The future of Nick Perry might be the toughest decision the Green Bay Packers have to make in free agency this offseason.
On the surface it may appear a no-brainer. Perry was far and away the Packers’ best pass rusher in 2016, notching a team-high 11 sacks. You don’t want to let that man leave the building.
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If only it were that simple, however. This decision can’t be based solely on the year just passed, but on all five Perry has played at Lambeau Field. In a career plagued by injuries, the former first-round pick drew the “bust” tag by many as the Packers handed him a one-year “prove it” deal a year ago.
Finally (somewhat) healthy, Perry put together the best season of his career. And given the lack of a pass rush without him, can the Packers afford to allow a player with double-digit sacks walk? With Julius Peppers also expected to depart, Green Bay would be left with close to nothing alongside Clay Matthews, who himself appeared to regress in 2016.
There is young Kyler Fackrell, the Packers’ third-round draft pick last spring, but he will need to make a significant second-year jump to make any kind of consistent impact.
So again, re-signing Perry is a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast.
It’s a matter of value. The Packers asked Perry to prove it. And he did. Now the leverage is with the linebacker, who could earn a significant increase in salary by trading his green and gold jersey for one of a sack-hungry franchise with cash to burn.
Sure, the Packers have the cap room to bring him back. Just under $43 million to be exact. But that doesn’t mean it’s right to go wild and give Perry silly money. As we’re seeing with the contract of Randall Cobb, one year’s production may lead to overpaying. His lofty salary certainly wasn’t justified on the field last year. Cobb and Clay Matthews account for the highest cap hit on the roster in 2017 outside of Aaron Rodgers, but neither played like it in 2016.
Re-signing Perry to a lucrative long-term deal would bring with it equal risk of a similar disappointment. What if he gets hurt again? What if 2016 was simply an anomaly in an otherwise underwhelming career?
But on the flip side, what if this past season was a sign of what is to come? You’re only injury prone until you’re not. Who’s to say Perry won’t stay healthy next year and put together and equally, if not more impressive campaign than the one we just saw?
That’s what makes Ted Thompson‘s decision so difficult. Casey Hayward showed Thompson just how big a mistake it was letting him walk a year ago, notching seven interceptions in an outstanding debut season in San Diego. Oh how Green Bay could have done with his help at cornerback.