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Tue, January 7, 2014

Packer free agency; who should they bring back?

According to Spotrac.com, 19-players under contract in 2013 are heading to free agency.  Taking a look at the list, a good number of the players have started or contributed the last few years.   Here are my thoughts, in order of importance, for the Packers to bring back in 2014.

#1.) CB Sam Shields – He is emerging as one of the better corners in the league.  With the future of Tramon Williams in question after 2014, Shields fortify the position for a while longer.  I think the Packers agree but will he get more elsewhere?

#2.) C Evan Dietrich-Smith – When it comes to offensive lineman, the less you talk about them, the better it is.  The only time I recall hearing about EDS is when he was injured.  Team doesn’t (appear) to have a set back up, so he should be a high priority.

#3.) DT B.J Raji – If the Bob McGinn report is true, Raji may have left a lot of money on the table by not signing at $8-mil a year.  Defensive lineman, even solid ones, are tough to find.  Having one that plays average at his worse with signs of being very good (or better) may be worth over paying a little.  I predict he isn’t back AND will be missed at some point.

#4.) DT Johnny Jolly – Jolly was an unforeseen boost to the team after missing 3-years while serving his suspension.  When he was out there, and healthy, the Packers run defense was much better.  I assume the Packers will be able to get him, for a discount, on a 1 or 2 year deal.

#5.) OLB Mike Neal – Neal emerged, when healthy (the story of his career), as the best option opposite Clay Matthews at OLB.  It was his first year at the position after dropping weight and moving outside.  I am curious to see what year 2 (and beyond) brings for Neal as a 3-4 OLB. 

#6.) TE Andrew Quarless – I don’t think anyone was more critical of Quarless and the Packers keeping him than I was early on this year.  D.J Williams was released, a player that did a lot with in the offense/special teams, for a player that looked sloppy in camp.  About midway through the season, Quarless started to shine.  He got healthy and looked like a solid play.  I think he is back.

#7.) TE Jermichael Finley – Finley after Quarless?  Yup.  I think that boils down to money.  Finley may be looking to strike it rich after the spinal injury in 2013 while the Packers are scared off by it.  His worth in the offense is definitely known, but, Quarless (and maybe Bostick) can fill some of the void.  Think he’s gone but if the market bottoms out, he could be back.

#8.) DT Ryan Pickett – Pickett may have had his best year in Green Bay.  He told me after Sunday’s game that he felt better after this year than most others.  Ted Thompson’s plan is always to get younger, but some players voiced a need of veterans.  What is the potential market on a 34-year old defensive lineman?  Despite all that, Packers have just 4 d-lineman under contract for 2014.

#9.) WR James Jones – Jarrett Boykin emerged as a viable option with injuries to Randall Cobb and James Jones this year.  Cobb’s deal is up after 2015 & Nelson is entering the final year of his deal.  Biggest question; will the defense drop off without him?  Once again it’s a numbers game and Jones goes elsewhere. 

#10.) ILB Jamari Lattimore (Restricted) – I struggled placing Lattimore on the list.  ILB is arguably the weakest position from a depth and production standpoint on the team.  Lattimore had some great moments but has also shown some moments of weakness.  He is young, and restricted, so I think he is back though not a priority.

#11.) QB Matt Flynn – After Aaron Rodgers went down, the uproar from Packer Nation about needing a back-up quarterback grew.  I am staying the same on my thought, here.  If you lose Aaron Rodgers, it doesn’t matter.  Flynn would definitely be a capable back-up…but I think told Tolzein would, too. 

#12.) LB Robert Francois – Francois came back for 2013 on a one-year free agent deal only to see injury cut his season short.  Not sure what happens with him but re-upping would move the meter as much as letting him walk.

#13.) FB John Kuhn – Kuhn was one of the most debated roster spots in training camp but in the end, he was on the team.  It sounded like there was never even a debate.  With the FB position becoming somewhat “obsolete” and the way the Packers use their TEs as blockers, Kuhn’s price tag could mean a split.  I think he’s gone.

#14.) RB James Starks (Restricted) – Out of everyone who has stepped in for injured players (or subbed) this season, I think Starks was brought the least drop off.  Packer fans are in LOVE with Eddie Lacy, and rightfully so, but Starks was big at times this year.  Pending on the RFA tender, Starks may get some looks elsewhere. 

#15.) DE C.J Wilson – Wilson fought injury in 2013 AND, even when healthy, was inactive.  It’s apparent the team will move on from Wilson.  Not sure there is more that needs to be said.

#16) S M.D Jennings (Restricted) – I don’t think he gets a tender but with the depth at Safety, he may be back as a body.  Safety is the Packers #1 need so I expect an upgrade.

#17.) RB Kahlil Bell – Came in when Franklin went down.  Lacy is “the” guy, Starks get likely gets tendered and Franklin comes back, not sure where he fits.

#18.) OT Marshall Newhouse – I don’t see anyway Newhouse is back in 2014. 

#19.) QB Seneca Wallace – It’s more likely Newhouse is back than Wallace.

Thoughts?  Would love to hear.

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