Once again, the Green Bay Packers extended their star left tackle David Bakhtiari before the team faced the Jacksonville Jaguars, this time making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL. Nice.
By extending Bakhtiari and Kenny Clark earlier in the year, the Packers have taken care of their most important pending pieces on both sides of the ball. Details are still coming out on Bakhtiari’s deal, but it appears it gives the team flexibility on how to deal with their remaining free agents. The chaotic offseason of 2020 lingers over to 2021, where the cap limit is likely to go down. With that knowledge and more impactful players on expiring deals, what might the Green Bay Packers do next?
The Packers still must consider how to move forward with Corey Linsley, Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Kevin King, as well as a few other players with cheaper contracts and any free agents they’d be interested in this offseason.
Corey Linsley is probably having the best year of his career and is a staple of the offensive line continuity this season. His chemistry with Rodgers and his work in the run game are hard to replicate. Yet third contracts are rare in Green Bay, and the Packers just gave one to a different offensive lineman. Of all the remaining expiring contracts, Linsley should be the priority, but the cost, as well as the ability of Elgton Jenkins and Lucas Patrick to play at center, may mean they let Linsley walk.
Everyone has an opinion on running back contracts, and most of the high-paid running back deals don’t age well. That complicates matters for Aaron Jones. Jones is one of the most dynamic players on the offense and the team isn’t the same when he isn’t on the field. But he comes from a deep running back draft class where most received monstrous contacts this year. Jones deserves the same treatment, but it seems unlikely he’ll be able to get that in Green Bay. Ideally, the team could come up with an acceptable, team-friendly contract, but Jones has earned the star money he may find elsewhere.
The team’s #2 back, Jamaal Williams, might be an easier sign if Jones walks. Williams is a tough runner who improved every season. This year, he’s taken a true leap as a receiver. From a financial standpoint, he’s likely easier to keep around. I’d love to keep Jones, but a Williams/AJ Dillon backfield is a lovely consolation prize if it comes down to it. Regardless, the chance of both remaining on the team seems low.
Kevin King is an interesting case. With unfortunate injuries, King has played less than half of the available games since joining the Packers. In his absence, Josh Jackson has played admirably, giving the Packers defense some comfort. King may see less potential money in free agency, especially with this lower-cap offseason, and may be easier to resign, even if he tests the market first.
Gutekunst’s recent statements hint at a way to take advantage of the odd upcoming offseason. With lower cap space available to all teams, veterans looking for a new home or a prove-it deal may need to settle for less. It could be easier than other years to get solid veterans for a lower market price to fill any necessary gaps. If he feels confident he can replace the above players with cheaper veterans and the upcoming draft class, it would be hard to blame him.
The team can also create wiggle room by releasing a few other players as well. Should they decide to release Preston Smith, for example, they have much more freedom.
Russ Ball and Brian Gutekunst know a lot more about the NFL and basic finances than I do. They clearly have a plan for the team no matter who stays and who goes. I’d love to keep as many of these guys as possible, especially Linsley, but there’s a reason I’m not running the team.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.