With 20 players becoming free agents this offseason and just over $9 million in cap room to carry over, Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers have some difficult decisions to make regarding key players at positions on both sides of the ball.
Veterans James Jones, John Kuhn, Ryan Pickett, Sam Shields and B.J. Raji join 12 other unrestricted free agents the Packers will have to let walk or re-sign in the near future.
The big storylines of the offseason will include whether or not the Packers re-sign cornerback Shields, if Raji's $8 million offer is still on the table (and, if not, if a subsequent offer has been made), if Jones fits into the receiving corps moving forward and, of course, if Jermichael Finley's spinal-fusion surgery has jeopardized his chances of being re-signed in Green Bay.
In addition to the 17 unrestricted free agents, Green Bay also has two restricted free agents (Jamari Lattimore and M.D. Jennings) and one exclusive-rights free agent (Chris Banjo).
Expect the Packers to tender the lowest contract to Lattimore, to provide depth at the linebacker position. While they may do the same with Jennings, so that they're not re-building the safety position from the ground up, his play hasn't earned anything higher than the absolute-lowest tender.
And, even then, if they can draft a safety like Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix or Dion Bailey, they won't miss him if they let him walk and move Micah Hyde to safety.
The following slides examine each of Green Bay's free agents in depth and whether the Packers should re-sign or let them walk, as well as players on whom the Packers could possibly place the franchise tag, though Thompson is reticent about using it and is not incredibly likely to do so.
Criteria considered were, first and foremost, the potential cap hit, followed by production in 2013 and depth at the position, i.e. if the Packers could develop a player to replace the departing free agent in 2014.
Free agency begins on March 11, and the deadline to designate a franchise player is March 3. The Packers must prioritize key players on this list (such as Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith) who, if allowed to get to free agency, may receive offers from other clubs the Packers cannot match.