The Green Bay Packers aren't expected to be very active once the free-agency period begins on Tuesday, March 13th. However, with possible free-agent departures from Ryan Grant, Scott Wells and other key contributors, Green Bay will need to make a little noise to have similar success in 2012 like they had in 2011.
With the salary cap officially set at $120.6 million per team, according to Spotrac, the Packers will be left with just under $1.6 million in cap space. Obviously, that could change with releases and contract restructurings, but that is where the figure sits right now.
Today we'll take a look at the restricted and unrestricted free agents, along with some rumors and storylines to keep track of with free agency set to begin.
For more in-depth information, feel free to check into the first free-agency tracker article.
The Green Bay Packers aren't dealing with any restricted free agents (RFAs) this year, but their group of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) will be sought by many teams.
Here is a list of the UFAs for Green Bay:
3/29: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the Packers have re-signed CB Jarrett Bush.
ProFootballTalk is reporting the Packers have signed DL Anthony Hargrove.
Update: Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that the Packers have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with cornerback Jarrett Bush.
Update: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that C Scott Wells has agreed to terms with the Rams.
|C Scott Wells||In 2011, Wells asserted himself as one of the top centers in the entire NFL. He's likely to be a little rich for Green Bay to keep and should have plenty of suitors once free agency begins.|
|CB Jarrett Bush||Bush has been rather unproductive during his time with Green Bay, but he is one player that the Packers may decide to bring back because of his versatility.|
|CB Pat Lee||Lee is almost guaranteed to be playing for a different team next year. With his relative youth, he should find a team looking for a third or fourth cornerback on their depth chart.|
|DT Howard Green||It was a tough year for Green in 2011. He was given an opportunity to shine thanks to injuries across the defensive line, but he simply couldn't take advantage.|
|QB Matt Flynn||Had Peyton Manning not been released, Flynn would have been the top quarterback available. However, Flynn will still find plenty of teams scampering for his services in 2012.|
|RB Ryan Grant||Coming off a season lost to injury in 2010, Grant played rather well for the Packers in 2011. However, with James Starks and Alex Green younger and capable of handling the running load, Grant will likely be in a new home in 2012.|
|LB Erik Walden||There were few players who disappointed as much as Walden did in 2011. He was given the starting job in Week 1, but never produced at the level that the Packers desired.|
Now let's take a look at some big storylines for Green Bay.
3/23: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that C Jeff Saturday has agreed to a deal with the Packers.
Update: Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that C Scott Wells has agreed to terms with the Rams.
It doesn't look like the Green Bay Packers and Scott Wells will be able to make ends meet for Wells to stay on the roster in 2012 and beyond. As it sits right now, reports are that both sides aren't very close to coming to an agreement.
With plenty of other teams needing a Pro Bowl center like Wells, the Packers should probably start looking at their other options to replace him.
Two names that instantly stick out are Chris Myers from the Houston Texans and Nick Hardwick of the San Diego Chargers. Both players are extremely talented, and both are likely to be less of a cap hit than Wells.
The Packers could also look to address replacing Wells through the 2012 NFL draft. A prospect like Peter Konz from the Wisconsin Badgers would be an ideal fit for Green Bay. The only problem with Konz is that he might not be available at the 28th pick, which means the Packers would have to trade up for him.
Whatever Green Bay decides, they'll definitely need to address Wells' replacement early in the process and stick to whatever plan they make.
As we've already discussed, the Green Bay Packers only have around $1.6 million to work with, according to Spotrac.
Two of the biggest contracts that the Packers have belong to Donald Driver and Chad Clifton. Driver is set to make $5.6 million, while Clifton will hit the Packers' salary cap with a $5.7 million salary.
Clearly, neither of these two players are worth that much money. That means that they'll either need to restructure their contracts, or the Packers will have to get them off the books completely for 2012.
With Driver, we could possibly see him restructure his contract to stick with the Packers. Yes, he is 37 years old, but he appears to still have some life left in his legs and could still contribute. If he isn't willing to restructure his contract, then Green Bay will need to get rid of him. With Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb all better options than Driver, it simply doesn't make sense for him to be making that much money.
