Based on the way the Green Bay Packers‘ defense played at times last season, it’s a tad bittersweet to start predicting which defensive free-agents-to-be will stay with the team and which will walk. Heck, some Sundays I was wishing they would all go away.
Of 19 impending free agents on the Packers’ roster, nine play on the defensive side of the ball. Two of those nine are restricted free agents, meaning the Packers have the right to match any tender offered by another team. With apologies to the Clash, which stay and which should go?
I recently presented my predictions on the offensive side of the ball. Now I’ll look at the Packers’ injury-dogged defensive unit and predict who will stick around to don the green and gold once again:
Ryan Pickett, DL: Pickett has been quite the soldier, notching 200 tackles and plugging a lot of gaps in eight seasons with the Packers. But GM Ted Thompson likes ’em young, and Picket will turn 35 early in the 2014 season. In addition, his 15 total tackles in 2013 is by far his career low. It looks like Pickett may finally be out of gas. Look for the Packers to bring in some fresh meat.
C.J. Wilson, DE: Wilson has provided valuable depth, but has never been much of an impact player in four seasons. This past season, he again struggled with health issues and played in only eight games. I don’t see Wilson having a lot of value on the free-agent market, so here’s my prediction: The former seventh-round pick re-signs with the Packers for a cap-friendly price, and then loses out in camp to younger talent.
Sam Shields, CB: Perhaps the best testament to Thompson’s ability to spot undrafted talent, Shields is now a top cover corner in a pass-happy league. Someone is going to pay him a lot of money for that – possibly even too much money. With Casey Hayward on the mend and Micah Hyde showing promise, my guess is Thompson makes a fair offer and Shields bolts for more money. Hopefully, not to the Vikings.
B.J. Raji, DL: Yes, I believe we’ve watched the last game with Raji’s muffin top hanging out for the world to see. The Packers have used Raji to hold the line, and it just wasn’t working – Raji is at his best when he’s penetrating the backfield, and everyone knows it. He played just over half the snaps on defense this year, and almost never on third down. He also reportedly turned down an offer from the Packers of $8 million per season to stay. Heck, the writing has been on the wall for some time, as evidenced in this Raji quote: “I don’t label myself as a two-down defensive lineman,” Raji said. “I’m just a two-down defensive lineman for us this year.” To that end, a team with a specific need on the D-line will make him an offer he can’t refuse. So long, B.J. You will be missed.