Free agency officially begins on Wednesday, and if the Packers are going to rebound after back-to-back losing seasons, general manager Brian Gutekunst is going to have to perform a lot better than he did a year ago. Signing younger players would be a good way to make that happen. The Packers acquired five free agents a year ago, and their average age was over 31. That’s tempting fate. For every one Julius Peppers, there are five Martellus Bennetts.
After watching A LOT of tape, here are 20 unrestricted free agents I think could really help the Packers in 2019. I’ve grouped them into four categories: top-tier, second-tier, under-the-radar, and others worth considering. With at least $34 million in cap space, Gutekunst will be able to shop in any aisle he chooses. They key will be not coming up with players who have passed their expiration date.
Before I get to the unrestricted free agents I’d like to see Gutekunst pursue, here’s a look at the 11 Packers who’ll hit the open market in a few days:
BYRON BELL – The journeyman was given a 1-year deal worth $1.7 million last May to provide veteran depth at tackle, but he was moved to guard after struggling early in training camp. He wound up starting nine games inside, and while he wasn’t good, he wasn’t a disaster either. The Packers should thank Bell for getting them through last season and move on. If Gutekunst can’t find a better option to back up at multiple positions, he ain’t trying hard enough.
BASHAUD BREELAND – The 27-year-old was still on the street in September after a failed physical in March voided a $24 million deal with Carolina. The former Redskin didn’t play particularly well with the Packers, but that could be blamed on missing training camp and multiple nagging injuries. A healthy Breeland is at best a slightly above average starter and at worst a really solid backup. That makes him worth re-signing at the right price. He could also project to safety if Green Bay’s young corners step up.
IBRAHEIM CAMPBELL – Claiming the journeyman strong safety proved to be one of Gutekunst’s best decisions in 2018. The former Northwestern star was discarded by the Jets but played surprisingly well in Green Bay before tearing his ACL in early December. His familiarity with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine – the two were together in Cleveland – was obvious from day one. If not for the injury, he would be a no-brainer to re-sign. It could still happen in the coming weeks, or the Packers might simply wait until he’s fully healed.
RANDALL COBB – Unless Gutekunst is afraid of making Aaron Rodgers angry by discarding one of his closest friends on the team for a second consecutive offseason, there’s no way to justify bringing the former Kentucky star back. Despite being only 28, Cobb has slowed down considerably since making the Pro Bowl in 2014. He’s still fearless over the middle, but he no longer runs well enough to separate down the field. That’s why 82 percent of his 38 catches came within six yards of the line of scrimmage. Gutekunst needs to make another tough decision and move on.
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