers associated with Rodgers’ new contract.
Much like last offseason, expect Guetkunst to prioritize keeping as many current players as he can this year. The top priority is likely Campbell who proved such a bargain a year ago but is now in line for a bigger pay day. The Packers have not had such good play at ILB in a long time. Campbell will probably be able to get more money playing elsewhere but will he be willing to come back to Green Bay for slightly less?
Other players the team may want to keep if they can come back at a team-friendly rate include TE Robert Tonyan, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling and CB Rasul Douglas.
Tonyan suffered a season-ending knee injury late last October which may lower his value, but he is reportedly going to be ready to start the season on time which may help increase his potential suitors. He will likely be back in Green Bay only if other teams shy away from him because of the injury or if he’s willing to return on a one-year, prove-it deal that will allow him to bet on himself while playing with Rodgers for one more season.
Some Web sites have claimed MVS could get close to $10 million per season in the open market. If that’s the case, he will be elsewhere next season as the Packers cannot afford to bring him back at that price. If he departs, the Packers will have to look to replace Valdes-Scantling’s speed and ability to stretch the field whether that be via the draft, free agency or both.
Douglas is a player the Packers would love to bring back. He led the team with five interceptions last season after signing with the team in October. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns and another was a game-clinching pick in the end zone that preserved the Packers upset win over the Cardinals.
Douglas indicated he was willing to return to Green Bay, but there is little doubt he will get a better offer elsewhere. The Packers have two young starters in Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes but would need more depth if Douglas isn’t re-signed.
As far as adding new players are concerned, we are likely looking at a similar situation to last offseason where the Packers signed as many of their own players as possible and then added Campbell in June when he didn’t get any top-of-market offers. Campbell was willing to sign with the Packers for $2.5 million on a one-year, prove-it, contract.
This will likely be a quiet free agent period for the Packers. Most of the headlines will discuss players the team will lose and the few they are able to bring back. If Gutekunst can add one or two low-priced veterans who can contribute to the team next season, he will be ahead of the game.
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