Packers: This year’s moves could have impact on future free agents

Green Bay Packers, Kenny Clark (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Kenny Clark (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers’ signings this spring could impact who they are able to re-sign over the next couple of offseasons.

Mike Daniels, Bryan Bulaga, Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, David Bakhtiari, Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones. All seven players are set to become free agents either in 2020 or 2021.

Daniels, Bulaga and Martinez are free agents next offseason. Bakhtiari, Linsley and Jones have two years remaining on their current contracts. Clark is currently set to hit free agency in 2020, but the Green Bay Packers have the fifth-year option available.

Keeping everyone is almost impossible for every team. But it could be even more difficult for the Packers to re-sign all of these players after their recent free agency moves.

The Packers effectively entered “win-now” mode after their most active free agency period in recent memory. They made necessary moves to address positions of need, and general manager Brian Gutekunst realized he needed to add talent on both sides of the ball and couldn’t just rely on the draft.

But signing free agents comes with a cost. The Packers had to hand out big contracts and “overpay” for the players they brought in. And as a result, they may not be able to re-sign some current key members of the roster in the coming seasons.

With that in mind, there’s a good chance the 2019 season will be Mike Daniels’ last in Green Bay. Daniels will turn 31 next offseason, and the Packers may decide to get younger at the position, making Clark’s contract a priority. This could also increase the odds of going for a defensive lineman early in the draft. Ed Oliver could be the perfect choice at No. 12, as he can make an impact this season but also be a long-term replacement for Daniels.

Bulaga, too, likely won’t be back after 2019. His long injury history and age (he turns 31 next offseason) means there’s a good chance the Packers will prepare for 2020 by selecting an offensive tackle or two in this year’s draft.

But take away Daniels and Bulaga, and the other names mentioned will all be either entering, or in the middle of, their prime when their contracts expire.

Assuming the Packers pick up Clark’s fifth-year option and he becomes a free agent in 2021, he’ll only be 25 years old. Martinez will be just 26 when he becomes a free agent next offseason. Bakhtiari and Linsley will be 29 in 2021, and Jones 26 the same year.

To make it harder, according to Over The Cap, the Packers will enter the 2020 offseason with just under $40 million in cap room, which is currently the seventh-lowest in the league. They’d have even less available if they exercise Clark’s fifth-year option.

Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner will combine for just under $50 million against the cap next year.

Now, as is the case every year, the cap can be flexible and the Packers could free up cap room. One way would be to move on from Jimmy Graham, which would save them $8 million next offseason.

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Re-signing Clark and Bakhtiari should be the top priority moving forward. But Gutekunst may have to make a choice in the coming years, which is either to re-sign as many of these players as possible, or be active in free agency and risk losing multiple key players in their prime.