Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $32.8M ($143M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 53
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 30
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
The situation with Randall Cobb is interesting. I am certain the Packer would like him back, but at what price? They have already seemingly set their max limit with Jordy Nelson at $9.7 million a year plus Cobb’s role is generally paid in the $8.5 to $9 million a year range. However with the large number of teams with a great deal of cap room this offseason Cobb may feel as if he can earn more on the open market. The team can use the franchise tag to virtually block him from free agency but that seems like a very high price for Cobb. In the end I think he will be back in Green Bay….Bryan Bulaga stayed healthy this season and is one of the better players at the position. I would expect the two sides to come to an agreement using a similar contract model to the one Sebastian Vollmer has with the Patriots where large amounts of money are tied to health.
Free Agents to Let Walk
At 32 years of age, Tramon Williams time with the Packers may be over. The team already has a large commitment to Sam Shields and will likely soon enter negotiations with Casey Hayward which may leave Williams as the odd man out. I would guess for him to stay in Green Bay he would be leaving money on the table that may exist elsewhere…BJ Raji’s play had declined so much the last few years that he had to settle for a one year contract with Green Bay last year. He was hurt all season and there is no reason for the team to bring him back…Letroy Guion’s legal troubles might make him expendable.
Contracts to Modify
Julius Peppers was effective last season, but he is not $9.5 million effective. Peppers will need to take a reasonable pay cut this season to remain a Packer…Extending Hayward a year before free agency should allow them to lock down their third corner to favorable terms over the long haul…
Players to Consider Releasing
If Peppers is not receptive to a pay cut look for the Packers to move on. Peppers costs $12 million against the cap in addition to the large salary discussed above. Releasing him saves $7 million in cap room…The team already made their other two big moves by releasing linebackers AJ Hawk and Brad Jones.
Despite not making it to the Super Bowl last year I think many would say that the Packers were the best team in the NFL. Their collapse at the end of the NFC Championship game was unreal and the perhaps the biggest challenge for the team this season is to make sure that there is no lingering impact that causes a hangover in 2015.
Green Bay traditionally does not enter free agency looking to improve their team. They may pick up a few small pieces here and there who were released from their contracts, but the addition of an expensive player like Peppers (who was also released) is not exactly the norm for the team. That doesn’t mean it wont happen, but it would have to be the right player willing to sign the right contract.
Most of the Packers offseason should focus on the defensive side of the ball as their offense, if they re-sign Cobb and Bulaga, has few needs. Clearly the team will be in the market for linebackers and more help on the interior of their defensive line. Drafting a cornerback if Williams is not kept would also be an option high in the draft.
The team will likely watch the releases around the NFL to see if there are any reasonable options they can consider. A few years ago the Packers did host a restricted free agent offered a low tender so maybe they would consider such players where it is only a right of first refusal rather than draft pick compensation if they feel the fit is right.
Regardless of what the team does or does not do in free agency and the draft it would be hard to picture them not in the playoff race next year unless the quarterback gets injured or there is a serious hangover from last season where nothing breaks their way. For the most part any upgrade they happen to find should only separate the gap between they and the rest of the teams in the NFC North that much more.