While the Green Bay Packers have just finished a successful season (in most terms), they now must focus on next year, which entails the re-signing of key free agents who made this team become as dangerous as it was. There are 13 free agents that are broken down into two different categories: unrestricted (where they are free to sign anywhere) and restricted (the Packers can match an offer the player receives). For all the rules of free agency, check out the NFL rules here .
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (UFA)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (RFA)
For me, Nick Collins is the most important free agent Green Bay should retain, but he may not be the first to be re-signed. The Packers will try to get their UFAs settled quickly, while negotiations with Collins are supposed to be somewhat of a long ordeal.
For the UFAs, Ryan Pickett and either Clifton or Tauscher will be back for sure. Although Green Bay chose BJ Raji with their first pick last year, there is always the need for quality depth along the defensive line in the 3-4 system, so I feel Pickett is a priority.
Then the Packers must bring back one of the tackles. I would prefer Tauscher to re-sign, but I think Clifton would be the first guy they would go after. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they both come back, as both are getting old, and Clifton isn't going to be able to last a full season (he couldn't last year). TJ Lang should be a very solid replacement if one of those two gets hurt or does not re-sign.
Re-signing Aaron Kampman would be the wrong move. It would be absolutely pointless from both a financial and personnel stand point because trying to convert him into a 3-4 outside linebacker was clearly a failed experiment. Combine that with the fact that he's coming off of an ACL tear at age 30 and was terrible in coverage before the injury, and re-signing him becomes moronic.
You can expect most players to have career years in their contract year. Most do because they know this is their opportunity to get paid. I feel Green Bay should let Kampman explore free agency and, if he can't find any suitors, they could then sign him for cheap. It would be a potentially low risk, high reward type of move.
One team expected to make a run at Kampman is the Chicago Bears, which would be just fine with me and almost every other Packer fan I know.
Ahman Green is another player that Green Bay does not need to retain. One thing with Green, though, is that Ryan Grant picked up his pace once the Packers signed Green.
In the five games previous to the Green signing, Grant ran for an average of 69 yards per game, and after the signing, he ran for a little over 82 yards a game. Although Green pushed Grant to be a better player and ran hard in short yardage situations, re-signing him may take meaningful time away from the play-making running backs that the Packers should look to select in the draft. I expect this "running back to be named at a later date" to help out in the return game (both kicks and punts) and in passing situations, as well, two things Ahman is unable to help with at this point in his career.
For the RFAs, our main overall free agent priority has to be Nick Collins. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and will command a lot of money on the open market. The Packers have the ability to use their franchise tag on him (when a team signs the player for the next season and pays him the average of the top five players at his position in the league).
Collins, on the other hand, wants the security of having a long-term deal in place. Some players do not like the franchise tag because if they get hurt, they would lose millions the following year. Collins is all over the place; he's a ball hawk and when he gets the ball, he knows what to do with it. Green Bay needs him on this defense for years to come, especially with their cornerbacks getting a year older.
Next on the list is Daryn Colledge. He played multiple positions, mostly as the left guard. I thought he played well and was at his best at that position. He has good lower body strength and gains a lot of leverage that goes along with his technique.
One problem with Colledge is that Jason Spitz can also play left guard and is also an RFA. Spitz can play center, as well, so it's not unlikely that both could be re-signed. It all depends on who the Packers value. From what I can tell, Green Bay values guys who can play multiple positions, and both of these guys fit that bill. Of course, Colledge may feel that he is under-appreciated and could become an UFA next year. I still think it's the Packers best option to sign both of these guys for multi-year deals. I always hear Mike McCarthy talking about having continuity and familiarity along the outside line, and this would ensure that for years to come.
Johnny Jolly, also an RFA, is a guy who was in a contract year, made the most of his opportunities, and had a career year. He has always shown flashes of greatness, but this year he was consistent. Again, you cannot have enough depth along the defensive line. Jolly plays the end in the 3-4, and his job is to take up bodies and have the linebackers make the play.
Jolly made a living batting down passes this year and made many plays in the opponents' backfield. Jolly was key this season and I want to re-sign him, but he does come with baggage. His legal issues, which include possession of 200 grams of Codeine, raise huge questions about his character. Also, in every post-play scuffle amongst players this season, Johnny Jolly could be found right in the middle. He's a good player, but his off- and on-the-field issues raise concerns and, since this is his contract year, I'm getting a little scared.
Next on the list is a big question mark, and his name is Atari Bigby. He plays strong safety and fills the billing of strong. Yes, he makes good plays against run and lays the wood when receivers come through the middle. The thing I can't stand about him is that he is just awful in pass coverage and does not have ideal speed to cover a lot of ground.
I don't know how much Green Bay will value Bigby, and it will depend on what Nick Collins does on the market. The Packers cannot lose both safeties because the likelihood of replacing them with players of the same talent would be slim to none.
Derrick Martin, a third safety, played very well on special teams, and I wouldn't mind having him come back for a small fee.
John Kuhn was very valuable in the red zone this year and was a solid blocker, as well. Keeping him is the same predicament that we were in training camp, though. The problem is that Green Bay would be carrying three fullbacks on the roster. I feel that they should bring Kuhn back and let either Corey Hall or Quinn Johnson go in training camp.
Finally, Will Blackmon has no value because he can't stay healthy for even half a season, let alone a whole one.
Here's how I would prioritize our offseason moves:
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