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Packers Free Agency 2018: Potential offensive cap casualties to watch

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A few receivers and linemen could end up on the market in the coming weeks, and we break down a few who could be of interest to Packers fans.

Green Bay Packers v Oakland Raiders

Earlier this week, we at Acme Packing Company discussed a few potential cap casualties at the edge rusher position who might become available if their current NFL teams feel strapped for salary cap space. Today we are going through a similar exercise, but we’ll take a look at the offense instead.

We’ll start out with a few wide receiver possibilities before moving on to a few players who could potentially help out on the Packers’ unsettled right guard and tackle spots.

WR Jeremy Maclin

The Ravens have just $10 million in projected cap space for next season, and cutting Maclin would open up another $5 million.

If he’s available, the Packers could kick the tires to see if his deep speed is still there. However, after several years as a deep threat for the Eagles, Maclin’s production has tailed off over the last two years in particular, first with Kansas City in 2016 and then in his first season as a Raven in 2017. Maclin’s yards per catch have also dropped in recent years, and he has just one season with a catch rate over 60% in the past five campaigns. 2017 was his poorest season in every significant category, with lows in every category except touchdowns; he had just 72 targets, 11 yards per catch, and a catch rate of 55.6%.

Still, as a WR3 or WR4, Maclin might be a more useful piece than a Geronimo Allison, and would certainly be a better deep threat. If he is released and his market is low, a one-year deal might be a good option for the Packers.

WR Torrey Smith

Smith technically would not be a cap casualty in the formal sense, as his contract has a team option for 2018; if the Eagles decline that option, his contract (worth $5 million next season) voids and he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

Fundamentally, Smith has been the prototypical deep threat for his whole career. Blessed with deep speed (4.41 Combine 40 and 1.51 10-yard split), Smith averaged more than 17 yards per reception over his first five NFL seasons. However, in 2016 that average dipped to 267 yards (on just 20 receptions total) and it was even lower at 11.9 in his lone season in Philadelphia.

Furthermore, to underscore his deep threat style, he has never once caught as many as 54% of his targets over an entire season. Still, the Packers could use a deep threat to take the top off the defense, since Jordy Nelson clearly isn’t that player and Trevor Davis still doesn’t appear to be ready for a major role. In a limited role, Smith is a player whose skill set could be useful for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense.

WR Michael Crabtree

The 30-year old Crabtree has had a nice three-year run in Oakland after six years in San Francisco, but he could be on his way out. With no signing bonus or guaranteed money on his deal, the Raiders can save all $7.7 million on his 2018 contract by letting him walk.

Whereas the first two receivers on this list would be more likely to play a threat deep, Crabtree is more of a possession receiver, averaging between 10.3 and 11.3 yards per catch each of the past four years. He also has a career catch rate of over 60%.

Although Crabtree’s numbers dropped quite a bit in 2017, that was the case for the entire Raiders offense; Derek Carr’s total passing yardage dropped considerably, but the addition of Jared Cook took a large number of targets away from the wide receivers. In short, it’s not Crabtree’s fault — at least not primarily — that his numbers were down.

Adding him would not solve the Packers’ issues with a deep threat, but he would be a solid starting option opposite Davante Adams should the Packers move on from Jordy Nelson.

TE Eric Ebron

The Lions applied the fifth-year option to Ebron before last season, but that is only guaranteed for injury; therefore, the team could elect to release him and free up cap space. Our friends at Pride of Detroit specifically mentioned him as a potential cut candidate. Then again, the Lions have over $40 million in projected cap space and probably don’t need to open up more.

Still, Ebron’s receiving abilities should make Packers fans pine for the days of Jermichael Finley. His 2016 season was actually quite excellent, as he caught more than 70% of his targets for an average of 11.7 yards per reception. That totaled 61 catches for 711 yards, though he had just one touchdown.

However, the Packers need a field-stretcher at tight end, not a red zone weapon — Aaron Rodgers’ chemistry with Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and company make the latter just a luxury. Ebron could be that weapon down the seam if Detroit cuts him loose.

G Josh Sitton

Jason Hirschhorn addressed this a few weeks ago and although a reunion is highly unlikely due to some burned bridges, from a football-only perspective it could make sense.

Sitton is in a similar position to Smith, in that 2018 is an option year. By declining the option, the Bears could save almost $8 million in cap space. While they’re not hurting (projected to have about $41 million in space), that could free up some room to help the Bears sign a big-name free agent or two.

OT Duane Brown

After being traded from the Texans to Seattle midway through last season, Brown helped solidify the left tackle spot in front of Russell Wilson for the remainder of the year. That also means that Houston ate up his remaining guaranteed money on their cap, leaving the Seahawks with a decision to make on his $9.75 million base salary for 2018.

Should Brown be released, he would have a strong market but the Packers could make a play if they let Bryan Bulaga walk. Admittedly, Brown has only played left tackle and would need to switch to the right side in Green Bay, but plenty of tackles have made that switch. Plus, at 33 the price tag could fall well below his current scheduled compensation for 2018.