The Green Bay Packers are entering a critical offseason. General manager Brian Gutekunst must navigate his championship-hopeful squad through some salary cap difficulties. The Packers are currently $48.4 million over the cap and superstar receiver Davante Adams is due for a new contract. Green Bay will be forced to get creative as they approach free agency and the NFL draft. Only the cash-strapped New Orleans Saints find themselves in a worse financial position. The Packers will have to make sacrifices. The releases of players such as Za'Darius and Preston Smith would combine to create $27 million in additional financial freedom, but would create holes on their roster, particularly at EDGE. Green Bay's premature playoff exit has left a sour taste in the mouths of Aaron Rodgers, Gutekunst, Matt LaFleur, and Packers fans all over the nation. With Rodgers' career undeniably winding down, this offseason likely qualifies as a last-ditch opportunity to capture a second Lombardi trophy in the Rodgers era—if he even stays. With cap, team needs, pending free agents, and draft selections all put into consideration, here are three offensive and defensive free agents Green Bay could target when the signing period begins on March 14.
ANTONIO BROWN, WR, UFAWe're starting with a boom—business is booming! All kidding aside, the Packers are set to witness a curious quartet of wide receivers reach free agency. In addition to Adams, the contracts of Allen Lazard (a restricted free agent), Equanimeous St. Brown, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are all set to expire. The Packers will do everything within their power to retain Adams, and he's a likely candidate to receive the franchise tag. Talents such as Lazard and Valdes-Scantling could price themselves out of Green Bay's market while finding more lucrative opportunities (both from a financial and targets perspective) elsewhere. The Packers must replace them by securing the services of an adequate WR2 opposite Adams. Brown's latest stint ended in an extremely controversial and unfortunate fashion, and the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer probably shouldn't receive another chance to redeem himself. Talented players always get more chances than their behavior warrants and Brown falls into that category. The Packers can afford to swing for the fences given the position they find themselves in. Gutekunst and LaFleur should be desperate to capture a Super Bowl before Rodgers hangs up his cleats. Brown's next contract will likely be of the short-term variety with little in terms of guarantees and plenty of performance-based incentives. Brown may actually be happy in Green Bay. Rodgers is an elite quarterback and the Packers would possess little competition for targets in the passing game opposite Adams. Should Gutekunst become comfortable with the off-field risk he'd inherit by signing Brown, this marriage could actually make sense.
MO ALIE-COX, TE, INDIANAPOLIS COLTSRobert Tonyan exploded onto the scene in 2020 by shockingly revealing himself as a dangerous weapon in the red zone. Tonyan secured 11 touchdown receptions and won a lot of fantasy football players some money. Tonyan failed to replicate that production in 2021 after suffering a season-ending knee injury. Tonyan is now set to reach free agency and the Packers should look to upgrade at the TE1 position. Tonyan lacks the prowess as a run blocker to survive as an every-down tight end in LaFleur's scheme and former third-round selection Josiah Deguara has proven to be nothing more than a role player with limited upside as a pass-catcher. Enter Mo Alie-Cox, a 6-foot-5 do-it-all tight end that projects nicely into Green Bay's offense. Alie-Cox is an excellent blocker that would thrive in a Shanahan-tree system on all three downs. Alie-Cox possesses intriguing run after catch ability, and few quarterbacks could take better advantage of such opportunities than Rodgers, whose ball placement skills are truly elite. Alie-Cox's size also makes him a bonafide weapon in the red zone, a skill that could help offset what they may be losing in Tonyan. Alie-Cox will turn 29 years old in September and has never operated as a true TE1. Signing him won't break the bank financially, and it would represent the type of shrewd signing the Packers should aim to make in March.
