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Packers 2021 Free Agents: Expect Randy Ramsey to return for edge depth

The only edge rusher without a contract for 2021 should still return thanks to his status as an exclusive-rights free agent.

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2020 season. We also will break down the team’s free agent class for 2021. Today, we examine the outside linebackers.

The Green Bay Packers have a solid foundation at outside linebacker. With a bona fide star on one side in Za’Darius Smith and a budding breakout candidate in Rashan Gary, the team appears set up with some solid talent at the top of the depth chart for the foreseeable future. Smith’s contract runs for two more years and his play could warrant an extension this offseason to shift some of his salary cap hit back into future years; meanwhile, Gary has two years left on his rookie contract with another year available as a team option.

The Packers actually have just one edge rusher with an expiring contract this offseason, and that individual’s status is not the biggest question mark among the group. Instead, that status belongs to Preston Smith, whose step back in 2020 has raised significant questions about whether the Packers will keep him for 2021 with a $16 million salary cap hit. With the team facing a likely cap crunch, there may be no choice but to release Smith as a cap casualty to free up $8 million.

Instead, the one free agent-to-be among the group is Randy Ramsey, who split time as the team’s fourth option at the position in 2021. Here’s a look at his status heading into the spring.

Randy Ramsey

NFL Experience: 1 accrued season
Free Agency Category: Exclusive Rights
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $610,000
2020 Stats: 12 games played, 11 total tackles (5 solo)

Snaps are hard to come by behind the Smiths and Gary, and Ramsey ended up finishing fifth in snap count at the position behind rookie Jonathan Garvin. But the second-year pro — who spent his rookie season in 2019 on the practice squad — was active for more games than Garvin as the fourth option, and he was a key contributor on special teams. Ramsey was on the field for 204 special teams snaps, good for fourth on the team behind Oren Burks, Ty Summers, and Will Redmond.

Ramsey’s contributions on defense were limited, but he did record one quarterback pressure, according to Pro Football Reference. That is one more than Garvin did in ten fewer snaps.

Regardless of whether Preston Smith returns, Ramsey’s status as an exclusive-rights free agent, one who will command a second-year pro’s league minimum salary, likely ensures that he will receive a tender and return for a third season with the Packers. Quality depth at the edge is essential, and it would be a surprise if Green Bay would elect not to bring Ramsey back for a shot at a roster spot again, particularly since he was active for each of the team’s final 11 games (including playoffs).