The salary-cap-strapped Green Bay Packers have been relatively quiet in free agency, which isn’t a shock considering their financial circumstances. No one should be surprised with their approach this year, which has focused on signing bargain bin players on cheap contracts to backfill the backend of their roster.
In total, the Packers have signed eight players to new contracts, with six of those eight players being internal re-signings. Among those six re-signings, five of them could be considered primarily special teams contributors: CB Corey Ballentine, TE Tyler Davis, S Rudy Ford, CB Keisean Nixon and LB Eric Wilson.
Ford was a spot starter at safety in 2022 and it appears that Nixon is going to get a look at nickelback — at least until cornerback Eric Stokes is healthy — but both of those players have been nationally recognized for their special teams play, not their impact on the defensive side of the ball. The one re-signing who doesn’t fit the bill is outside linebacker Justin Hollins, who was picked up off of waivers in 2022 and ended up playing 128 defensive snaps for Green Bay over six games as pass-rushing depth off of the bench.
The Packers’ outside free agent signings continued the trend of The Offseason of Special Teams. The players added were former Los Angeles Rams long snapper Matt Orzech, who is expected to compete with returning long snapper Jack Coco in camp, and former San Francisco 49ers safety Tarvarius Moore, who played 222 special teams snaps to just 41 defensive snaps in the 2022 regular season.
If you’re special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, who was just given the assistant head coach title this offseason, you’re sitting pretty outside of one massive hole on the roster: placekicker. With all-time points leader Mason Crosby hitting the open market, the only kicker under contract in Green Bay is Parker White, a 2023 undrafted free agent who didn’t sign with an NFL squad until the Packers gave him a reserve/futures contract in January after the 2022 season.
According to general manager Brian Gutekunst’s comments this offseason, a return of Crosby would be welcomed. Gutekunst claimed that Crosby’s numbers — particularly his league-worst touchback percent on kickoffs — will be better in 2023, as Crosby was dealing with his recovery from summer knee surgery last year. He also stated that it’s not a matter of wanting Crosby back or not, but rather an issue of compensation and the Packers attempting to thread the needle with their 2023 salary cap situation.
According to Spotrac, there are five free-agent kickers remaining on the market who recording playing time in the 2023 season. Below is the list of those players with their field goal makes, attempts and percentages beyond 40 yards (non-chip shots) in parenthesis:
- Brett Maher (15 of 18, 83 percent)
- Ryan Succop (14 of 19, 74 percent)
- Randy Bullock (7 of 10, 70 percent)
- Robbie Gould (9 of 13, 69 percent)
- Mason Crosby (7 of 11, 64 percent)
If the Packers are going to sign a “bargain bin” kicker, it’s worth taking a look at if these kickers’ 2022 squads have addressed the kicker position this offseason. If Green Bay is going to sign one on the cheap, you’d have to think that their original team would need to be out of the running for their services for the Packers to be able to afford the signing.
Maher probably isn’t going to be that player. Per Spotrac, Maher is expected to sign a three-year, $11 million contract ($3.6 million per year) that would pay him like the 15th kicker in the league. The Dallas Cowboys’ only kicker on the roster is currently Tristan Vizcaino, who was signed to their practice squad during their playoff run last year and signed a reserve/futures contract with the squad after the season. Over the last three seasons, Vizcaino has played a total of 10 games for four teams, none of which were the Cowboys. You would assume that Dallas is still firmly in the free-agent kicker market.
The same is true about Bullock. The Tennessee Titans’ only kicker under contract is Caleb Shudak, a 2022 undrafted free agent who played in one game as a rookie. Tennessee should be expected to continue to poke around with kickers. Once the Cowboys and Titans sign one, that could be the opportunity Green Bay has been waiting for to swoop in and sign a cheap veteran among the remaining kickers available.
That leaves us with Crosby, Succop and Gould. Succop’s former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, have signed Chase McLaughlin this offseason — the 2022 starter for the Indianapolis Colts. Gould’s old squad, the San Francisco 49ers, recently traded for Zane Gonzalez from the Carolina Panthers at a whopping cost of a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick swap.
If the Packers aren’t able to land a veteran, the name to watch in the draft is Michigan kicker Jake Moody, who is the only placekicker who has been given a draftable grade on the consensus draft board. He is currently ranked 222nd in the class, which translates to an early seventh-round pick. Green Bay has four seventh-round draft choices in the upcoming draft, but no sixth-round selection. Acme Packing Company recently gave Moody to the Packers with their second-to-last seventh-rounder in our most recent mock draft.