Packers Free Agent Outlook with Everyone’s Favorite Mountain Climber
What’s better than smashing two of my most beloved past times together for a fun what-if situation? Nothing. Nothing is better. My childhood sick days were spent waiting, just waiting for 10 am to roll around and Bob Barker and his skinny mic to hit the screen. My Sundays, on the couch or at Lambeau watching the greatest franchise in the NFL play. There were many iconic games on The Price Is Right, but weirdly two fan favorites relate closely to the NFL offseason.
Plinko = the NFL draft
I’m sure I would prepare like Barney Stinson in the epic episode of How I Met your Mother. Practice, research, practice and more research of consumer goods to nail my time in the spotlight (think scouting reports, analytics guys, big boards, etc). Then comes the big moment.
“Nick M. come on down, you’re the next contestant on The Price is Right,” Rod screams.
Obviously, I win his and hers matching bags by bidding $1 against these pack of idiots who think they retail for 10k each. I get on stage standing next to the man himself (Packers are on the clock). Next thing I know the Plinko board is revealed to a screaming crowd. I climb that ladder pick my spot. My aim is true and I drop my plastic hockey puck the same way I have the last 4 months in my garage. But it hits a peg, then another and another and suddenly…I have no control.
I could hit the $10k mark on all of my five drops. Like getting Tom Brady in the 6th round or Rodgers with the 23rd pick. Or I could hit the zeros that were sooo close to the money. Like Justin Harrell or Tony Mandrich.
Cliff Hanger = Free agency
The reason we’re here is that damn yodeling mountain climber. This guy perfectly encapsulates free agency. The top of that peak is the salary cap. The consumer goods that need to perfectly add up to hit a goal, free agents and impending draft picks. So, let’s get back to that day dream of mine standing next to Bob, but this time a yodeling mountain climber in a Packer helmet is the game that appears.
*Note: this game does not take any contract extensions for players currently under contract through the 2020 season into consideration. The Packers may agree to an extension for some guys (ahem, Kenny Clark) making the numbers a little messier.*
Bob Barker: “Nick, congratulations on making it this far. You’ll be playing Cliff Hanger for a chance at a Green Bay Packers Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl LV! Are you ready?”
Nick: “Yes Bob, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment.”
Bob: “Um, ok.” Rolls eyes. “Let’s play. Here are the rules. We’ll be using data from various sources to calculate player values and cap space. Your Green Bay Packers have $35.575 in cap space beginning in March 2020. You can sign your own free agents or bring in outsiders. To start you’re permitted to drop one player currently under contract to open up more space. Ready, let’s get started.”
Nick: “Oh, man. This is a tough choice. Who should I let go? Really tough one here. Kidding Bob. Release Jimmy Graham.”
Bob: “Good choice Nick, your goal is new $43.575. But your team likes to keep about $6 million in rollover cap space and you need to save about $3 million for draft prospects. Let’s reset your target.”
Nick: *face goes into hands*
Bob: “Alright Nick, with those adjustments, your new target is $34.575.”
Nick: “OK Bob, I’d like to begin by signing some of our guys back. I’ll take Bulaga, Crosby, Vitale, Lewis and Fackrell.”
Bob: “Let’s tally up your choices:
Bulaga: $8 million
Crosby: $3 million
Vitale: $1 million
Lewis: $2.5 million
Fackrell: $2.5 million
Total: $17 million
That’s quite a chunk. Start the climber…Up, up up he goes. He stops at $17 million meaning you have $17.575 remaining. Remember, your roll over cap for 2021 and draft pick money have already been calculated. Now it gets interesting. Who will you bring in?”
Nick: “Bob, it’s no secret. Aaron needed more weapons. Davonte can’t do this on his own and if we’re being honest Lazard is a number 3 at best, Kumerow is serviceable but keeps a spot because of special teams talent. Davante played more in the slot than I would like to see. He needs to be on the outside. Robby Anderson needs to get out of that mono-having, little-brother, stadium sharing, defunct organization in New York. His 6’3” 190 lb frame partnered with his 4.36 40 time makes him the perfect option for YAC opportunities and to open up the top of the defense. He only had 700 some yards last year, but he had either Sam Darnold or a third stringer throwing to him, not to mention a crazy eyed head coach. Give me Robby Anderson in a Packers uniform next year.”
Bob: “We just need the player’s name, Nick. He’s likely to have a salary of $11.4 million. That brings our mountaineer up to $28.4 million leaving you just $6.175 million.”
Bob: “This is a family show. We’re running out of time. Who’s your next pick?”
Nick: “Bob, did you watch the Packers this season. They couldn’t cover the middle of the field and had trouble stopping the run. We also need a tight end that can spread the field like Kelsey or Kittle. I need to address those.”
Bob: “Nick, we’re running out of time and you know you don’t have the money to address all of that.”
Nick: “Well Bob, I’m no expert but there’s a lot on the line. I mentioned earlier that Rodgers needs weapons. We had to part ways with Graham, so that means we still have a hole at tight end. I’m going to take Austin Hooper from the Falcons. Last year he had 75 catches for 787 yards and 6 touchdowns. I don’t think we’ll find that production in the draft. Plus, Hooper spent his rookie season in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, so there’s a degree of familiarity. The tight end position has been a glaring weakness since Jermichael Finley’s career-ending injury. The Packers spent big on defence the last offseason and I expect them to do the same on the offensive side of the ball this year.”
Bob: “Ok, Nick, this will likely be your last pick. Let’s see where Spotrac predicts Hooper’s value…$9.9 million per year. Get climbing!”
Bob: “To bad Nick, to bad. Your GM will have to get creative with signing bonuses and contract details to make those two moves work. Sorry. We’ll see you at the big wheel.”
Nick: “BUT BOB, WAIT. I still need to address defensive line, inside linebacker and offensive line depth. I need more money!!”
Bob: “Sorry, Nick. I don’t set the cap. You’ll have to take your chances in the draft.”
Nick: “BUT BOB, DIDN’T YOU SEE MY PLINKO ANALOGY.”
Did you make it through the cliff hanger game? If you’re a Packers fan expecting to see huge names being brought into the Packers fold again, I sure hope so. I took you along on this dream of mine (to meet Bob Barker on the set of Price is Right) to illustrate the fact that we just can’t expect a huge free agency splash. The space just isn’t there to address all of the needs. Gutety is going to need to get creative with his cap room and available players while keeping key pieces to the success in 2019. Given the cap space, where would you spend the most, tight end, wide out, inside linebacker, somewhere else? Would you sign a top-tier wide out knowing what it would do to the Packers cap space?
——————Nick Meisner was baptized in a church of green and gold clad parishioners and grew up in the literal shadows of Lambeau Field. Needless to say, he has been a Packers fan for life. He writes for PackersTalk.com when his wife and two daughters are asleep and with a Miller Lite within arms reach. You can follow Nick on twitter at @nicmeis.