Brian Gutekunst has it all this offseason. A new coach, cap space, and a hoard of draft capital to put the Packers squarely back into playoff contention and competing for Super Bowls. With free agency days away and the draft rapidly approaching, we examine where the value might be in play addition, what it would cost, and how best to approach building this roster for 2019 and beyond.
Aaron Rodgers’ mega-deal doesn’t hamstring the Packers as much as has been said and there are a couple moves Green Bay can make to free up even more money to spend if they so choose. The idea is to create a likely scenario, not just play Madden. With that in mind, here is one way to craft the offseason to maximize value and team improvement.
Cut Nick Perry with a post-June 1 designation
While this doesn’t save the Packers in the short-term for free agency, it frees up considerable cap in 2019 and 2020 which would help them sign their draft class and the Bashaud Breeland type free agents. More on Breeland to come. The money for his roster bonus wouldn’t come off until June 2nd, but that alone is $4.8 million in relief. All in, the Packers would save $10.7 million with $4 million in dead cap for 2019 and $6.9 million in 2020 when the Packers will have gobs of cash to spend even without this move.
Cut Tramon Williams
This has more immediately salary cap relief implications for the Packers. The soon-to-be-36-year-old Williams has a cap hit of just under $6.4 million in 2019 but would save the Packers $4.7 million this offseason. That’s enough to pay a legitimate starting-caliber player, like say a former starting cornerback forced to take the veteran minimum after a bizarre injury scuttled a free-agent contract.
Re-sign Bashaud Breeland for three years, $18 million
Before an infection in his foot voided the deal, Breeland signed a three-year, $24 million contract with the Panthers. Breeland joined the Packers on a minimum deal to rehabilitate his value and struggled with new injuries, a problem that hadn’t cropped up in Washington. But given that rocky season and another year of age on his body, Breeland can’t rightly demand the full $8 million APY he got in free agency a year ago.
That said, he showed enough to be a starting-caliber player for the Packers, making splash plays when he was on the field. He’d be a stabilizing force in a secondary full of young players and wouldn’t cost much. They’re basically trading Breeland for Williams and an extra million dollars. That’s a huge win for the Packers.
Sign Anthony Barr for four years, $56 million
The case for this contract is simple: top-of-market linebacker money even just for Anthony Barr the off-ball linebacker would be in the $10 million to $12 million range. He can’t command a top 3-4 OLB contract because we haven’t seen him full-time pass rush since UCLA. If his floor is a Pro Bowl jack-of-all-trades linebacker, this contract is only a slight overpay. The additional $2 million to $4 million is paying for that rush upside. More on why that makes sense here.
Before the Perry cut, the Packers have roughly $34 million in cap space for this offseason. After the $14 million APY here (and they can play with the numbers as needed), they’d be down to $20 million.
Sign Adrian Amos for four years, $32 million
Four years is the window. That’s how long the Packers have Aaron Rodgers under his mega-deal and that’s the likely minimum number of seasons he’ll be the starter barring major injury. Amos turns 26 next month, which means he’ll be 30 when this deal is over, putting it in the prime of his career. Overshadowed by rising star Eddie Jackson in Chicago, Amos brings the right skill set to play deep or in the box for the Packers in Mike Pettine’s amoeba defense. The Bears may have to let him walk if they decide to pay Bryce Callahan and Amos isn’t considered in the realm of top-of-market safeties like Landon Collins or Earl Thomas, even if he probably should be.
Shave another $8 million off the cap space, leaving the Packers with $12 million left.
Sign guard Quinton Spain for four years, $16 million
Mark Glowinski re-signed with the Colts for $6 million APY, which sets the non-Rodger Saffold market. Spain played for Matt LaFleur last year in Tennessee, is just 28, and could come in to start at either guard spot for the Packers. He sits in that sweet spot of not overpaying for a name like Saffold but has clear value beyond the James Carpenter’s of the free agent class.
This would leave a little less than $7 million under the cap, with Perry’s money set to come off the books in June. Plenty of money to sign the draft class and still have a rainy day fund.
Draft Montez Sweat at No. 12 overall
Maybe this is cheating a little after the combine where Sweat put together an all-time performance with athletic testing. If he’s there, it’s a no-brainer. If he’s not, Clelin Ferrell provides more than enough value to justify his selection, as does Brian Burns, setting up the Packers to address their one remaining glaring need for a pure pass rusher. Signing Barr would also make it easier to let a player like Burns develop his body and technique without having to play 90 percent of snaps right away.
Draft Chris Lindstrom at No. 30 overall
Lindstrom can play guard or tackle making him the kind of swing offensive lineman the Packers love. After testing as an elite athlete, with experience at tackle and guard, Lindstrom fits the profile for this front office to the letter. If Bryan Bulaga has to miss games, Lindstrom slots in at right tackle, with the chance to be the successor. If Lane Taylor or Spain get hurt, Lindstrom can handle their role as well. Rush the quarterback and protect your own; no two tenants of the game are more important.
Draft Irv Smith Jr. at No. 44 overall
Frankly, the 20-year-old Alabama tight end would be a fine value at 30, despite measuring smaller at the combine than many anticipated. He still ran 4.6 and his agility testing belies the fluidity he shows in games. More importantly, he can block. Even if he’s relegated to a glorified H-Back role, that has more value for the Packers than most teams because of Matt LaFleur’s offense. Smith offers the perfect upside opportunity to take on a secondary role in 2019 as he grows into the NFL game, before taking over in 2020 once Jimmy Graham is out of the picture.
Trade up to draft Juan Thornhill at No. 58 overall
There’s a clear cut off around the top-50 of players capable of impacting games, not just in this class, but historically speaking. Someone will fall, they always do. Green Bay can package the 75th pick with both fourth-round selections to sneak back into the second to grab a player like Thornhill. He’s the platonic ideal of a big nickel safety who can cover, play deep, and defend the run. Virginia even played him at cornerback in a pinch and though his outstanding athletic ability didn’t consistently show up in college, the Packers should trust Mike Pettine to maximize him.