I know the 2018 season hasn’t even started yet, but next offseason will certainly be an interesting one. Three Green Bay Packers starting defenders and one of the main weapons for Aaron Rodgers are all free agents. However, if Brian Gutekunst in anything like Ted Thompson, I could see one or two of them extended before the regular season is finished.
When looking at the free agents, the Packers have three main free agents. I’ll start with linebacker Clay Matthews. It was kind of surprising he was not extended this offseason, which would have given the organization some cap space. However, Gutekunst decided the extension was not needed (in terms of the cap) and will play under his current number for 2018. It still would not surprise me if he were to be re-signed at some point during the regular season, much like David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley and Davante Adams the past two seasons. Sure, Matthews is not what he used to be, but he is still a solid player, and would benefit from a move to inside linebacker. He may play there more if the young pass rushers step up.
Secondly, Randall Cobb will be a huge question mark as a free agent next offseason. He does not have the statistics he had in 2014 and 2015, but he is still a very valuable asset to the Packers passing attack. Cobb has sure hands and is consistently open, even when Rodgers does not look his way. To me, he might be the biggest free agent next offseason, and is a player who needs to be re-signed. But it will be tough to beat out other teams with tons of cap space, especially after the contract Jarvis Landry signed.
One of the more interesting free agents is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. His 2017 season was subpar, especially compared to his 2016 season. Last year, he had a Pro Football Focus rating of 79.1 for a safety ranking of 40. The former Alabama defensive back is hoping for a new contract soon, but he may not get that from Green Bay if he struggles once again this year. It will be interesting to see how he performs under new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
After those three players, there are other free agents who are still important, but maybe one step down. Those players include defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, running back Ty Montgomery and tight end Marcedes Lewis. Wilkerson and Lewis were both free agent signings this offseason, and Lewis is not as likely to come back as Wilkerson, but the former Jet may not be back either. It will depend on how he plays and how much he wants at the end of the year. It will be interesting to see how he plays under Pettine again. Montgomery is solid and could be a big piece, but he has had trouble staying on the field. He has played more than half the season just twice in his first three seasons.
That does not even include the fact that Tramon Williams and Jimmy Graham, who were the two prized free agent signings this offseason, could be cut next year with little penalty. Williams will likely not be back after the team drafted Iowa’s Josh Jackson in the second round. Jackson will likely take Williams’ spot across from Kevin King on the outside. If Graham were to leave, the Packers would be left with the cupboard bare at tight end since Lewis and Lance Kendricks are set to be free agents. I think it would be best to keep the former Saints and Seahawks tight end and draft a few to groom one to be the heir apparent.
Fortunately, Green Bay will have a pair of first-round picks in order to try to fill some holes. They still need to re-sign Aaron Rodgers this offseason, and like I mentioned, it would not surprise me to see one or two of these players re-signed during the regular season. But first, we need to complete the 2018 season, which should be another successful one.——————
Jonathon Zenk is a writer for PackersTalk.com. He is a huge Packers fan, and a graduate of The University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. You can follow Jonathon on Twitter at @jzenk42