The Green Bay Packers locked up perhaps their most important free agent-to-be late in the 2022 season when they signed left guard Elgton Jenkins to a new four-year extension. However, of the remaining players who are set to hit free agency in mid-March, few have played as big a role on the team as wide receiver Allen Lazard.
Lazard is expected to have a strong market for his services if he does become a free agent on March 15th, but the Packers maintain sole negotiating rights with him until about 48 hours ahead of that date. That offers the team a opportunity to try to work out a new deal with him to ensure he does not hit the market, but according to Lazard, there have been no offers made.
“My agent, I believe, has started to talk to them in recent weeks,” Lazard said on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday. However, those conversations evidently have not yielded any serious contract offers; Lazard followed up the previous comment by saying “They haven’t said anything as far as preventing me from going to the open market.”
Given the Packers’ current salary cap situation, it should come as little surprise that they are not ready to commit to giving Lazard a large new contract. The team sits around $5 million over the 2023 cap number at present, according to Overthecap.com, meaning they need to free up at least that amount to be compliant by March 15. If the team plans to use a restricted free agent tender on tackle Yosh Nijman or wants to extend any other players, they will need to free up still more cap space, meaning a big contract for Lazard could be tough to work into the budget.
Then there’s a question of whether Lazard’s agent and the Packers are remotely close on what his market value will be. The team let Marquez Valdes-Scantling walk last offseason for a 3-year, $30 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, a deal they were evidently unwilling to match. Lazard is widely expected to command a richer deal than that this year, and the Packers may simply feel that he is not worth the number that his agent feels he can get from another team in March.
Interestingly, Lazard’s comments came the same day as a report from Matt Lombardo of Heavy.com, whose sources said that the Packers are “making an effort to keep” Lazard in Green Bay. Taken with Lazard’s statement, however, that effort does not appear to be enough to re-sign the receiver prior to the start of free agency.
In his radio interview, Lazard did praise the Packers organization, and it seems clear that he would welcome a return to Green Bay if the numbers would work out. “I think they’re obviously a first-class organization just how they go about their relationship with the fans, how they treat the players, just the whole experience there,” he said.
At the same time, it also sounds like he knows that a return is probably unlikely, and that he expects to have a number of suitors. “I’m almost sort of bougie, I feel like, in what I’m going to be wanting out of an organization,” he added, referencing the fact that he has high expectations after his time in Green Bay while suggesting that he expects to end up with a different team for 2023.
If Lazard does sign with another team as a free agent, he would count towards compensatory draft pick considerations for the 2024 NFL Draft. The Packers are expected to receive a 5th-round compensatory pick for Valdes-Scantling’s signing last season, and a similar pick could be coming the team’s way next season if Lazard also leaves.age