When it comes to their own free agents, the Green Bay Packers no longer have any pressing matters.
The rest of the Packers’ pending free agents fall into one of three categories. They either play an already-stocked position, such as James Jones and Casey Hayward; aren’t productive, like B.J. Raji, Mike Neal and Don Barclay; or could go either way, like Nick Perry and John Kuhn.
What do we mean by could go either way?
Well, if the player left, the Packers wouldn’t really be any worse off. However, if they stayed they would provide some value.
That’s the case with Perry, who we now have at the top of our list of Packers’ free agents.
The argument for re-signing Perry is simple. The Packers don’t have much depth at outside linebacker at the moment. Behind Clay Matthews, who’s transitioning back from inside linebacker, and the 36-year-old Julius Peppers, the Packers currently only have Jayrone Elliott under contract.
When healthy, Perry is solid, particularly against the run. As we’ve documented previously, Perry put up almost identical statistics as Mike Neal, despite playing less than half the number of snaps in 2015.
Perry had 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the regular season. Neal had 36 tackles, four sacks and a forced fumble, but again, it took Neal more than double the number of snaps to accrue those numbers.
Then there was Perry’s playoff performance. In two games, Perry registered eight tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
That’s quite a statement to make as you’re heading into free agency. The skeptic would say, well, that’s why Perry turned it on. The optimist would say, well, look at what Perry can do when he’s healthy.
And that’s the thing.
The basis for argument against re-signing Perry is right there.
Perry is never healthy.
He has missed 18 games in his first four seasons. Even when Perry is able to play, he never seems to be fully healthy, as evidenced by the recurring shoulder injury we’ve seen pop up the past two seasons.
Perry has shown flashes of being an effective player when he’s healthy, but no one can really be certain that he’s an effective player because he never has been healthy for a long stretch.
Then there’s that playoff performance.
We all know Perry’s camp will use that as the basis for his contract demands.
“Look, when this guy is healthy, he’s a force!”
We can guarantee you the Packers don’t want to hear any of that noise. One of the factors coach Mike McCarthy says he values in players is availability. That seems to be why the team stuck with a below-average Mike Neal at outside linebacker in 2015 when they had Perry available for the majority of it.
Neal hasn’t missed a game since 2012.
The Packers will take durable and mediocre over talented and injury-prone more often than not.
So where does that leave Nick Perry?
We expect him to test the free agent market. It’s entirely possible a team will offer him a lucrative deal based on potential, in which case, he’ll be gone.
However, for the right price (and some performance incentives tied to production), we’d love to see the guy realize his potential in Green Bay.