Green Bay Packers 2019 impending free agents primer
FOX Sports Wisconsin
Brian Gutekunst made several big moves in his first year as Green Bay's general manager, including giving Aaron Rodgers a big contract extensions. However, of the 10 unrestricted free agent the Packers had going into the offseason, Gutekunst re-signed just one -- cornerback Davon House. House is back on the market and Gutekunst and the Packers have several other key players who they'll have to make decisions on whether to bring back to Green Bay or not. FOX Sports Wisconsin takes a look at the 13 players set to hit free agency. (Note: free-agent and salary information via OverTheCap.com).
Why the Packers would re-sign him: The one-time unrestricted free agent has had a pivotal role in the offense. He had at least five receptions in three of his five games and when healthy was appearing in roughly three-quarters of the offensive snaps. It's clear he's someone who Rodgers has grown to trust. Plus, he's a restricted free agent, meaning the Packers could match any offer sheet given to Allison.
Why they wouldn't: One of the key words we used above is "when healthy." Allison missed time due a hamstring injury then was lost for the season when he hurt his groin and needed surgery. Can the Packers rely on Allison to play all 16 games, which he's never done? Also, if another team gives Allison a big contract offer, Green Bay might not want to match it and save the cap room for another position, especially since the Packers drafted three wide receivers last year.
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Green Bay has a question mark at right guard (and, really left guard, too). Bell is no superstar, but he's serviceable and can play both guard spots as well as tackle in a pinch. Also, he probably won't command a high salary.
Why they wouldn't: You get what you pay for. Pro Football Focus gave Bell a rating of 47.4, which is below average on its scale, and ranked him the No. 72 guard overall. Bell might be fine as a veteran backup, but Green Bay needs to find a starting upgrade.
2018 cap number: $608,823 (prorated from $790,000)
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Signed in late September after House went on injured reserve, Breeland provided some veteran stability to the secondary. He was solid in his role, had a pick-six against Atlanta and even returned eight kicks for a 21.6-yard average. He's certainly not a bad guy to have around.
Why they wouldn't: Breeland signed a three-year, $24 million deal with Carolina in March -- but then failed his physical. He likely will be looking for similar money this offseason and with the Packers already having three young corners, paying Breeland might be a luxury they can't afford.
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Why the Packers would re-sign him: Brice quietly emerged as a key piece to Green Bay's secondary early in the season. He played every snap in five of the Packers' first six games. The third-year undrafted safety more than doubled his career high in tackles and also recorded his first sack. At worst, he's a nice depth piece to have.
Why they wouldn't: As with Allison, if another team comes calling and offers Brice a lucrative contract, the Packers would be better off spending resources elsewhere.
2018 cap number: $331,765 (prorated from $705,000)
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Claimed off waivers late in the year, Campbell ended up playing in roughly 75 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the final two regular-season games. The former fourth-round pick showed a little something, recording eight tackles in both games. As a restricted free agent, the Packers could keep him around and see how he fits in 2019.
Why they wouldn't: There's of course the usual potential offer sheet as a restricted free agent. Also, Campbell was basically brought in as a depth piece as Green Bay's secondary kept losing pieces to injury (and the trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix). Green Bay was Campbell's third team in 2018 and his fifth in two years. He might just be one of those ships that passes in the night.
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WR Randall Cobb, unrestricted
2018 stats: 9 games (6 starts), 61 targets, 38 catches, 383 receiving yards, 1 TD; 17 punt returns, 6.6 average
2018 cap number: $12,718,750
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Gutekunst and the Packers thought enough of Cobb to not cut him and take a big cap savings last year. Cobb's days of a $12 million salary are likely over, so perhaps he'd come back on a cheap "hometown" discount and see if Matt LaFleuer can find his old spark.
Why they wouldn't: Cobb was limited to nine games due to injuries and hasn't played all 16 games since 2015. His production has also waned. Cobb averaged at least 14 yards per reception in three of his first four years (and in the one he didn't, he still had 954 yards and eight TDs). In the last four seasons, he's averaged 10.5, 10.2, 9.9 and 10.1 yards per catch. He also didn't have a carry in 2018; the first time that's happened in his career and in the previous four years combined averaged just 3.4 yards per rush. It appears he's just not a big playmaker anymore and it's time to move on, no matter the cost.
