The Green Bay Packers struggled through much of the 2017 season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s season-ending injury proved to be only part of the problem. With Rodgers out of the lineup, other weaknesses on the roster slowly exposed themselves. The deeper problem with the Packers stems from their current payroll, making the upcoming NFL free agency period a bit intimidating.
According to Spotrac.com, Green Bay enters free agency with close to $16.5 million available. They don’t have much flexibility to reel in a big name free agent. Instead, the Packers will likely focus on the draft to fill most of their holes while adding a couple solid free agent pickups.
Here’s a look at their current situation:
Current Salary Cap Space: $16,497,123
Current Free Agents: SS Morgan Burnett, OLB Ahmad Brooks, CB Davon House, G Jahri Evans, LS Brett Goode, DT Quinton Dial, TE Richard Rodgers, LT Ulrick John, CB Demetri Goodson, WR Jeff Janis
Top Five Targets:
5. RG Brandon Fusco
The right side of Green Bay’s offensive line has several question marks. Former San Francisco 49ers right guard could be a solid pickup for the Packers to help address those concerns for an affordable price. The 29-year-old Fusco is coming off one of his better seasons and could be enticed to head back to a division he knows well. Again, the thinking is cheap here. Green Bay can ill-afford to pay big money for a higher profile guard.
4. TE Tyler Eifert
Green Bay has several needs and little money to work with, which makes signing former Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert almost a pipe-dream. However, it all depends on what the Packers are planning for both free agency and the draft. Spotrac lists Eifert’s market value a $7.6 million per season, which would fairly affordable in other seasons. Eifert has never quite lived up to his potential, but a change of scenery could do him some good. Signing Eifert would be a major boon for an offense that has struggled at the tight end position for years.
Overall, the salary cap will limit the Packers during free agency. The odds are good that they will focus on finding most of their solutions in the draft. However, with a little bit of work, the Packers should be able to fix a couple problems before the draft.
3. S Morgan Burnett
Green Bay is in a sort of lose-lose situation with safety Morgan Burnett. In a perfect world, re-signing Burnett is a must. He’s clearly the Packers’ best safety and one of their best defenders overall. At age 29, Burnett is in his prime now and barring a major injury, he should be there for another couple of years. However, he’s nearly priced himself out of Green Bay.
Spotrac estimates his value to be $9.8 million per year, which would essentially kill Green Bay’s salary cap. Perhaps the Packers can work out a hometown deal, or maybe they can backload his contract with more guaranteed money. The math doesn’t work out well for Burnett’s return, but there is something special about playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Chalk this up as one of those “you never know” situations.
2. WR Donte Moncrief
The Packers’ depth at wide receiver showed last season. Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief would likely be an affordable option to help fix that problem. He’s still young (24) and developing, but Moncrief has already performed well when catching passes from an elite quarterback. If teamed with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Moncrief could finally develop into the No. 1 receiver that many experts thought he could be following the 2015 season.
Moncrief struggled without quarterback Andrew Luck in the lineup in 2017. He caught 26 passes for 391 yards and only two touchdowns. That could be a blessing for the Packers. They might just get a flawed, but still developing receiver at an affordable price.
1. CB Aaron Colvin
Former Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Aaron Colvin makes a lot of sense here. He’s been stuck behind two outstanding cornerbacks in Jacksonville, but he’s played well in limited time in the slot. At age 26, there’s plenty of room for him to improve, if given the opportunity. Green Bay represents that opportunity, which is why Colvin continues to be mentioned as a good match.
Colvin recorded 44 tackles and five passes defended in 16 games during the 2017 season. He would give the Packers solid athleticism with man and zone coverage serving as his strengths. The question is whether or not the Packers will be able to afford him when the market settles.