Now that the dust has settled on free agency and the draft, general manager Ted Thompson should think long and hard about extending the contract of center Corey Linsley. Prior to the start of the regular season would be the perfect time to lock up the present and hopefully future starting center of the Packers.
As well as JC Tretter played early last season – which, by the way, was good enough to get him a three-year deal worth over $18 million from the Cleveland Browns – Linsley was clearly the preferred choice of the front office and the coaching staff. That’s because the former Ohio State star is already one of the top 15 centers in the National Football League, and at the age of 25, he should only get better in the years to come.
Linsley lacks size at barely over 300 pounds, but he’s incredibly strong in the upper body. He’s also a deceptively good athlete. There’s really no weakness to his game. That’s why it’s imperative to extend him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next March. And the longer Thompson waits, the more he’ll have to pay.
While not all soon-to-be free agents are interested in re-signing early, Linsley would likely be receptive. Why? Because he’s currently rehabbing from ankle surgery – his second major injury in less than a year. The idea of security in the form of a hefty signing bonus would probably be very appealing. Sure it’s a bit risky for the Packers, but it’s a risk worth taking. It could also be a risk that saves the team millions of dollars.
OK, I admit I’m a little biased when it comes to Linsley, He was my favorite “under the radar” player in the 2014 draft (he’s the only one of those “under the radar” guys that Ted has ever selected). I loved his game in college, and he’s the same player in the NFL. In fact, he has a chance to be the best center to play for the Packers since Mike Flanagan in the 1990s. And that includes another undersized tough guy named Scott Wells, who went to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and signed a $25 million deal as a free agent with the Rams.
Based on other deals signed by centers in the past 12 months, Linsley – assuming he has a healthy and productive season – could be looking at a 5-year deal worth $35 million to $40 million next March. Getting a deal done in the next few months could knock those numbers down closer to 4 and 24. That’s still pricey, but it would be more palatable to a GM who doesn’t tend to break the bank for interior O-linemen.
Wide receiver Davante Adams, left guard Lane Taylor and safety Morgan Burnett are other key players eligible for unrestricted free agency after the 2017 season, but I don’t see Thompson rushing to get deals done with any of them. Unlike Linsley, who’s been a quality starter since the first game of his rookie year, Adams and Taylor still have something to prove. As for Burnett, his age alone would’ve made him a difficult call – and that was before Josh Jones was drafted in the second round. The guess here is that Thompson will wait until at least Halloween before even broaching extension talks with those three players.