Green Bay Packers Free Agency: Which Current Players Are Staying or Going?
The Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl champions, but it's never too early to start looking at how the roster might look next season.
Free agency will be the biggest factor in shaping that for the Packers. Of course, that doesn't mean spending on new available players, but retaining or letting go those on the roster whose contracts are up.
Let's break down every free agent on the Packers roster.
2010 stats (including playoffs): 127 tackles, .5 sacks, 3 interceptions
Rundown: A.J. Hawk may never live up to his fifth-overall selection status, but the truth remains that he slowly became one of the Packers' most important players on defense.
Hawk is a sure tackler, has started all 80 games of his career and was a captain throughout the Packers' playoff run. However, with a base salary of $10 million next season, he becomes a de facto free agent for next season.
Prediction: While Hawk has often been vilified in Green Bay, he stepped up to the plate this season for the Packers.
When Nick Barnett went down early in the season, Hawk took over primary control of leading the defense and the Packers defense actually got better.
Green Bay's best defensive 11 would feature Hawk alongside Desmond Bishop—who recently got a four-year contract extension—which leaves Barnett as the odd man out.
At just 27 years old, Hawk could command a significant chunk of change on the market, but look for the Packers to re-sign Hawk under a more reasonable contract than the $10 million he was due for next season.
2010 stats: 22 tackles, 7.5 sacks
Rundown: Cullen Jenkins has always shown flashes of dominance, but injuries have usually derailed promising starts.
Still, with 29 sacks in 93 career games, Jenkins has established himself as one of the mainstays of the Packers defense.
Jenkins made a base salary of $3,200,000 last season but is unsigned heading into next year.
Prediction: Jenkins might be the toughest call of any of the Packers' free agents. At 30 years old, Jenkins' best football might be behind him, and he's likely to expect a pay increase.
In addition, Jenkins might be better suited for 4-3 defense, a la Aaron Kampman last season. While Kampman was transitioning to outside linebacker, Jenkins is primarily a block-eater at defensive end in the Packers' 3-4.
With that said, Jenkins has been the perfect end for the Packers 3-4. He's big at 305 lbs., and has enough athletic ability to get to the passer regardless of defensive scheme.
Even so, injuries, age and a hefty price tag will probably mean the Packers will fall out of the running for Jenkins. Look for Jenkins to be playing elsewhere next season.
Rundown: Daryn Colledge might never be a dominant guard in the NFL, but he's one of the Packers more experienced offensive linemen.
While his main strength is clearly in pass protection, Colledge has made improvements in the run game. Again, he'll never be a mauler in clearing running holes, but he has value.
Colledge made $1,759,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: Because of the struggles Jason Spitz had when filling in, it'd be hard to see the Packers heading into next season without Colledge on the offensive line.
His limitations will keep his monetary value down, and for Packers management, that's a good thing. Barring some big plan to draft a replacement, look for Colledge to be the left guard for the 2011 Packers.
Rundown: A former third-round pick, Spitz hasn't lived up to expectations in his short career.
While given the chance to start 45 games from 2006-2009, Spitz didn't start a game in 2010.
However, when you mix his versatility on the line with his starting experience, Spitz does have value for the Packers.
Spitz made $1,759,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: This decision will come down how much the other 31 teams in the NFL value Spitz.
For the right price, you have to believe the Packers would want him back in a backup role. However, it'd be easy to see another franchise seeing the versatility and starting experience and overpaying Spitz to start.
Something tells me the latter will be the choice, and with all the young players still along the Packers offensive line, Spitz will be starting for a different team in 2011.
2010 stats: 7 tackles
Rundown: While Atari Bigby was a difference-maker in the Packers secondary from 2007-2009, he's nothing more than a special teamer at this point.
Injuries have kept Bigby out of 24 games in the past three seasons, and even though he had 10 interceptions in three seasons, he was never looked at as a coverage safety.
Bigby made $1,699,500 in base salary last season.
Prediction: When healthy this season, Bigby was a solid contributor on special teams, but that's about it.
