2017 NFL Free Agency: 5 Bold Predictions for Green Bay Packers
Expected to be significant players during 2017 NFL free agency, the Green Bay Packers could make some “bold” splashes when the new league year begins.
Believe it or not, the Green Bay Packers are expected to be busy when 2017 NFL Free Agency gets under way. The team has typically shied away from making big moves in the past, but appears willing to spend some money on external talent this offseason.
Luckily for them, there’s plenty of playmaking ability to be had in 2017. It also helps that Green Bay should sport some serious spending power in the next month or so, as Spotrac.com has them with about $43 million available right now.
However, the free agency period is about more than just signing new talent. It’s also about re-signing pending free agents as well as making difficult financial decisions with players still under contract. Unfortunately for the Packers, there are several tough calls they must make in the next couple of weeks.
With that in mind, I’ve put together this list of “bold” predictions for the Packers’ upcoming efforts during 2017 NFL free agency. Keep in mind these are meant to push the limits of logic—these aren’t predictions I’m guaranteeing will come to fruition.
5. Packers Fail to Re-Sign T.J. Lang
At the end of the season, it seemed nearly guaranteed T.J. Lang would be returning to Wisconsin. However, at this point, it’s not so certain. In fact, according to Lang, he hasn’t even heard from the Packers about a new contract with free agency only two weeks away.
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Despite battling some injuries, Lang had an outstanding 2016 campaign as the Packers’ starting right guard. He was his usual reliable self, dominating as both a run blocker and pass protector. It seems obvious why Green Bay would want him back, but it’s also clear that other teams could be interested in his services.
Even with his deep ties to the franchise, I’m predicting Lang will be underwhelmed by the Packers’ effort to re-sign him. When a couple more teams come calling with big offers, he’ll opt to supplant his life and take his talents elsewhere.
It’ll be a big blow for Green Bay. They’ve relied on Lang for the last eight seasons to be an integral part of their front five. Unfortunately, their lack of interest in getting a deal done will prove costly.
Keeping the offensive line intact should be a top priority for the Packers this offseason. However, in the case of Lang, playing the waiting game won’t pan out. Especially with so many offensive line-needy teams out there, the veteran will be a hot commodity.
4. T.J. Lang Replaced by Larry Warford
With Lang gone, the Packers have to find an alternative at right guard. However, with Don Barclay also a free agent, the internal options are limited. They could give sophomores Jason Spriggs or Kyle Murphy a shot, but finding a proven replacement makes the most sense. So why not steal one from a divisional foe? That way, they upgrade their roster while taking a starter away from an opponent they have to face twice each year.
Put simply, signing Larry Warford would be an excellent move for Green Bay. Not only would he fill the position vacated by Lang, but he’d take a plus starter away from the Detroit Lions’ front five. It seems like a huge win for a Packers team that barely won the division in 2016.
Warford isn’t going to be cheap, especially considering the aforementioned lack of offensive line talent this offseason. The Lions should make a strong push to re-sign him, and other teams should enter the mix as well. He’s expected to test the market (via Detroitlions.com), so look for Warford to receive significant interest.
The Packers have plenty of cap space this offseason, so why not spend it? Hurting Detroit in the process is just icing on the cake.
3. Clay Matthews is Shockingly Shown the Door
Despite heading into the new league year with significant cap space, the Packers have some tough decisions to make. Especially if they’re going to make the next big move I’m about to predict, Green Bay is going to have to cut some top players. In this instance, I’m talking about Clay Matthews. It seems crazy on the surface, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.
Set to count over $15 million against the cap, Matthews is going to have to take a pay cut to stay in Green Bay. However, my prediction assumes he isn’t too fond of the idea. So instead of reducing his cap hit, Matthews scoffs at the Packers’ proposal and gets shown the door. It’s not ideal, but we all know the NFL is a business.
Over the last two years, Matthews’ effectiveness has plummeted. He went from an All-Pro talent to a liability on defense. It hasn’t been pretty watching the commencement of his decline, but it’s happening. As a result, it’s become crystal clear that he’s nowhere near worth $15 million heading into 2017.
So the Packers cut the cord. Fans won’t be happy, and neither will folks inside the locker room. At the end of the day, though, Green Bay has to make the decisions that are best for the financial and on-field stability of this franchise. Matthews simply isn’t worth keeping around at that price.
2. Packers Find a Way to Sign A.J. Bouye
One of the Packers’ biggest areas of concern this offseason is cornerback. They’ve already severed ties with Sam Shields, which leaves Damarious Randall, Ladarius Gunter and Quinten Rollins as the top options at the position.
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That’s not the worst situation for an NFL team to be in, but it definitely needs to get better before Week 1. Instead of settling for some cheap option on the open market or hoping a high draft pick pans out, the Packers need to find themselves a proven playmaker. Hence, the prediction that they go out and secure the top cornerback of the 2017 free agency class. And what an addition A.J. Bouye would be for the Green Bay secondary.
The Houston Texans’ breakout star of 2016 is set to sign a massive deal this offseason. While the Packers have always focused on building through the draft, they appear willing to spend a bit on other teams’ talents this offseason. So why not go for broke and nab Bouye?
The former undrafted free agent proved he can be a shutdown cornerback in 2016. He played a key part in helping the Texans field the NFL’s best defense. It’s safe to assume he’d have a similar impact with the Packers. Especially after parting ways with Matthews, Green Bay would have more than enough spending power to outbid other potential suitors.
1. Randall Cobb Gets Traded to Oakland Raiders
With the beginning of the new league year comes the ability to make trades. That leads me to my final “bold” prediction for the Packers, which includes one of the team’s most exciting offensive weapons being shipped away.
Right now, the Green Bay roster is loaded with wide receiver talent. We were reminded of how elite Jordy Nelson can be in 2016, and Davante Adams continued to emerge as a reliable playmaker. We also saw Geronimo Allison outperform his status as an undrafted rookie, and there’s significant potential in Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis.
Where does that leave Randall Cobb, who many see as a candidate for a pay cut? The Packers likely aren’t happy to be paying him $8.6 million in 2017, and may look for a way to avoid doing so. If talks about a pay cut fail, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tested his trade value. Enter the Oakland Raiders, who have an abundance of cap space and a need for a No. 3 receiver.
Oakland already possesses one of the NFL’s top passing games, but needs more depth at wide receiver behind stars Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Adding a dynamic weapon like Cobb would be a safe bet, even after two relatively down years from the former college quarterback.
Cobb would likely be better than anything the Raiders can get on the open market. Even if he stays at his current salary, Oakland has the cap space to make it work. Then, Cobb wouldn’t be expected to carry as much of the load but would be a similar situation—catching passes from a star quarterback alongside star receivers.
It’s another move Green Bay fans would hate. Bold predictions don’t aim to please, though.