Up until today, no big Packers’ free agent has been signed. Last year, when Ted Thompson was still the man in charge, Corey Linsley and Davante Adams – the two biggest Packers’ free agents at this time – had already signed their new deals. Thompson wanted to tie them to the organization before they could test their value on the free market. For now it seems like Brian Gutekunst doesn’t want to travel the same road with this year’s free agents, although some big names are up in the air: Clay Matthews, the second-highest paid player on the roster, as well as Randall Cobb (7th highest player) don’t work for the Packers any longer. In contrary to Adams and Linsley, who got the second contract of their playing career, they are up for a third contract – a rarity in Green Bay.
But more important is the difference in their respective careers: Adams and Linsley were both up-and-coming players and a vital part of the offense, and Cobb’s and Matthews’ careers are declining. Randall Cobb’s stats were not the best of his career (383 yards, 2 TDs), but he’s still seen as an important part of the wide receiver corps – at least by his quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who made a lot of positive comments about Cobb and hugged him publicly before the last game in Detroit, a picture that went viral on Packers twitter. Spotrac.com calculates his market value at about $8M, which is a lot of money and highly unlikely to be paid by Gutekunst.
Clay Matthews (43 tackles, 3.5 sacks) didn’t have a great season statistic-wise either. His 3.5 sacks were the worst number of his career and you’d have to look back until 2014 (11) to get a two-digit number of sacks. He’s still a dynamic player and can cause some trouble up front, but it’s obvious offenses don’t prepare for him the same way they did five years ago.
What can you make of the situation? It’s obvious that neither Cobb nor Matthews will get as much money as they got with their last deals: $40M (in four years) for Cobb and $66M (in five years) for Matthews. Both will dip their toes in free agency and with the receiver situation around the league, it’s reasonable to think that Randall Cobb won’t be back in Green Bay when the season starts in September. Brian Gutekunst will probably offer him a little more than minimum money for a veteran with his experience ($930k), but it is very much more likely we will have another experienced receiver leaving the Packers after Jordy Nelson’s departure less than a year ago in a similar situation.
While the most dynamic edge rushers are handed out the big money (just look at Khalil Mack, who signed a 6-year, $141M, contract with the Bears this offseason), Matthews is not in the top tier. His experience of ten years in the NFL qualifies him for a $1.03M veteran minimum contract and if he gets an offer by the Packers, it won’t be much more than that. Nowhere in the NFL he’ll get anything close to the $13.2M average he got with his last contract and if he can get a team paying him $5M a year, he’ll be lucky. But if not, the Packers could re-sign him and get him back to Lombardi Ave. 1265 for a drastically reduced number.
It’s likely that both Cobb and Matthews won’t be back for another season of Packers’ football, but it’s not impossible that they’ll play another season or two under LaFleur and Pettine in Green Bay. Pettine Although some fans don’t want to see them back, they still can offer a lot to the team, and if it’s only their experience. Now Brian Gutekunst has to decide whether he wants them back and how much money he wants to spend on them. With the outside linebackers being the biggest need on the roster, it’s more likely that Gutekunst will bring back Matthews on a reduced deal than Randall Cobb, who enters an (over-)heated receiver market and could make a lot of money on a new deal. If both of them don’t get what they want in Free Agency and Gutekunst offers them a deal anywhere close to the number they would get on the open market, they could very well take it and be back for another season of Packers football.Max Sachs is an international Packers fan from Germany. As a part of the Packers Germany, he tries to convince everyone around him to cheer for the greatest franchise on earth - or to start with, for American football in general. You can find him on Twitter @KaesekopfDE (the german translation for cheesehead).