The Green Bay Packers have plenty of big-name free agents to worry about this season, but two players appear to stand head and shoulders above the rest: edge rusher Nick Perry and Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang. Both face some injury concerns coming out of the 2016 season, but both are expected to cash in with big-money contracts when the free agent bidding begins on March 9th.
On Wednesday at the Scouting Combine, their head coach, Mike McCarthy, had words of praise for both players. McCarthy also expressed a desire for both players to return to Green Bay — a standard feeling for him at this time of year with free agent players whose Packers contracts are expiring.
Let’s look first at Perry, who is arguably the top pass-rusher on the market; that would not necessarily have been the case a week ago, but now that three top players have received Franchise Tags — Chandler Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Melvin Ingram — Perry could tempt an NFL team to give him a massive contract.
If a team does so, they would be getting someone whom his current head coach calls a “hell of a football player.” McCarthy was effusive in his praise of Perry for a few minutes during his press conference on Wednesday. “He’s a powerful man,” McCarthy said, adding “I have a lot of love for Nick and what he’s gone through because those first couple years it was frustrating just to watch him go through those injuries.” He also mentioned how Perry fought through yet another significant injury, this time to his hand.
Still, McCarthy sees Perry as “one of our guys,” and said that “hopefully we can get his contract worked out.” That contract will likely be large, however; Spotrac’s initial estimate put Perry around $8.5 million per season, a number that could increase due to the salary cap jump to $167 million and the scarcity of edge rushers in free agency.
Switching to the other side of the football, McCarthy was praising guard T.J. Lang for his toughness and contributions as well, and expressed hope that he too will return next season. “He’s as fine as an offensive linemen that I’ve had the opportunity to coach in 20 years in this league,” McCarthy said, after acknowledging the injury that Lang suffered in the NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons.
The injury could keep Lang out of a portion or all of summer practices, regardless of where he lands in the next few weeks. McCarthy’s comments indicated that Lang is in “rehab mode” but that the Pro Bowler is unlikely to do any on-field work before the start of training camp.
That appears to be fine with Lang, though:
Went thru this last year and was voted to my first pro bowl.. No worries over here! https://t.co/l2Jn58gZTZ— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) March 1, 2017
McCarthy appeared to share that confidence in Lang’s ability to bounce back, as well: “Nothing in the last game changes my mind about T.J. Lang.”
Like Perry, McCarthy “hopes” to get Lang back for next season, and when asked how he might adjust if Lang is not around, declined to go into “hypotheticals”, instead going a step farther: “I’m counting on T.J. to come back.” However, one report from Cecil Lammey of Footballguys.com suggests that the Packers aren’t the front-runners to sign Lang, and instead that the Vikings and Broncos are currently the leaders.
One thing is sure: if the Packers are indeed able to bring back either Lang or Perry, they will have to pony up some serious cash to do it. McCarthy appears to be in favor of it in both cases, but those decisions will be left up to Ted Thompson and the personnel department.