Pro Football Focus recently released its 2018 Free Agency Guide, which is chock-full of stats, nuggets, and scouting breakdowns of all the players who are set to hit free agency this offseason.
Among the multitude of analysis and number-crunching for each unrestricted free agent is a notation of the NFL team that PFF feels is the “best fit” for that player. Here’s a discussion of what that means from the Guide:
Each unrestricted free agent has been given an ideal team to land with in free agency. This does not necessarily mean that each of those teams should be pursuing every one of those free agents, but rather that each of those players matches what those teams do from a schematic or stylistic point of view. Salary cap space and roster construction has also been factored in ... and they reflect the most sensible landing spot for each player in isolation.
Here we will look at several of the players whose best fit is with the Green Bay Packers and discuss their potential cost and role on the team if they were to come to an agreement with the team. Today we focus on the offense, and we’ll look at the defense in the coming days.
WR Donte Moncrief
Previous team: Indianapolis Colts
H/W: 6’2”, 216 lbs
Experience: 4 years
Moncrief just narrowly missed the cut for a low-catch-rate but high-YPC player in Paul Noonan’s analysis yesterday. His best season was his second, in 2015, when he caught 63 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns. However, he was much more of a big-play threat in 2017 for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, catching just 26 passes but for a YPC of 15.0.
Adding Moncrief would finally give the Packers a burner on the outside — his 4.40 time in the 40-yard dash at the 2014 Combine is faster than any current Packer receiver’s time. In addition, he almost never lined up in the slot, and would be a logical candidate to stay on the outside opposite Davante Adams while Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb man the inside. Moncrief would fill the biggest need the Packers have in the receiving corps — that of a deep threat — which would allow Brian Gutekunst to take a wideout later in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The question is what kind of contract Moncrief would command. PFF projects that the amount of guaranteed money he would draw would be around $1.5 million to $1.7 million per year of the contract. In other words, on a three-year deal, that might be a $5 million guarantee, perhaps with a total compensation package of $5-6 million per season. Three years and $15-18 million for a deep threat could be worth the Packers’ while, especially if they are able to free up some money at the position by restructuring Nelson’s or Cobb’s contract.
TE Ed Dickson
Previous team: Carolina Panthers
H/W: 6’4”, 255 lbs
Experience: 8 years
Dickson began his career in Baltimore, where he spent four years with the Ravens before signing with Carolina. He has always been a complementary piece on offense, and although he has started 85 of his 124 career games (missing just four contests in his career), most of those have come as a blocking tight end.
However, when Dickson has been called upon more heavily in the passing game, he has delivered. With Greg Olsen out for much of the 2017 season, Dickson responded with 30 receptions for 437 yards. Since his second year in 2011 (when he put up career-highs with 54 catches for 528 yards and five scores), he has been overshadowed, either by Dennis Pitta or Olsen.
The Packers could use a versatile, in-line tight end like Dickson, particularly if they decide to invest in a rookie in the draft. This year, the Panthers also moved him around a bit, getting him on the field as an H-back when Olsen returned against the Packers.
Dickson also has far better skills after the catch than Richard Rodgers — in fact, 2017 saw Dickson set a career high in yards after the catch with 199, and impressive 6.6 YAC per reception. Signing Dickson and drafting a tight end on day two or early on day three would be a good plan for the short-term and the long-term, especially if, as PFF predicts, Dickson would sign for a veteran minimum contract.
OT LaAdrian Waddle
Previous team: New England Patriots
H/W: 6’6”, 315 lbs
Experience: 5 years
With injury questions swirling around Bryan Bulaga and Jason Spriggs showing few signs that he is ready to take over as a starter at right tackle, Waddle represents a player who could interest the Packers as a depth piece. Waddle has played almost exclusively at right tackle, and he started 24 games for the Detroit Lions from 2013-2015 before being waived and picked up by the Pats.
Since then, he has backed up the tackle spots for New England, making four starts this season at right tackle. Waddle might be a nice fit for the Packers’ needs, particularly if Justin McCray ends up starting at guard and is unavailable for spot starts at tackle. PFF’s projection has Waddle getting around $1 million per year in guarantees.
G Jahri Evans
Previous team: Green Bay Packers
H/W: 6’4”, 315 lbs
Experience: 12 years
The Packers obviously know Evans well, having seen him make 14 starts for the team in 2017. He was one of the Packers’ best signings in last year’s free agency period, coming in just before the 2017 NFL Draft to fill the spot vacated by T.J. Lang’s departure. Evans maintained solid play as a pass-blocker and decent if not exceptional run-blocking. The question now is whether he has enough in the tank for one more year.
A deal like his contract for 2017 (one year, $2.5 million total) seems like a reasonable payout for another year of his services. The best scenario would be if the Packers could keep his signing bonus minimal and avoid promising him a job; let him compete with McCray and Lucas Patrick for the right guard spot and if he does not earn it, let him try to catch on for one more season with another team.
G Billy Turner
Previous team: Denver Broncos
H/W: 6’5”, 315 lbs
Experience: 4 years
A backup for the Broncos in 2017, Turner spent just one season as a starter, with five starts for the Dolphins in 2015. The North Dakota State product would presumably be a candidate to compete for the right guard job, and his experience as a college left tackle might make him appealing to the Packers’ scouting staff as a versatile backup.
QB Geno Smith
Previous team: New York Giants
H/W: 6’3”, 221 lbs
Experience: 5 years
Of all the possible veteran backup quarterbacks available, Smith is the one whom PFF has assigned as having his best fit be with the Packers. His foray as a starting quarterback was a mess with the Jets, but he did play reasonably well in his only start this season for the Giants, which came when Eli Manning was inexplicably benched.
In that game, a 24-17 loss to the Raiders, Smith completed 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touchdown, while throwing no interceptions and adding 13 yards on the ground.
Smith certainly still has athletic tools, though his capability of backing up Aaron Rodgers better than Brett Hundley did is anything but certain. Still, he has a familiarity with an offense similar to Mike McCarthy, having played under Ben McAdoo in 2017, and that could help with a possible transition to Green Bay.
With that said, PFF projects Smith to receive around $1.5 million per year guaranteed on his contract. Packers fans should instead simply look at him as a candidate to come in with little to no guaranteed money and compete with Hundley for the backup job.