2017 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Green Bay Packers 5 Biggest Moves

Clay Matthews Green Bay Packers

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Based on these predictions, 2017 NFL Free Agency could be a very busy time for the Green Bay Packers as they look to remain ‘contenders.’

It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Green Bay Packers. They have a number of difficult decisions to make, especially when it comes to several of their overpaid players. The fact that they want to make more noise during 2017 NFL Free Agency also adds some intrigue to the equation.

So what can we expect the Packers to do in the coming months? No one can know for sure, but speculation is warranted and welcomed at this point in the offseason.

We’ve got about a month before free agency gets under way, at which point Green Bay will need to have figured out what they’re doing with their own expiring contracts. They’ll also likely have made cap casualties out a few players, like they did to James Starks on Tuesday.

Whatever happens between now and then, though, I can assure you it’ll be a more eventful offseason than you’re used to from the Packers. This franchise knows a lot needs to happen to bring back the magic that occurred during the second half of their 2016 campaign. That’s going to involve some serious maneuvering before and during 2017 NFL Free Agency.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at my predictions for five moves the Packers will make in the next few weeks.

Nick Perry Green Bay Packers

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5. Packers Re-Sign Nick Perry

Last offseason, the Packers brought back Nick Perry on a one-year, “prove it” deal. Luckily for Green Bay, the former first-round pick did nothing but prove himself throughout the 2016 campaign.

Now set to enter free agency again, it’s expected the Packers will at least attempt to re-sign Perry. Based on the way he played this past season, it would be in the team’s best interest to keep this home-grown talent under contract for the foreseeable future.

Perry is coming off a breakout season during which he amassed 11 sacks in 14 appearances. It took longer than the Packers would have liked, but it appears he’s finally hit his stride as an impact edge rusher. Now it’s time to reward his efforts in 2016 with a big-time contract that keeps him in Green Bay for at least a few more years.

Especially with Julius Peppers a free agent and Clay Matthews a potential cap casualty, the Packers need to secure someone who can rush the passer. As we saw this past season, Perry is more than capable of getting the job done. It’s not going to be cheap, but I’m predicting Green Bay finds a way to lock down Perry before he hits the open market.

Sam Shields Green Bay Packers

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4. Packers Sever Ties With Sam Shields

While the Packers aren’t currently facing a horrible salary cap situation, they could afford to make some more room heading into 2017. One of the top ways to do so would be to cut the cord with veteran cornerback Sam Shields.

For the majority of his career, Shields has been an outstanding starter in Green Bay. However, in recent years, concussions have taken a significant toll on his availability and effectiveness. He missed all but one game during 2016 campaign after suffering his fifth career concussion.

To make matters worse, Shields still hasn’t been cleared (via Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Ryan Wood). He reportedly continues to deal with headaches, and may opt to call it a career. Even if that isn’t the case, the Packers seem poised to move on.

Shields is currently set to count over $11.6 million against the cap in 2017. However, if Green Bay decides to cut him loose, they’d be saving $8.5 in cap space. Seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s been a great run for Shields, who may still have something left in the tank. With that cap hit and uncertain future, though, the veteran cornerback appears to be on his way out.

Jared Cook Green Bay Packers

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3. Packers Re-Sign Jared Cook

For most of the 2016 season, Jared Cook was an afterthought in the Packers passing game. He was Green Bay’s fifth leading receiver, and tied Richard Rodgers for the most receptions among tight ends. Heck, he only managed one regular-season trip to the end zone.

Then, during the playoffs, he stepped his game up. Suddenly, he was a reliable target for Aaron Rodgers, hauling in 18 passes in two postseason games—compared to 30 catches in 10 regular-season appearances. It was like a night-and-day difference. Now, it appears the Packers are invested in bringing him back for another go-around. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, re-signing Cook is one of the team’s top priorities this offseason.

So here I am–predicting he’ll be re-signed. It’s certainly not a bold prediction by any means, but it’s still a risky move considering how inconsistent Cook has been throughout his NFL career. The chemistry he showed with Rodgers during the Packers’ playoff run has to be intriguing, though.

Cook will come back, likely with a larger price tag than he deserves. Regardless, he appears to have found a home in Wisconsin, at least for one more year.

Stephon Gilmore Buffalo Bills

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2. Packers Sign Stephon Gilmore

As you’re probably aware of, the Packers are well known for building through the draft. Free agency for this team is more used for adding role players and securing depth at key positions. It’s rare you’ll see Green Bay spend exorbitant amounts of money on a big-name player. That could change this offseason. Rapoport claimed that the Packers are planning on being more aggressive during free agency, and I’m inclined to believe the well-respected reporter.

Assuming that’s the case, I’m predicting Green Bay goes out and signs a star at cornerback. In fact, I’m going as far as saying that a deal gets done between the Packers and Stephon Gilmore, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. It would be an astronomical addition for GM Ted Thompson and this draft-built team.

While I wouldn’t necessarily put Gilmore in the superstar category, he’s an outstanding starter with shutdown-esque skills. He had a relatively down year in 2016, but still possesses the talent to be an integral part of the Green Bay defense. That is, if the Packers can sway him to come to the Midwest.

With some solid cap space and Gilmore’s uncertain value, the Packers could pull this off. They obviously need some significant help on defense, and cornerback is an area of concern. The former top pick can make fans forget all about Shields.

Clay Matthews Green Bay Packers

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1. Packers Show Clay Matthews the Door

Despite coming within a game of the Super Bowl, the Packers could undergo some significant changes this offseason. They’ve got some difficult decisions to make between pending free agents and potential cap casualties. Most of the moves I’ve mentioned already wouldn’t be all that surprising—apart from the Gilmore signing. However, the release of Clay Matthews would come as a serious shock for a number of reasons.

First off, the Packers would be parting with one of their vocal leaders and a true impact player. It would also infuriate fans, who have routinely rallied behind the often-elite talents of Matthews. More than anything, it would cost the Green Bay defense a star who answers the call when the going gets tough.

And yet, here I am predicting that Matthews gets cut. The only reason that happens is due to financials, although the six-time Pro Bowler’s ego will also play a part. The Packers will ask him to take a pay cut, and he’ll refuse. Instead of keeping him and his $15.075 million cap hit on the roster, they painfully sever ties.

It won’t go over well. The Green Bay faithful will be up in arms over the move. But, when all is said and done, this is a business. The Packers can’t afford to spend that much money on the fading talents of Matthews.

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