As soon as the Green Bay Packers signed defensive end Mike Daniels, kicker Mason Crosby became their top free agent priority.
Now that the window for teams to use their franchise or transition tags (4 p.m. ET, Tuesday) on players has passed, it appears the Packers will roll the dice with Crosby.
Crosby will hit free agency on March 9, unless the Packers can reach a new deal with him before then.
This wasn’t totally unexpected, even though Crosby appears to be only remaining must-sign of the Packers’ 2016 free agent class. The franchise tag would have cost the Packers $4.572 million in 2016.
Crosby’s last contract paid him an average of $2.95 million per season. The franchise number would have not only meant a substantial raise, but would have also made Crosby the highest-paid kicker in the game.
That’s an honor he would have shared with Baltimore’s Justin Tucker, who did get slapped with the franchise tag. Previously, New England’s Stephen Gostkowski held the honor with an average salary of $4.3 million.
As has been discussed previously, Crosby’s resume isn’t nearly that of Gostkowski’s.
Nevertheless, the Packers want Crosby back and he’s expressed a desire to return. He’ll likely want to be compensated as a top-five kicker to do so, however.
Currently, Minnesota’s Blair Walsh is the fifth-highest-paid kicker at $3.25 million annually. Fourth is Chicago’s Robbie Gould at $3.75 million annually.
That’s most likely the ballpark we’re looking at here.
It’s not time to panic, of course.
You don’t have to look further than last year to see two negotiations the Packers let go right down the wire. They finalized their contracts with receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga during the two-day window prior to free agency when other teams are allowed to begin negotiating with outside free agents.
The clock is officially ticking.