Which of the Green Bay Packers’ free agents to be should be re-signed, and who should they let walk?
Another year, another disappointing ending to the season for the Packers. This one was particularly disappointing, with the team finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2008.
The Packers are done. This time, they’re done before January. A bizarre, frustrating season has mercifully come to an end after a loss to the rival Detroit Lions.
Here is a complete overview of what the Packers need to do with their pending free agents this spring.
The Packers have a tough decision to make with Burnett.
The 28-year-old has enjoyed a nice career to this point in Green Bay after being drafted in the third round out of Georgia Tech in 2010. Burnett is considered the quarterback of the defense and the one getting everyone lined up, but it simply hasn’t resulted in progress for the unit as a whole. Burnett is also inferior athletically to many of his opponents, which is only going to become more of a problem for the secondary moving forward.
Burnett has never made a Pro Bowl, and has been one of the team’s worst run defending players over the last five years. Burnett excelled on the field next to Charles Woodson, but has since seen his play gradually decline.
His signature performance was his exceptional day against the Seahawks in the 2014 NFC title game. He recorded an interception, recovered a fumble on special teams, and made 10 tackles including two sacks. But the Packers just haven’t seen enough of that from Burnett and would be wise to give Josh Jones a shot on the field. The Packers have just under $30 million in cap space to work with, but they simply need new blood on defense. Verdict: Walk
Ahmad Brooks didn’t have a tremendous impact off the edge for the Packers, but showed the team just enough to give him another short-term contract as a backup to Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. Brooks is not the same player he used to be, but the team should be encouraged enough with Brooks’ play, particularly early in the season, to give him another look.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Packers are looking for a new defensive coordinator. Dom Capers is on his way out. An ideal replacement is Vic Fangio. Fangio ran the 49ers’ defense when Brooks was the starting outside linebacker opposite Aldon Smith during the Packers’ two playoff losses to the Niners in back-to-back years in 2012 and 2013. Fangio should be given another year with Brooks and another chance to draw up a specific package for the veteran pass rusher. Verdict: Re-sign (Ideal contract: 1-year/veteran minimum)
Davon House had one great year, and one horrible year at cornerback in Jacksonville after leaving the Packers as a free agent. He returned to Green Bay one a one-year contract, hoping to prove his worth towards another long-term deal. House was awful in his return to Green Bay. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked as the 94th best cornerback in the NFL for the season.
House has given the Packers no indication that he will turn back into the record-setting player that he was in his first season in Jacksonville. The Packers have virtually no reason to give him another dime, especially considering they have interest in what Kevin King can become in the long run. Verdict: Walk
Jahri Evans had a surprisingly strong year in Green Bay. After a long career in New Orleans protecting Drew Brees, the Packers brought Evans in as a stopgap after letting T.J. Lang depart in free agency. They let J.C. Tretter walk as well. Green Bay did not expect Evans to play as well as he did this season, probably assuming he would be worth the one-year commitment, but nothing more.
Evans played well enough to give himself one more season in Green Bay. His lateral movement is essentially gone, but the strength is still there for the six-time Pro Bowler. The Packers won’t have to give Evans too much money at all, and can probably sign him to the same contract they brought him in with this past offseason. If the Packers can get a pass-protecting guard at a very cheap price for one more year, they should do it. Verdict: Re-sign (Ideal contract: 1-year/veteran minimum)
The Packers, for no reason, have disrupted their continuity at the long-snapper position, unnecessarily giving the roster spot to Derek Hart and Rick Lovato while Brett Goode was clearly doing the job. They didn’t have many problems snapping the ball to their kickers this season, and shouldn’t hesitate to re-up with Goode. Verdict: Re-sign (Ideal contract: 1-year/veteran minimum)
Quinton Dial was a late signing by the Packers shortly before the season began. Dial ended up playing a lot in the rotation, especially after Ricky Jean-Francois was let go. Dial did little to help the run defense, and generated next to no pass rush up the middle.
This shouldn’t discourage the Packers, however. Dial could use another season along the defensive line under a new coordinator, and with more depth ahead of him along the line. Dial ended up playing significant starter minutes, which is not ideal for the defensive line. To keep the depth up and check off another need before the draft, the Packers should retain the talented Dial. Verdict: Re-sign (Ideal contract: 1-year/$1 million)
Richard Rodgers’ rookie season looked fairly promising for a third-round tight end. The Packers opted for hands over speed in the draft and it seemed like they had made the right choice after his rookie campaign. Rodgers had two strong playoff games against the Cowboys and Seahawks, including a crucial go-ahead touchdown grab in the fourth quarter of the divisional playoff win over the Cowboys.
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It’s all gone downhill for Rodgers since then. He was ranked as the 82nd best tight end by Pro Football Focus in 2017, as he sat behind both Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks on the depth chart. Even after Bennett’s debacle unfolded, the Packers were unable to get Rodgers any good looks from Brett Hundley. Verdict: Walk
Demetri Goodson was drafted as a 25-year-old rookie when he came to the Packers out of Baylor. Goodson has actually flashed some decent ability when he’s healthy. Unfortunately he is virtually never healthy. Goodson has missed 22 regular season games in his three years in the league, and failed to record an interception in his 26 appearances.
Goodson has a few things going against him. Already being 28 years of age hoping for his second contract is already not ideal, and coupling that with his injuries makes him much less of a priority. Goodson has the talent to make it work in the NFL, but the rest of the measurable qualities work against him. Verdict: Walk
Jeff Janis basically earned himself a roster spot on the Packers for at least one season after his miraculous playoff catch against the Cardinals. Janis has barely made much of an impact since then, and has exposed himself as an inferior receiver to the competition. Janis has the raw speed to play the position well, but lacks the skills to be an effective burner on the boundary.
Janis could be a strong deep threat if he ever refined his skills enough as a route runner and actual pass catcher. He hasn’t made much progress as a kick returner, as Trevor Davis has taken over almost all return duties. The Packers don’t have much of a reason to keep Janis around, and shouldn’t be sad to see him go. Verdict: Walk