As far as Clifton goes, it might be time for him to hang up the cleats. He missed the majority of the 2011 season due to a hamstring injury, and a recent back surgery has to have the team worried. At 35 years old and with such a history of injuries, it's probably time for Clifton to retire.
If Clifton retires and Driver restructures, that would give the Packers a major boost in what they'd be able to spend in free agency.
March 15, 2012 Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via his Twitter that Mario Williams will be given a six-year deal from the Bills. He reports that the contract is worth up to $100 million dollars with $50 million guaranteed.
While the Green Bay Packers don't generally go after big-name free agents, we've seen rare cases in the past where they have. For example, look at Charles Woodson back in 2006. He was one of the top cornerbacks in the league, and the Packers knew they had a huge need, went after him and reeled him in.
The same could happen this year with a player like Mario Williams of the Houston Texans. Since Williams entered the league, he has been a truly dominant pass-rusher. Even though he has done his damage in the past as a 4-3 defensive end, he was a 3-4 outside linebacker in 2011 before a torn pectoral muscle in Week 5 took away his season.
If the Packers could add a player like Williams to play opposite Clay Matthews, their defense would get a major boost in production. In fact, having Williams and Matthews on the same team would likely send shudders down the other NFL team's spines.
The big issue that will need to be figured out would be the salary. Williams is obviously looking for a large contract, and the Packers are nowhere near being able to provide that.
They'll need to clear up some cap space in order to make a real move at Williams, but if they do, it could have a similar impact as Woodson has had since he came to Green Bay.
The future for football is still unknown for Nick Collins. The final decision should be made by the end of the month for Collins after a brutal neck injury during the season and the surgery that followed.
If Collins is given the "all good" by doctors, it will be a huge boost for a secondary that played horridly in 2011.
However, what happens if Collins is unable to return?
There are three options that the Green Bay Packers have should Collins career be over. The first option involves moving Charles Woodson from cornerback to safety. This is a move that has been talked about quite a bit in recent years, but Green Bay still has their reservations about the move.
While it may fix the problem at safety, it would open a whole new can of worms at cornerback. While Tramon Williams is certainly a starting-caliber cornerback, the same can't quite be said about Sam Shields yet. He looks another year or two away from being able to handle the full responsibility of starting.
The second option is looking for a replacement via free agency. The issue with this is that the Packers won't have a definitive answer on Collins until two weeks into the free-agency period. That means that they could possibly sign a replacement without necessarily needing one—that could turn into a rather unpleasant situation.
The last option involves drafting Collins' replacement in April. This seems like the most likely option considering the Packers would absolutely know about Collins' future. If he couldn't return, a guy like Harrison Smith of Notre Dame or Mark Barron of Alabama would make sense at the end of Round 1.
Hopefully Collins can return, but if he can't, look for Green Bay to make some moves to ensure their secondary is effective in 2012.
While Matt Flynn won't necessarily have much to do with the Green Bay Packers in 2012, it is still worth some brief discussion on where the former Packer may be heading.
The two big players for Flynn will likely be the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins. Both lost out on Robert Griffin III when the Washington Redskins struck a deal for the No. 2 pick, and both have need for upgrades at the quarterback position.
With Manning off the table, both the Browns and Dolphins will make a strong play towards Flynn. Flynn clearly has the talents to be an effective starting quarterback and has shined whenever given the opportunity in Green Bay.
It will be interesting to see how the sweepstakes for Flynn play out. If the Browns sign him, they could then focus their fourth pick on a player like Trent Richardson and have a formidable one-two punch of offense.
However, if the Dolphins sign him, they would pair Flynn with a high-profile receiver in Brandon Marshall and two talented running backs in Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. That would leave their eighth pick to address other needs, most likely on the defensive side of the football.
Whoever does end up signing Flynn—whether that is Miami or Cleveland—will be one step closer to being a playoff-contending team.