The Green Bay Packers’ 2020 season has concluded, and the team’s front office now moves ahead abruptly to preparing for the crunch of the 2021 offseason. With a salary cap expected to shrink to around $175 million — down almost $25 million from the $198.2 million mark in 2020 — every team will have difficult calls to make on bringing back their own free agents and how to invest in the free agent market.
The Packers are currently projected to be over the cap, meaning that it will take some creative accounting before even thinking about adding to the roster. With 25 players set to become free agents of some kind, general manager Brian Gutekunst and contract specialist Russ Ball have their work cut out for them.
Each of the 25 members of the Packers’ roster who have contracts that expired at the conclusion of the 2020 season are listed below. These players will therefore become free agents when the 2021 league year begins on Tuesday, March 17th at 4:00 PM Eastern Time.
The group includes several important players from the 2020 squad, including a Pro Bowler (Aaron Jones) and a first-team All-Pro (Corey Linsley). Both of these players are set to be unrestricted free agents, joined by starting cornerback Kevin King. Meanwhile another two offensive starters, Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard, are still under some measure of team control despite having expiring contracts.
The determining factor for what type of free agent a player will become is the number of accrued seasons of NFL experience that a player has. An “accrued season” is defined in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement as any year in which a player spends six or more games on the 53-man roster, on injured reserve, or on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Unrestricted Free Agents (14)
To be a UFA, a player must have four or more accrued seasons. These players are free to sign with any team as of the start of the 2021 league year at 4:00 PM Eastern on March 17. They may also begin negotiating contracts with any team during the so-called “legal tampering” period, which begins two days earlier on March 15.
The gain or loss of unrestricted free agents in the 2021 offseason will determine what compensatory draft picks will be assigned for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Here is the list of the Packers’ 14 unrestricted free agents heading into the 2021 offseason:
- DL Montravius Adams | signed one-year contract with Patriots
- WR Tavon Austin
- ILB James Burgess
- RB Tyler Ervin
- DL Damon Harrison
- RB Aaron Jones | re-signed with Packers on 4-year contract
- CB Kevin King | re-signed with Packers on 1-year contract
- TE Marcedes Lewis | re-signed with Packers on 2-year, $8M contract
- C Corey Linsley | reportedly will sign 5-year, $62.5M contract with Chargers
- S Will Redmond | re-signed with Packers
- G Lane Taylor
- OT Jared Veldheer
- RB Jamaal Williams | signed 2-year, $7.5M contract with Lions
- DL Billy Winn
Restricted Free Agents (6)
A restricted free agent has exactly three accrued seasons of NFL experience. Teams may submit a qualifying contract tender to RFAs before the start of the league year; the name of the tender specifies what type of draft pick another team must send to the previous team as compensation if signing an RFA, with the options being first-round, second-round, or “original-round” tenders. Each tender is equivalent to a one-year contract worth a different base salary, decreasing as the value of the draft pick compensation decreases. The values of the tenders were finalized on Friday, March 12th as follows:
- First-round tender: $4,766,000
- Second-round tender: $3,384,000
- Original-round tender: $2,183,000
- Right of first refusal tender: $2,133,000
Players who receive a tender are allowed to negotiate contracts with other teams and if they come to an agreement, they may sign an offer sheet, which is effectively a proposed contract. The Packers would then have the opportunity to match that offer sheet or allow the player to sign with the other team; Green Bay would then receive the draft pick compensation from that team as specified by the type of tender he had received.
Five of the Packers’ six RFAs this year were not drafted, which would mean that the original-round tender only gives the team the right to match an offer sheet the player receives from another team; Green Bay would not receive any draft compensation if they chose not to match offer sheets for those players.
- QB Tim Boyle (undrafted) | did not receive tender | signed 1-year contract with Lions
- S Raven Greene (undrafted) | did not receive tender
- DL Tyler Lancaster (undrafted) | not tendered | re-signed with Packers
- CB Parry Nickerson (6th round pick) | not tendered
- CB Chandon Sullivan (undrafted) | Packers used right of first refusal tender
- TE Robert Tonyan (undrafted) | Packers used second-round tender
Exclusive-Rights Free Agents (4)
To fall into this group, players must have fewer than three accrued seasons of experience. The Packers may extend to any of these players a qualifying tender at the league minimum salary for that player’s experience level. If the team does so, it retains sole negotiating rights with the player moving forward. The two sides could still work on a longer-term contract extension once that tender is in place, or the player can sign the tender and play under the one-year contract.