We’ve arrived at the legal tampering period, otherwise known as free agency frenzy. The Packers, who entered Monday still needing to shed more than $40 million to get under the cap before the start of the new league year, weren’t expected to be big spenders outside of their in-house pending free agents. Several moves were made by the Pack on the opening day of free agency frenzy, leaving fans a clearer sense of what the team needs to address going forward. These are the Packers’ needs after free agency day 1.
Expectedly, edge rusher and team captain Za’Darius Smith was released Monday afternoon, shedding $15.2M in cap space. The move came just hours after his partner in crime, Preston Smith, inked a four-year, $52M extension. Preston’s extension allowed the Packers to restructure his salary in 2022, clearing $4M in cap space as a result.
Shortly after Za’Darius was released, Billy Turner, the versatile tackle, was released, opening up $4.2M in space. Turner, although valued by the team and fans, was simply a cap casualty that had been rumoured to be playing his last season with the team throughout 2021.
Monday’s moves still leave the Packers more than $20M over the team’s $215.4M salary cap, but should not concern fans as extensions for Aaron Rodgers, and possibly Davante Adams are on the horizon, which should both provide the team with enough flexibility to get under the cap in 2022.
Amid the frenzy, reports broke that All-Pro cornerback Rasul Douglas was expected to re-sign with the team, though nothing was confirmed and Douglas’ cryptic tweet didn’t support the notion that he was returning to Titletown.
The Packers are now left with several needs they must address.
Turner’s departure was expected but now that he’s gone, it’s clear the Packers need someone to protect Rodgers’ arm side.
Yosh Nijman, who filled in admirably at left tackle in 2021 while the team awaited David Bakhtiari’s return, is thought to be the best candidate to fill that role. But for a team that’s “all in,” Nijman protecting the league’s most valuable player isn’t the best option.
Elgton Jenkins would be the easy choice to slide over to bookend the line but his timetable is unclear as he rehabs his torn ACL.
In the meantime, another veteran signing, similar to the Dennis Kelly last offseason, could make a lot of sense to battle for the starting job in August.
Is this really a need? Not a dire one by any stretch of the imagination.
The Packers are well off with Jaire Alexander and Eric Stokes, as things stand. But adding Rasul Douglas back in the mix could make for one of the best secondaries in the league.
Without Douglas’ return, the team could have a hole at its third cornerback spot, unless they believe in one of their young players, like Shemar Jean-Charles, to make a leap.
Another need that has dwindled slightly with the extension of Preston Smith.
The Packers now have Rashan Gary and Preston as a pass-rushing tandem but with exits from Za’Darius and Whitney Mercilus, the position isn’t as deep as it was last season.
The team should be in play for a lower-tier veteran rusher this week to add some depth to the rotation.
This position might’ve been the team’s top need a week ago, then Adams was franchise tagged.
It then became a middle-of-the-pack need, until reports surfaced that Adams is refusing to play on the tag. Now the potential of an Adams trade — although seemingly unlikely, given Rodgers’ commitment to the team — is on the table.
Randall Cobb appears to be returning in 2022, assuming he takes a pay cut, and Allen Lazard is expected to be tendered, as well.
The wide receiver position may be the weirdest position on the roster, as it stands, but it’s fair to say every fan would be happy to bring on another pass-catcher this week.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.