For the last couple of years, since their 2014 NFC Championship collapse to the Seattle Seahawks, I’ve held steady to the opinion that the Green Bay Packers are overrated and should consider moving on from either general manager Ted Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy, or both. Without Aaron Rodgers, the team has proven to be total garbage. Yes, most teams are worse without their starting quarterback, but look at the New England Patriots and Seahawks — both still strike me as competitive without their starting QBs. The Denver Broncos also.
But the Packers and Rodgers is far too reminiscent of the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning. If a single Super Bowl over a 15-year span with a Hall of Fame QB is good enough for you, then Green Bay is on the right path. If they actually want to become a dynasty though, they better build an actual defense.
Thompson’s task this year will be to decide how much of the last five years, when he built a team that averages about 10 wins and one playoff win with no Super Bowl appearances, he wants to retain. A lot of the names on this list will remind you of the Packers because of how homegrown Thompson strives to be. But that may or may not be a good thing. Perhaps it’s finally time for Thompson to wash out some of the old and use some of that cap space on free agency to start anew. Will some of these players interest the Seahawks?
(If you’re finding any of this speech relevant to the Hawks, like the parts about a team that averages 10 wins and a playoff win per year and calls it “successful” and that not being a good enough, you’re probably right. I’ve been very defensive of the team based on the fact that they’re competing for a Super Bowl every year, but my hope would still be that John Schneider does not turn into the next Thompson. If the Seahawks become soft around the edges and looks like they’re wasting Russell Wilson’s best years, I’d certainly address that. We just aren’t to that point yet, only two years removed from their last Super Bowl appearance. It’s certainly something to monitor over the next two seasons though.)
Impending Free Agents
Julius Peppers, DE/OLB
When Peppers entered the NFL in 2002, he played with Rodney Peete, Lamar Smith, and Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. After 15 seasons, he says he’s still not planning on leaving the game. With 7.5 sacks last season, there’s definitely no reason for him to as far as lack of talent. The future Hall of Famer has only had fewer than seven sacks once in his career, way back in 2007 when he had 2.5 in 14 games. I don’t think the Seahawks will try to upgrade their pass rush with a 37-year-old linebacker, but we’ve seen stranger things happen. linebacker,
T.J. Lang, G
Lang has played tackle in the past but is mostly a guard, getting his first Pro Bowl nod in 2016 after eight seasons in the NFL. The Packers cut guard Josh Sitton last year but could be more inclined to keep Lang, who said he’d allow Green Bay to match any offer he received. Lang is expected to get at least $8 million per season and I would be shocked if Seattle spends that on a right guard. They could sign him to play right tackle but that’s not where he excelled, so then they’d just be paying him for what they hope he can do rather than what he’s proven he can do.
Sam Shields, CB (released)
Shields was a Pro Bowler in 2014 and has had a very nice career, but he missed all but one game last season due to a concussion and was arrested in January for marijuana possession. I’m thinking he’s very cheap, but I don’t think he fits the Seahawks mold for outside cornerback which is what they’ll be targeting in the draft and free agency; I still expect them to go big in the draft at corner and maybe the third tier of free agency for veteran help.
Nick Perry, DE/OLB
Perry signed a one-year “Prove It” deal in 2016 and then proved it, recording a career-high 11 sacks and 52 tackles, plus his first career interception. A former recruit of Pete Carroll at USC, I thought Seattle should have gone after Perry last year in free agency but I think it was hard to compete with him staying where he was for his one-year prove it season. Now he’ll cost way too much for them to consider given the position he plays. They aren’t going to try and hit a free agent home run at SAM, I don’t think.
Datone Jones, DE
A defensive end with nine sacks in four seasons. The Seahawks traded out of the first round in 2013 (Percy Harvin) because they didn’t feel strongly about any of the prospects who may have been available, including Jones. He may only get a one-year deal though, so it’s a low-risk potentially for the team that signs him.