DAVID QUESSENBERRY, OT, TENNESSEE TITANSThe Packers must secure the services of a swing offensive tackle this offseason that's capable of backing up both David Bakhtiari and Billy Turner at left and right tackle respectively. Elite offensive lineman Elgton Jenkins did an incredible job filling in for Bakhtiari throughout the season before suffering an injury of his own and is best suited to remain inside in 2022. Dennis Kelly is set to hit free agency and may not be back after experiencing a strange season with the Packers. Kelly was welcomed to Lambeau in the first place due to his previous experience with LaFleur in Tennessee, and the former Titans offensive coordinator could look to another offensive tackle he has experience with in hopes of replacing Kelly as their OT3. David Quessenberry started all 16 games for the Titans at right tackle in 2021. LaFleur coached Quessenberry as Tennessee's offensive coordinator in 2018, and the athletic Quessenberry is an ideal fit for LaFleur's zone-heavy offense. Quessenberry has played both left and right tackle with mixed results, but he's the type of talent that can get you by in emergency situations while serving as a quality run blocker. You could do a lot worse than Quessenberry at OT3, particularly in an offense that already fits him like a glove.
MELVIN INGRAM, EDGE, KANSAS CITY CHIEFSRashan Gary exploded in 2021 by posting a career-high 9.5 sacks while finally playing as a full-time player. Gary's athleticism popped off the screen while injuries at the EDGE position thrust him into a starring role. Gary's astonishing development serves as a much-welcomed revelation for the Packers, who have to make some difficult decisions at the position before March. As aforementioned in the introduction, salary cap troubles mean the Packers may be forced to part ways with both Za'Darius and Preston Smith in the coming weeks. It would immediately catapult the Packers into the EDGE market, both via free agency and the draft. Setting the edge and keeping outside containment are musts in defensive coordinator Joe Barry's defense. The soon-to-be-33-year-old Melvin Ingram is the type of versatile talent that would thrive in Barry's system as a situational pass rusher and quality run defender. The aging Ingram still has something left to give and may go ring-chasing in 2022. Green Bay qualifies as an adequate destination for Ingram to play out the twilight of his career on a short-term deal. Ingram's advancing age should make him an affordable option for a cash-strapped contender. Pairing Ingram with a high-upside draft selection would fill things out nicely behind Gary in 2022.
BILAL NICHOLS, DT, CHICAGO BEARSGutekunst surprisingly released defensive tackle Kingsley Keke in January and Dean Lowry qualifies as another candidate to be released this offseason due to an inflated salary. It's possible the Packers will enter free agency with Kenny Clark as the lone proven asset at the defensive tackle position. Clark is a game-wrecker in every sense of the word, but pairing him with a veteran three-technique or five-technique would instantly upgrade Green Bay's defensive line. T.J. Slaton and Jack Heflin remain under contract, but neither player is ready to take on a full-time role. Adding Bilal Nichols to the fray would qualify as a win-win across multiple categories. The Packers would be securing the services of a capable five-tech while simultaneously weakening a divisional rival. It's unclear whether or not new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams view Nichols as a fit for their incoming defense and regime change. If not, Nichols may be forced to search for a change of scenery, and signing with the Packers would represent greener pastures for all parties involved.
RASHAAN EVANS, LB, TENNESSEE TITANSThe Packers struck absolute gold by signing De’Vondre Campbell to a one-year contract worth just $2 million. Campbell repaid their faith by becoming a first-team All-Pro while recording a staggering career-high 132 tackles. Campbell's haunting breakout season likely means he's headed for a multi-year and lucrative contract elsewhere, as the Packers surely can't afford what his market price will demand. The Packers have rarely placed a premium on acquiring linebackers via free agency and the draft, and they'll more likely aim to make another under-the-radar signing that more so reflects the deal they struck with Campbell a year ago. Former first-round pick Rashaan Evans could qualify as an intriguing reclamation project. The former Alabama standout lost favor in Tennessee following the midseason acquisition of Zach Cunningham. Evans was a healthy scratch for Tennessee's playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, a telltale sign that his time in Nashville has reached its end. Evans will likely be available on a short-team prove-it deal and would slot in nicely next to Krys Barnes, who should be back in 2022. LaFleur crossed paths with Evans in 2018. Coaches are always a fan of reuniting with players they're familiar with. Evans checks a lot of boxes here.
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