Green Bay Packers: Is Nick Perry’s promise worth the cost?

Will Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry be back in Green Bay in 2016? Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Will Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry be back in Green Bay in 2016? Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

2015 was a strange season for the Green Bay Packers. After being a team that relied mostly on stellar offensive play to come away with victories, it was surprising play from a much-improved defense that kept the Packers in a lot of their games.

The pass rush was a big part of that.

Though there wasn’t really a singular player to look at for consistent production on a game-by-game basis, the group they rolled out was good enough to tie for 7th in the league in total sacks (43).

Nick Perry was one of the members of that group.

Nick Perry 2015 stats

  • 14 games played, 349 snaps (33.37 percent of team total)
  • 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 Forced Fumble, 1 Pass Defensed

Pro Football Focus Ratings*

73.2 (overall); 71.2 (pass rush), 78.2 (run defense), 49.6 (coverage)

Perry has had a mostly lackluster career so far.

October 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry (53) at the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi
October 4, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Nick Perry (53) at the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi /

After being drafted in the 1st round in 2012, he has had issues with staying on the field; in four seasons, he has yet to play in every game. This problem is probably the biggest reason why he isn’t already under contract; teams don’t like to commit money to players when they don’t feel they can rely on them to be on the field.

His production when he has been on the field reflects that issue. In four seasons (46 games), he has just 12.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and a single fumble recovery; for a former first-round pass rusher, those totals are far from impressive.

It should be recognized however that another part of this equation is the other players around him. The Packers have had Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, and others garnering snaps at OLB throughout Perry’s tenure, and having him available didn’t necessarily mean the team would play him over giving snaps to those other players.

This probably was Perry’s best all-around season though, which helps him. He played in his second-highest number of games in a season while recording his highest tackle numbers and second-most sacks, despite only playing on a third of the team’s defensive snaps.

Getting a higher number of snaps could mean more on-paper production; with his health issues seemingly improved and one of his main competitors for snaps also set for free agency (Neal, who received over 700 this year), Perry has a seemingly open route to more snaps if Green Bay brings him back. Even if Matthews is back at OLB as rumored, the Packers can always choose to move him back to ILB at times to get more pass rushing on the field at one time.

Something else worth considering: Perry has shown a habit of stepping up in the playoffs. In 5 career postseason games, Perry has 6 sacks.

This postseason was even more impressive on its own; he received 53 snaps across the two playoff games this year, and racked up 8 tackles, 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble across that time on the field. Players who play their best when it matters most are what all teams desire, and it has to positively impact his odds for a return.

That postseason success, combined with better health, probably puts Perry’s price higher however. Fortunately for him (and the Packers), Green Bay has shown to be a team willing to pay decent value for their own guys. He could undoubtedly make more elsewhere, but we’ve seen countless players leave higher overall contracts on the table to return for less money (including Randall Cobb and Bryan Bulaga just last season) to continue being a part of the constant competitive success the Packers have had.

We all know this team does not often bring in external free agents, instead re-signing their own guys and using the draft to bolster their talent. They will do something to keep their pass rushing options stocked.

As it stands, the best option for them would appear to be bringing Perry back. He’s a more well-rounded player than fellow free-agent Neal. The draft likely has some pass rushing options Green Bay is interested in, but it would be presumptuous to automatically expect whoever they pick to be able to immediately contribute on the level that Perry should be able to. Also, Julius Peppers is older and in the final year of his contract; there’s no guarantee that he’ll be back beyond 2016.

Though free agency has officially started — meaning other teams can potentially get a contract set with Perry — this doesn’t preclude a return; in fact, it could essentially be the Packers allowing the market to set Perry’s value for them. If he finds a deal along the likes of these insane contracts being handed out, they’ll likely let him leave.

So far though, there has been little in the way of news/rumors regarding him (I’ve only seen scant mention of the Jets and maybe Seattle), so the interest may not even really be there. Someone missing out on the early spending bonanza could ante up, but it appears unlikely that something prohibitive will be offered.

Because of that — and the fact that the Packers have plenty of money to burn (still around $20 million in cap room) — it seems like Perry would have a decent chance at returning to Green Bay for the right price.

Next: Latest Packers seven-round mock draft

*Pro Football Focus’ ratings go from 0-100; 0-59 = replaceable, 60-69 = backup, 70-84 = starter, 85-89 = Pro Bowler, 90-100 = Elite