After reading Tom Silverstein's article at jsonline.com, I see I was mistaken with OG Mike Wahle's free agency. His contract isn't expiring, but his cap number is $11 million next season, which is far too high and intended to force the Packers to release him. It doesn't seem possible that the Packers could use their franchise tag on Wahle. That's too bad, because it would really surprise me if Wahle doesn't sign a contract with a signing bonus over $10 million next season to start at left tackle for some other team.
The rest of Silverstein's article is very good too and does a great job of setting up the next four weeks for the Packers front office. Silverstein does put too much emphasis on retaining LB Hannibal Navies, who rarely made plays last season, and took a big step back from his solid 2003 season. OG Marco Rivera is a priority for next season, but how many seasons will he play at a Pro Bowl level? His knees have taken a pounding over the last few seasons and he didn't seem to play as well in 2004 as past seasons. If his contract demands are to be paid like as one of the highest paid offensive guards in the NFL, which they should be, then the Packers might be better off in the long run to let him go. Although it would be harder to convince QB Brett Favre to return without Rivera and Wahle back on the offensive line. Rivera's return is a not an easy decision.
TE Bubba Franks was tagged as the Packers franchise player, as multiple sources reported. It makes some sense to let Franks go out and price himself in the marketplace, then if some team offers Franks a reasonable contract, the Packers can easily match it. It probably depends on whether a team with cap space really wants to upgrade their tight end position this offseason; it would easy to write a contract that the Packers can't afford to match and they have to let Franks go for no compensation.
If the Packers think FS Darren Sharper would accept a pay cut, then they must be crazy. Unless Sharper's loyalty to the Packers is beyond my imagination, if Sharper is a free agent this offseason, then he would find a team willing to pay him a multi-million dollar signing bonus on a long term contract. If the Packers want to reduce Sharper's salary cap figure and keep him, then they have to offer him some guaranteed money and an extension. This can often lead to salary cap jail in the future if you do this with too many players, but Sharper can still play at a high level for a few more seasons and be worth the dollars in future seasons.
Overall this is a tough first offseason for Ted Thompson. It would be more difficult to rebound next season with the losses of Rivera, Wahle, Franks, and Sharper (assuming Favre returns). Favre's departure would change every other decision in the offseason.