The Packers drafted Morgan Burnett to assume the duties of safety alongside Nick Collins, and he'll more than likely resume that role next season.
Even if Burnett is unable to fully take hold of that position, Charlie Peprah—another free agent—would be the more likely choice.
It was an interesting couple of years with Atari Bigby, but he'll be playing elsewhere next season.
2010 stats: 281 rushing yards, 4 TDs; 97 receiving yards, 2 TDs
Rundown: Once a little-known fullback from Shippensburgh, John Kuhn has established himself as a folk hero in Green Bay with tough running and a nose for the end zone.
Kuhn developed into a solid emergency running back, and his hands out of the backfield and pass-protecting ability are important to the Packers.
And not many will admit it, but Kuhn was arguably the third or fourth most important offensive player for the Packers during the regular season.
Kuhn made $1,176,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: This one really has to be a no-brainer. Because of his popularity both at Lambeau Field and on the road, Kuhn is a lock to return to the Packers next season.
He might be due for a slight increase in pay, but he's still a fullback and Kuhn won't be demanding big dollars.
Packers fans will be chanting "Kuuuuuuuuuhn" next season.
2010 stats: 25 FGs, 62 PATs, 137 points
Rundown: Mason Crosby hasn't always been the most-liked kicker in Packers history, but he's remained consistent throughout his career.
Crosby has never been over 80 percent on his field goals throughout the course of a season, but he's also never been under 75.
The one thing that drives fans crazy, however, is the lack of clutch kicks. He's had some opportunities throughout his career, but only his game-winner against the Eagles in 2007—ironically, Crosby's first career game—sticks out.
Crosby made $1,101,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: Crosby's free-agent situation reminds me a lot of Daryn Colledge's. Crosby is far from the NFL's best kicker, but he's been a consistent performer for the Packers.
Unless the Packers have a solid replacement in mind, look for Crosby to be handling kickoffs and field goals for Green Bay in 2011.
2010 stats: 61 receptions, 823 yards, 7 TDs
Rundown: James Jones, the Packers' bipolar wide receiver.
While one moment Jones will amaze you one game with incredible hands and physicality, the next he will drop sure-fire touchdowns. Never was that so apparent than 2010—including the playoff run.
Jones dropped a long touchdown pass right before the half of the NFC Wild Card game but came back against the Falcons the very next week with 75 yards and a touchdown.
However, his drop in the Super Bowl negated another long touchdown. It's the game you play when dealing with James Jones.
Jones made $1,101,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: Jones is a tough decision because the talent he possesses is so obvious.
He's also the Packers most physical receiver, and with Donald Driver in the twilight of his career, Green Bay is going to need pass catchers to step up.
However, possibly no Packers player is as frustrating as Jones, and there are plenty of fans that would bid him farewell without much thought after all his drops.
Even so, Packers GM Ted Thompson has always likes Jones, and his drop in the Super Bowl could have actually helped the Packers by decreasing his value on the market.
With the Packers offense so dependent on the pass, look for Jones to return to Green Bay next season.
2010 stats: 85 tackles, 2 interceptions
Rundown: Outside of A.J. Hawk, possibly no Packers free agent did more for their value this season than Charlie Peprah.
After rookie safety Morgan Burnett was lost for the season, Peprah stepped into the starting role and became a solid cog in the Packers' No. 2 scoring defense.
Peprah doesn't wow you in any certain area, but he's a smart, experienced safety who made some big plays for the Packers this season.
Peprah made $630,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: Peprah is another tough call because of how much he raised his value this season and the Packers' long-term plans at the position.
While he won't demand huge dollars on the open market, Peprah is certainly in line for a raise.
Also, it's clear the Packers want Burnett to take a hold of the other safety position alongside Nick Collins. He's still an unknown, but Burnett has the talent to be a playmaker in the Packers' secondary.
However, injuries have been an issue for both Collins and Burnett, and I'd expect the Packers to want Peprah back.
Unless some safety-starved defense overwhelms him with an offer, expect Peprah to be back for Green Bay in a third safety role.
