The Green Bay Packers have decisions to make on six restricted free agent players in the next five days. Of these five, one is a full-time starter, another played starter-level snaps on defense, and a third was a key rotational piece. Two others fall squarely in the backup category, making their restricted free agency decisions a bit more dicey.
On Friday morning, the NFL finally announced the values for the various RFA tenders, giving the Packers and other teams all the information they need to make their final decisions on players in this category. Teams may issue these tenders to their restricted free agents prior to the start of the 2021 league year on Wednesday; doing so gives the team the right of first refusal — the ability to match any offer sheet that the player signs with another team — and would force the team signing the player to send a draft pick in the specified round if the tendering team chose not to match the deal.
The tender values for 2021 are 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
Five of the Packers’ six RFAs were undrafted players, with cornerback Parry Nickerson being the only one of the group who was drafted (in the sixth round in 2018). Nickerson is therefore eligible for one of the first three tenders, with the original-round tender allowing the Packers to recoup a sixth-round draft pick should Nickerson sign an offer sheet with another team.
It is highly unlikely that this makes any difference for Nickerson, however, as he played in just one game in 2020 and landed on injured reserve in October. The Packers almost certainly will not use a tender on a player in such circumstances.
The other five RFAs on the team — again, all undrafted players — are all more viable candidates for a tender in some form. The one player who is a serious candidate to receive a tender above the right of first refusal level is starting tight end Robert Tonyan, who broke out in 2020 with 52 receptions, 583 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. A second-round tender seems plausible for him, as the Packers do not seem to have any strong in-house replacements for him as an athletic in-line tight end.
The other four RFAs are slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan, safety Raven Greene, defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster, and backup quarterback Tim Boyle. One can make a case for all of those players to receive the right of first refusal tender, with Sullivan easily having the strongest case due to playing over 70% of the team’s defensive snaps in 2020. However, each use of that tender will cost the team approximately $1.5 million in effective salary cap space due to pushing a league-minimum salary ($660,000 for first-year players) off the team’s Top 51 contracts list. Green Bay still needs to free up cap space to use even one of these tenders, as they remain above their cap number, which the NFL set at $182.5 million (not accounting for team adjustments) earlier this week.
Stay tuned in the coming days to see how the Packers free up enough cap space to get under the cap while also making some room for some critical RFA tag decisions.