Green Bay Packers’ 2016 Free Agents: Who Stays?
For a change, the Green Bay Packers have a fairly underwhelming list of free agents going into the offseason. They signed their biggest priority, defensive end Mike Daniels, during the season.
So who’s left?
As we noted during the season, the biggest priority after Daniels has to be kicker Mason Crosby.
Here’s the rundown.
Tackle Don Barclay — We once thought pretty highly of Barclay. Even suspected he might be better than the ho-hum Bryan Bulaga. Then he tore his ACL during the 2014 season. Then he was right next to awful for most of 2015. Barclay just can’t pass block and he hasn’t shown any improvement in that area, which makes him a liability. We could certainly see the Packers re-signing Barclay for some minimum wage deal, but what for?
Kicker Mason Crosby — A reliable kicker is hard to find. Crosby has been that for the past three seasons, since imploding back in 2012, when he hit just 63.6 percent of his field goals. He’s been above 80 percent since and hit 24 of 28 in 2015. Crosby wants to return and there’s no reason that shouldn’t happen.
Long snapper Brett Goode — The Packers gave Goode a three-year contract extension worth $2.715 million back in 2012. So they were paying a long snapper almost a million a year. That’s not a lot in NFL dollars, but Goode got hurt this season and was replaced by some sandwich maker named Rick Lovato. Did you notice a difference? We didn’t.
Defensive tackle Letroy Guion — Guion was fairly disappointing in 2015 with 21 tackles and no sacks after turning in a career year (32 tackles, 3.5 sacks) in 2014. Of course, he was suspended for three games and playing in a rotation with B.J. Raji, among others. Guion probably has some decent football left in him, but the Packers need to put him in a position to succeed. It didn’t seem like they knew how to do that in 2015. Making an either/or decision between Guion and Raji seems logical.
Cornerback Casey Hayward — If there’s a major player who is almost certain to not be brought back, it’s Hayward. It’s not that he’s bad, but he doesn’t make big plays anymore and the Packers are set at cornerback with Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter.
Receiver James Jones — Love us some Jim Jones! We doubt the Packers will, though. Despite Jones leading the team in receiving yards (890) and touchdowns (8), he has a couple things working against him. He’ll be 32 in a couple months and with Jordy Nelson returning next season, we have a hard time seeing a role for Jones. Frankly, the Packers should release Davante Adams, but that will never happen. Davante is Ted’s boy!
Fullback John Kuhn — John Kuhn is still solid. He’s a veteran leader and still gets things done on special teams. And yeah, on the few plays he gets each week on offense. There’s never been a case where we’ve said, “John Kuhn is a liability.” The problem is the Packers drafted fullback Aaron Ripkowski last year. How many fullbacks do you need in the NFL? For most teams, one is too many.
Outside linebacker Mike Neal — There’s nothing special about Mike Neal. He had 36 tackles and four sacks in 2015 and he did that while getting more snaps than anyone (845) among the Packers outside linebackers. Pro Football Focus gave Neal an overall grade of 49.6, which is awful. The Packers could do better by signing some clown off the street. Instead, they’ll probably just move Clay Matthews back outside.
Outside linebacker Nick Perry — On the flip side of the Mike Neal coin is Perry, who had 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He did that in 411 plays. So Perry had pretty much the same stat line as Neal in half as many plays. Perry will never live up to his status as a first-round pick, but he’s a serviceable player. When you look at it, you have to wonder why Perry never replaced Neal in the starting lineup this season. He won’t break the bank, but Perry should return.
Tight end Andrew Quarless — It will be a happy day for us when the God’s Gifts’ era is over in Green Bay. Forget all the nonsense last offseason. The Packers already have one mediocre tight end in Richard Rodgers. They don’t need this one.
Defensive tackle B.J. Raji — B.J. Raji had a nice start to the season. Unfortunately, that’s the best you can say about him. After looking like a disruptor in the middle during the first weeks of the year, Raji went back to being his usual invisible self. He finished with 22 tackles and half a sack. Mike Pennel is a better and younger player. He’s also probably better suited for the middle of the defense, not defensive end. We’re not saying the Packers won’t re-sign Raji, but they have a better option on the team already. Raji’s overall grade from PFF was 64.1, which isn’t good, but his grade against the run was an abysmal 48.9.
Safety Sean Richardson — Unfortunately, Richardson is most likely going to have to retire because of a neck injury. We suspect the Packers wouldn’t take a risk in re-signing him even if he wanted to come back.
Running back James Starks — Starks churned out a career-high 601 rushing yards and 392 receiving yards in 2015. He’s not a starter, but definitely a quality backup. That should get him another contract with the Packers.
Quarterback Scott Tolzien — Scooter! This is a tough call. Scoots did plenty to win the backup job for the Packers in 2015, but didn’t get a chance to do anything in the regular season. Normally, you’d re-sign this guy without thinking twice, but the Packers drafted Brett Hundley last year. Hundley looked good in preseason. We wouldn’t rule it out, but it’s hard to see the Packers going with three quarterbacks again when they have Hundley waiting in the wings.
Restricted free agents — Guard Lane Taylor and outside linebacker Andy Mulumba.
Exclusive rights free agents — Tight end Justin Perillo and safety Chris Banjo.