CB Davon House, unrestricted
2018 stats: 2 games (0 starts), 2 TKL
2018 cap number: $720,000 (prorated from $915,000)
Why the Packers would re-sign him: House was brought back to provide the Packers some depth for their young cornerbacks. A shoulder injury ended his season early and he likely could be had back on the cheap to serve a similar role in 2019.
Why they wouldn't: Even when House was healthy he didn't play much beyond special teams. In his three games, he saw 29 snaps on defense and 50 on special teams. Plus, defensive backs Joe Whitt, who might have been his champion, is now gone.
Why the Packers would re-sign him: You know what you're getting with Kendricks, say, compared to an unproven rookie. He's a solid backup tight end who can step in and start if needed and is going to catch a handful of passes. Kendricks is also durable, having missed only three games in his eight-year career (none with the Packers).
Why they wouldn't: Kendricks' return to the state of Wisconsin hasn't been overwhelming The former Badger had 50 receptions for the Rams in 2016 -- he's had 37 catches combined in two years with Green Bay. While having a veteran might be nice, it could be time to get younger and cheaper at this position. Also, we're not sure how much new coach LaFleur values pass-catching tight ends. No Titans tight end had more than 20 receptions in 2018, but three had 15+.
Why the Packers would re-sign him: We really have no idea other than Gutekunst apparently really likes Lewis based on the contract he gave him, which included $1,050,000 in bonuses (signing, roster and workout).
Why they wouldn't: Lewis appeared in at least one-quarter of the offensive snaps in just two games. And did you see that part where he was targeted four times? Also, he came out and told how Rodgers would ignore Mike McCarthy plays, probably not endearing himself to Packers brass and the QB. Lewis also will be 35 next season. Plus, those four targets for $2 million.
Why the Packers would re-sign him: A first-round pick in 2009, Matthews has had some injury troubles but stayed healthy in 2018 and showed he could still be effective. And Green Bay counted on him, as evidenced by him being on the field for 71.1 percent of the defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus had him above average with a 65.3 rating. He knows the system and would likely have to take a big cut to stay.
Why they wouldn't: Matthews will be 33 next season and is coming off a year when he had a career-low 3.5 sacks and 7 TFL. Who knows how much money Matthews can still command, but a change of scenery might be in the cards regardless, which would be strange after seeing Matthews in the green and gold -- and only the green and gold -- for the past 10 seasons.
S Eddie Pleasant, unrestricted
2018 stats (Packers only): 5 games (1 start), 7 TKL
2018 cap number: $185,294 (prorated from $790,000)
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Signed in late November (he also played one game for Arizona at the end of October), Pleasant was pressed into service quickly, most notably on special teams, but he actually got significant defensive snaps in Weeks 14 and 15. Perhaps the Packers liked what they saw. He could be more cheap, veteran (he played in Houston from 2012-17) depth.
Why they wouldn't: Pleasant just turned 30 and for the role he'd be expected to be in, there are definitely cheaper options than the veteran's minimum it would cost to retain him.
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LB Jake Ryan, unrestricted
2018 stats: Did not play
2018 cap number: $2,021,169
Why the Packers would re-sign him: A former fourth-round pick, Ryan had 70+ tackles in both 2016 and '17. He might have to sign a cheap "prove it" contract after missing the entire 2018. Green Bay could use his production on the inside paired with tackling machine Blake Martinez.
Why they wouldn't: Ryan is coming off a torn ACL. While it came in training camp and he should be full-go for the 2019 season, sometimes it takes even longer for players to be at true full health after suffering such an injury.
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DL Muhammad Wilkerson, unrestricted
2018 stats: 3 games (3 starts), 5 TKL
2018 cap number: $4,887,500
Why the Packers would re-sign him: Wilkerson was one of the Packers' big offseason splashes but was only able to play in three games before an ankle injury shelved him. Mike Pettine, who coached Wilkerson for a couple of years with the Jets, is remaining as defensive coordinator, so that could help. And coming off an injury, Wilkerson could also be looking at a one-year "prove it" deal.
Why they wouldn't: Since recording 28.5 sacks from 2013-15, Wilkerson has eight sacks. In 13 games in 2017 with the Jets he had 3.5 sacks and a career-low 4 TFL. He was with the Packers for only three games, but had no sacks, TFL or QB hits. And the 29-year-old is now coming off a major injury.