Any shrewd NFL salary cap manager is looking at not only who they can afford to pay now, but who they may have to save money for down the road. The Packers face some tough decisions this offseason, but a couple starters and valuable depth players may also be looking for an extension next year.
Safety Morgan Burnett: Headlining the 2018 free agent class will be Burnett, who could be looking for some significant money in his third deal. He saw some time towards the end of 2016 in a nickel corner role, similar to Micah Hyde in what may have been a tryout in case Hyde is lost in free agency. Or perhaps it was just another illustration of how thin the secondary was down the stretch. Either way, Burnett has established himself as a good tackler, capable of generating the occasional turnover in the passing or running games. He will still be on the right side of 30, turning 29 in January 2018. He may be tough to hang onto without a hefty price tag.
Guard Lane Taylor: Ted Thompson will be faced with the prospect of paying yet another guard in 2018 if he re-signs T.J. Lang. Taylor, not regarded as the focal point of a great pass blocking group, could be looked at as expendable if the right replacement is available for cheaper. He will be 28 and looking to cash in on some starting experience with whoever needs his skill set.
Wide Receiver Davante Adams: This one could depend a lot on how Adams follows a breakout 2016 season. His first two years were filled with forgettable moments and frustrating drops, but a 12-touchdown year in which a palpable connection with Aaron Rodgers began to develop proved to be something special. 2017 will decide whether Adams is another James Jones, who was only worth bringing back when he was cheap enough; or another Randall Cobb, who proved he was worthy of a new deal. If he puts up another double-digit touchdown performance in 2017, at 25 he will be a hot commodity for any team.
Tight End Richard Rodgers: Rodgers is another player who could be impacted by a 2017 free agent. If Jared Cook is re-signed, Ted Thompson is not breaking the bank in consecutive years on tight ends. Regardless, the way the position is trending, Rodgers is the outdated block-first tight end that few are looking for out of a primary option. This may bode well for the Packers to bring him back on a cheap deal.
Center Corey Linsley: Thompson may make his decision on this position as well in 2017, as J.C. Tretter is up for a new deal this year. Tretter played the first seven games of 2016 as the starter before sustaining an injury in week 7. Linsley took over to start the final nine games, as well as 13 in 2015. Market value for Tretter appears to be nine million per season over four years, which is far too much for a backup center. The timing may make more sense to hone in on Linsley next year unless they really prefer Tretter.
Cornerbacks Demetri Goodson, LaDarius Gunter and Makinton Dorleant: Not much can be said about one member of this group that cannot be said about all three. One thing is for sure, this season will have a lot to do with whether any of these players suit up for the Packers in 2018. Gunter became a starter by default in what was an infirmary ward secondary by the end of 2016. Goodson has played sparingly in 23 games over the past two seasons with limited impact, and Dorleant saw only a handful of snaps spread out of seven games. Goodson and Dorleant need to find the field and a way to make themselves indispensable, and Gunter has to put horrendous performances behind him in a hurry if he wants a second deal. Dorleant is an exclusive rights free agent, so the Packers will have first dibs on him.
Wide Receiver Jeff Janis: A year after Moss-ing Patrick Peterson in the playoffs, the people’s champ failed to make a significant impact in 2016. Whether it be to injuries, poor route running or hands that have been the problem, Janis has had his chances to flash his ability. Clearly he has not inspired a tremendous amount of confidence in the coaching staff, and he may go unsigned next season if he fails to make a big leap in his contract year.
Quarterback Joe Callahan: Show-me year for Callahan, at least however much he can from the practice squad.
Punter Jacob Schum: The Packers finished near the bottom of the league in punting once again in 2016 after moving on from Tim Masthay, and barring an improved season from Schum, they could be looking for another punter for 2018.
Who of these players should be retained beyond 2017? Let me know in the comments.
——————Zac Bellman is a sports writer, experienced journalist and Marquette University graduate with a degree in journalism. You can read his current articles here on PackersTalk.com. To connect with Zac, follow him on twitter at @ZacBellman_WNY. or check out his Facebook page Zac Bellman-Sportwriter