Every off-season starts in-house. It starts with the front office and coaching staff, and then it moves to the players. The Packers have 21 players that are a combination of free agents, restricted free agents, and exclusive rights free agents. Evaluating your own personnel is very important, and it is important to make these decisions without bias. Luckily with LaFleur, he will not have any emotional ties to these players yet. I think it is easy to break the Packer free agents into four categories.
Tier 1: Re-sign Now
Breeland instantly makes the secondary better and provides depth. It was clear when he was healthy, he was a difference maker for the Packers. He fits well with the young guys, and provides a veteran presence for the young corner group. If they tie up Breeland, this means they can spend draft picks and other free agent signings on different positions. The secondary has had so many shuffling (and average) pieces in recent years. This signing brings stability and could make the corner group one of the strongest units on the team.
This is another guy who is in this position due to an injury last year. At 25 years old, Allison was poised to have a big season which was clear to see from the first game. He essentially only played four games, and he rivaled stats from his previous two seasons when he played 10 and 15 games respectively. Geronimo has made stride after stride in his game, and he has possessed a connection with Aaron Rodgers from day one. He can play outside, but his best position may become slot receiver. This is a signing that not only gives some stability to a young receiver group, but it brings back one of Rodgers most trusted targets.
Tier 2: Spark Players / Would like to see resigned
Lucas Patrick, Fadol Brown, Ibraheim Campbell
These are all young guys who provided a spark when given a chance last season. They gave consistent quality snaps. The key here is bringing back younger guys who give you more consistent play. They may even be able to make a bigger stride in the off-season and become role players or even starters.
Lucas Patrick has a real chance to fight for a spot at Guard. If he does not earn a starting spot, he has already proven to be a quality backup.
Fadol Brown did nothing but play hard and energetic football when given chances. He may not break into a starting position, but he can absolutely be a part of the defensive line rotation.
Ibraheim Campbell was a pleasant surprise before he got hurt. He fit well into Pettine’s scheme, and Pettine was in Cleveland when Campbell was drafted. This connection could keep Campbell around who has a chance to play on defense and special teams.
Tier 3A: Underwhelming Players / IF the price is right (CHEAP!!)
Clay Matthews, Muhammad Wilkerson, Mercedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks, Jake Ryan, Kentrell Brice, Justin McCray
These are all guys who have not played up to expectations. Everyone on this list at one point in time has got a chance to start and prove their worth. Some were later benched, and others had to play by default. These guys could add depth. However, the older players are not the same they once were, and the younger players may have reached their ceiling. I believe it is time to stop relying on these players to be starters, and get better at their respective positions.
Tier 3B: Young Potential / Determining their ceiling
Reggie Gilbert, Robert Tonyan, Jake Kumerow, Adam Pankey
There are some fan favorites on this list. But the reality becomes where do they fit? Can these players become good quality starters or role players? The deciding factors for these players will be the new coaches deciding their ceiling and if they fit the system. I do not mind them getting another chance, but the Packers cannot wait years to make a decision on their future like they have with other players. These would need to be short-term deals or incentive based deals.
Tier 4: Let Go / No Consideration
Byron Bell, Davon House, Eddie Pleasant, Lavon Coleman
These players were either a big disappointment or signed due to necessity. There are better options to upgrade the team and the Packers won’t have to spend much to upgrade on these players.
The only free agent I have not mentioned is Randall Cobb. He is a fan favorite, and we will soon find out how much he wants to stay in Green Bay. I think he can still play and be productive. He can help some of the young guys in the receiving room tremendously. The main question is will he take the pay cut and possibly the loss of snaps? The offense was clearly better with him playing last year, but what about in LaFleur’s offense? This is not 2014 Randall Cobb, but he is still a good player with a lot to prove and give. I cannot take my own bias out of this decision so I am not putting Cobb in a tier.
Some of these decisions will help the Packers move on to other free agents and who to target in the draft. This works both ways in who they may be targeting in free agency and the draft could determine their own free agents fate. One way or another the next step after evaluating their own free agents would be evaluating the other free agents around the league.