Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Packers 2014 Free Agents: The Class of 19

The Packers have 19 free agents of their own to address this offseason, although many of them will be an easy decision. The three players who are either restricted or exclusive rights free agents (which really means they aren't free agents at all) will certainly be back at a small price, and several unrestricted free agents should be considered questionable to return under any circumstances.
Exclusive rights: S Chris Banjo. He was a pleasant surprise in training camp, but he didn't show much on defense when he was given the chance to replace S Jerron McMillian. He'll probably be re-signed because of his play on special teams but he's not a legitimate option on defense.

Restricted: S M.D. Jennings. If Jennings is the starter in 2014, then I'll feel like the offseason was a failure. He didn't make any big plays last season and he had the lowest grade in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus of any defender who was with the team at the end of last season. However, he's certain to return because no team should offer him a contract and the Packers might as well bring him back to push his replacement. He'll receive the minimum tender and provide some depth, at least during the preseason.

LB Jamari Lattimore. He was their best middle linebacker last season, but that was a low bar for him to clear because of down years by A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones. However, Pro Football Focus didn't give him a positive grade in either run defense or pass coverage, so it's not obvious he's the answer to their defensive problems either. He might receive a higher tender offer because he was an undrafted player. If they offered the minimum tender then there would be no draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere. But contracts are very rarely even offered to restricted free agents, so the chances are low that he'll receive one of any sort from another team.

Unrestricted: TE Jermichael Finley, LB Robert Francois, and DE Johnny Jolly. With all three coming off serious season ending injuries, I'm not expecting these players to receive much interest from any team. Finley's recovering from recent spinal fusion surgery, Francois tore his achilles back in October, and Jolly might need neck surgery. I know Finley was very optimistic in recent radio interviews, but that doesn't mean much. They'll either be let go because of their injury concerns or they'll be re-signed for a low amount.

QB Seneca Wallace. He was only signed because of the disastrous Battle of the Backups last preseason, and he was awful himself when he replaced Aaron Rodgers. He's a good guy but I can't imagine he'll be brought back.

QB Matt Flynn. I'm sure most fans would like to see him re-signed, but the Packers don't have to make a big push for him. He's been on the roster of four different NFL teams in the past 12 months and fallen into the journeyman portion of his career. While he's valuable to the Packers, every other NFL team has probably figured out that he's not the answer to their problems. Hopefully he's re-signed in late March, early April, at the veteran's minimum.

DE C.J. Wilson. He didn't have a terrible season, but it's a very bad sign that he couldn't get any playing time (only 108 snaps last season) when the defensive line was a train wreck. He fell on the depth chart behind the equally unimpressive Josh Boyd, so I don't see why the Packers would want him back in 2014. There's plenty of similar players in the undrafted free agent pool, so I'd expect them to add depth through the rookie class instead of re-signing him.

Those six unrestricted free agents are the easy choices. If they return, and it's questionable whether they should even be brought back in the first place, it'll only be for the veteran's minimum or something loaded with playing time incentives. That leaves ten other unrestricted free agents who could or should be brought back and I'll write about them over the next couple weeks.

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