2010 stats: 2 receptions, 11 yards
Rundown: It may surprise you that Korey Hall has yet to run the football once in his four-year career, but he's been the Packers' best fullback during his time in Green Bay.
He's also been an important part of the Packers' special teams, totaling 38 tackles for that unit.
Hall has had some injury issues in various season as well. He made just $550,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: On a normal NFL team, you'd see the names of John Kuhn, Quinn Johnson and Hall on the fullback depth chart and think one is on their way out.
Not the Green Bay Packers.
While mainly a pass-oreintated offense, the Packers have made a habit in recent seasons of carrying three fullbacks on the roster.
Kuhn is certainly the crowd favorite, and Johnson has possibly the most run-blocking potential, but Hall is the Packers' best pure fullback on the roster.
Expect Hall to join Kuhn and Johnson as the Packers typical three fullback depth chart next season.
2010 stats: 731 yards rushing, 3 TDs; 48 receptions, 406 yards, 3 TDs
Rundown: Whether you love or hate Brandon Jackson and his running ability, you can't understate his value to the Packers this season.
While James Starks was getting healthy, Jackson took over for Ryan Grant after Week 1 and did his best as the Packers' starting running back.
However, being a starter is out of Jackson's comfort zone as a running back. He's best suited as a third-down back, and once Starks came back, he showed exactly that.
Jackson is far and away the Packers' best receiving back and pass blocker, and both those skills were important to Green Bay's Super Bowl run.
Jackson made $550,000 in base salary last season.
Prediction: At just 24 years old, and as important as he was to the Packers' championship, it's still hard to envision Jackson being back in Green Bay next season.
Grant will be back to 100 percent next season and should assume the starting running back duties. The emergence of Starks is what makes Jackson expendable, however.
Expect the Packers to either draft a running back or find a cheap one afterwards to fill the third running back slot.
2010 stats: None—suspended for season.
Rundown: Johnny Jolly was an important part of the Packers No. 2 ranked rushing defense in 2009, but his suspension for all of 2010 puts his future in Green Bay in serious jeopardy.
Jolly signed a $2,510,000 tender before the season, and that contract carries over into next season. The Packers still will have a tough decision with Jolly.
Prediction: If you paid attention during the Packers' post-Super Bowl interviews, a common theme arose.
Everyone in that championship locker room was a character guy who cares about the team.
Simply put, Jolly doesn't fit that profile.
Regardless of whether his one-year suspension was justified or not, Jolly put himself before the team, and he'll pay for that by playing his last game in Green Bay.
2010 stats (with Packers): 7 tackles
Rundown: The Packers brought Anthony Smith back after cutting him before the 2009 season, but he didn't provide much impact in Green Bay.
Mainly used on special teams, Smith tallied just seven total tackles all season and didn't see any time with the regular defense.
He knows the 3-4 defense well, but Smith doesn't bring much else to the table.
Prediction: Unless the Packers lose both Peprah and Bigby this offseason, it's hard to see them bringing back Smith to Green Bay.
With Morgan Burnett returning from injury, Smith will most likely go elsewhere this offseason.
2010 stats: 6 receptions, 72 yards
Rundown: Packers fans will remember Brett Swain this season for his drop in the Super Bowl, but his value this season was mostly on special teams.
His 31-yard catch against the Falcons during the regular season showed some big-play potential.
Swain will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
Prediction: Swain will be back in Green Bay next season, but under similar circumstances as Crabtree.
He'll need to fight his way onto the roster as the Packers' No. 5 receiver. If Green Bay drafts a receiver, and Jones leaves, he'll remain the fifth receiver and a special teamer.
Others Who Won't Be Back
These players won't be back for the Packers next season:
Matt Wilhelm (linebacker)
Josh Bell (cornerback)
Spencer Havner (tight end)
Diyral Briggs (linebacker)
Practice Squad possibilities:
Josh Gordy (cornerback)
Evan Dietrich-Smith (center)
Robert Francois (linebacker)