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Age 30 continues to be a factor for the Packers on internal free agents

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Green Bay has strayed away from extending players at or over the age of 30, and that trend continued this offseason.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Shouts of joy and hurrahs filled the air on March 12 when the Green Bay Packers uncharacteristically leaped head-first into free agency. After plenty of years in which the team shied away from acquiring external free agents, the Packers, under second-year GM Brian Gutekunst, created waves within NFL free agency. But even in a more active signing period than usual, Green Bay’s watchful eye over the age of 30, a trait emphasized by Gutekunst’s predecessor Ted Thompson, remained.

The Packers signed four significant free agents on the second day of free agency — all between the ages of 25 and 27. This is nothing new, as the Packers have rarely given multiyear deals to position players close to exceeding the age-30 mark — Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, and Tramon Williams are a few rare exceptions. But the Packers’ pickiness with age extends to internal signings as well, and they have been successfully cautious in recent memory. That may bode well with the Packers’ Wednesday decisions to let Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb walk.

Morgan Burnett is the latest example of Green Bay’s keen foresight.

A free agent last offseason at age 29 and already impacted by nagging injuries, Burnett was not a long-term priority for Green Bay. Instead, the eight-year veteran signed a three-year contract with Pittsburgh. After an injury-laden first season with the Steelers in which he played in only 37% of the team’s defensive snaps, Burnett was reportedly set to be released as of Friday. While the fit in Pittsburgh on a new squad certainly played a role in the versatile Burnett’s short stay, the safety is just one of many key former Packers whom the team allowed to leave before signing a third contract.

Here are a few other notable recent cases of the Packers moving on from starters hovering around age 30.

Recent Packer starters to leave GB near age 30

Year Player Age left GB Contract Length of stay with new team
Year Player Age left GB Contract Length of stay with new team
2019 Clay Matthews 32 LAR: 2-Yr, $9.25 mil To be determined
2019 Randall Cobb 28 DAL: 1-Yr, $5 mil To be determined
2018 Morgan Burnett 29 PIT: 3-Yr, $14.35 mil Released after one season
2018 Jordy Nelson 32 OAK: 2-Yr: $14.2 mil Released after one season
2017 T.J. Lang 29 DET: 3-Yr: $28.5 mil Pro Bowl in 2017. Released after two seasons and retiring
2016 Josh Sitton 29 CHI: 3-Yr, $21 mil Released by GB; released after one season in CHI
2015 Tramon Williams 31 CLE: 3-Yr, $21 mil Released after two seasons
2015 AJ Hawk 30 CIN: 2-Yr, $3.25 mil Released by GB; released after one season in CIN
2014 James Jones 29 OAK: 3-Yr, $11.3 mil Released after one season
2013 Greg Jennings 29 MIN: 5-Yr, $45 mil Released after two seasons

Outside of Lang’s Pro Bowl season in his first year in Detroit, the names on this list underwhelmed once leaving Green Bay and never stayed the full length of their new contracts. Even Sitton and Hawk, whose contracts were terminated prior to their final contract seasons by the Packers, never found a stable home and level of production elsewhere. It is safe to say that the Packer front office judged their impending internal free agents wisely.

The question then becomes what Green Bay will do with their rising free agents in Mike Daniels, Bryan Bulaga, and Blake Martinez. As APC’s Wednesday curds pointed out, the Packers’ spending in the 2019 free agency could limit the money available to re-sign these players. But perhaps the biggest factor remains age.

Daniels and Bulaga will be ages 31 and 30, respectively, at the end of their deals. With injury concerns to both and rumors last offseason that the Packers were hoping to restructure Bulaga’s contract, it is reasonable to believe that Green Bay will move on from both players based on precedent. Martinez, on the other hand, will be 26 years old and in the prime of his career. Steadily improving each year in the league and at a position in which the Packers have limited depth, Martinez may be in line for an extension.

Green Bay’s decisions this week to let Cobb and Matthews sign elsewhere, particularly Cobb on a Cowboy-friendly one-year, $5 million deal, point to the team’s continued hesitancy with players near the age of 30. And with free agency looming for another pair of long-time contributors like Daniels and Bulaga at the end of the year, it is likely they will be looking for new homes.