Micah Hyde, CB/S
Last year, Casey Hayward signed a three-year, $15.5 million with the Chargers after four seasons in Green Bay that I think most people overlooked. He had six interceptions as a rookie but missed most of 2014 and didn’t record any interceptions in his final season with the Packers before hitting the market. Hayward then led the NFL in interceptions with San Diego and was being talked about as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Could Hyde be cashing in on Hayward’s success? Hyde’s now hitting the market four years after being a fifth round pick. He’s remained healthy and recorded eight interceptions over the last three seasons. Hyde may not be a great cover corner in the mold of Hayward, but he’s versatile, can play safety, can rush the passer, and is known as a no-complaints type of player who will do what’s asked of him. Maybe a player that would interest Seattle in those respects, but Hyde most likely gets a paycheck out of the range of what they would pay him.
Eddie Lacy, RB
While Ty Montgomery took centerstage for the Packers last season at running back, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, Lacy wasn’t doing too bad himself. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry before going on IR with an ankle injury and he could still be a great bargain signing given how much time he missed and the constant weight concerns. But outside of that, Lacy has looked similar to Marshawn Lynch at times (short, short period of times) and scored 20 touchdowns over his first two seasons. I think that the Seahawks would absolutely be interested in Lacy and a conversation between the two parties would not surprise me. Thomas Rawls-Lacy-C.J. Prosise is a nice complementary trio to consider.
Christine Michael, RB
Despite seven touchdowns last season (6 with Seattle, 1 with Green Bay), I don’t know what Michael brings to the table. The quarterback hands him the ball and he runs it until he’s tackled, which is usually immediately. Not much in the way of broken or missed tackles. His speed is only utilized when there’s a giant parting of the defensive sea, but in those cases, almost any back will do. He’s not half the back that Rawls is. I would expect him to sign a one-year deal for $1 million or less, nothing guaranteed, and he may not make a roster next season especially with all these interesting and talented backs in the draft.
Others: LS Brett Goode, TE Jared Cook, RB James Starks, G Don Barclay, C J.C. Tretter
Potential Cap Casualties
Clay Matthews, LB
It may be tough to swallow from the standpoint of Matthews being one of the greatest defensive players in Packers history, but what is he worth to a team right now? From 2009-2014, Matthews averaged 53 tackles and 10 sacks per season. Over the last two years, he has totaled just 11.5 sacks and in 2016 he had just 24 tackles in 12 games. Matthews turns 31 in May and releasing him would save just under $11 million, plus another $11.4 million in 2018.
The problem is that Green Bay doesn’t want to risk making a bad defense even worse if Matthews still turns out to be one of their better players who just had a down season. I could totally envision a scenario in which Matthews is released and signs with the Patriots and has an All-Pro season. It’s not so much the age that’s an issue for me as it is the declining production for the Packers. He’s being paid like a premier, top 15 defensive player, and that’s not even close to what he was last season. It may not be a tough decision for Thompson if he’s already decided there’s no way he’s releasing Clay, but from an outsiders perspective, it would be insane to not consider it.
Randall Cobb, WR
It may be a bit of a stretch, but Cobb’s last two seasons total: 29 games, 4.8 catches and 49.6 yards per game, 10 touchdowns, 10.4 yards per catch, 6.75 y/target.
Since his 91 catch, 1,287 yards, 12 touchdown season in 2014, Cobb has proven to be more of a number three receiver than a number one. But he’s set to cost $12.6 million against the cap next year, which is definitely “number one” money. Releasing him would save $6.1 million in 2017 and $9.5 million in 2018. With Jordy Nelson showing a complete return to form from ACL surgery and Davante Adams breaking out for 12 touchdowns, Cobb seems a lot less important and that extra money could go to a free agent defensive player that wouldn’t make Green Bay so soft on defense. Cobb did have three touchdowns in a playoff win over the New York Giants but he’s otherwise an afterthought in the Packers offense now and they could probably continue without missing a beat if he’s released. It’s just a matter of whether or not Thompson thinks they need the extra money more than they need Jordy insurance.
But the last time they tried to cash in on Cobb as Jordy insurance, he disappeared.
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