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Assessing the Packers’ Free Agent Future

(Sam Donsig/Intermission Sports)

By: Christopher Svab  

After a devastating 24-21 loss against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional game, the Green Bay Packers have time to reflect. The Packers had truly shown flashes of greatness throughout the season, but now, questions remain. 

Just how good are they and are they set up for success? What’s next for this new-look Packers team with most of the old core gone? Which free agents should they target to keep and which should they let go in exchange for a look towards the future?

The Offence

Let’s start with Matt LaFleur’s offence. This core had an up-and-down season. They would show flashes of greatness like their 27-22 win against the Chiefs but also had some bad losses like their October 9 matchup against the Raiders where they lost 17-13. This wavering season led to A.J Dillon, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Jon Runyan, Bo Melton and Patrick Taylor being free agents. 

When it comes to the running backs, they should re-sign Dillon. He’s a fantastic power back who’s solid in cold-weather games. This year, he stepped up in Aaron Jones’ absence and had several highlight-worthy plays. Patrick Taylor, on the other hand, will most likely be let into free agency as Emmanuel Wilson is slowly emerging into a great back. 

The tight ends Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis will likely not be re-signed by the Packers. After drafting Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft, who have both shown to be excellent tight ends, including Kraft leading the team in receiving yards in December with 266. The Packers are content with not only the growth of Musgrave and Kraft but also the emergence of Ben Sims, who has been solid for Green Bay. Putting it all together, there isn't room for Deguara and Davis in the Packers’ future plans. 

Jon Runyan is a tough one, but I’d say the Packers’ best bet is to keep him on for another year. Here’s why: at the beginning of the year, Runyan and the rest of the offensive line were awful, the most penalized line in the league. Along the way, they got better and better and Runyan stopped going offside. Adding that to his chemistry with the other linemen, especially Elgton Jenkins, will factor into the Packers putting together a great offensive line. 

One player’s future remains in question – David Bakhitari, who missed the majority of the season with a knee injury. My verdict: keep him. He only has one year left on his contract and he will help rising stars Rasheed Walker and Sean Rhyan grow into better linemen. They need him for his veteran experience to help mentor the rookies. For those questioning whether that will work, look at how the transition from Aaron Rodgers to Jordan Love worked out. Pretty well, I’d say. 

Lastly, one cannot forget about the receivers. So, Bo Melton? Keep. Melton’s improvement has shown he can fit exactly where they need him. Their WR core has a bunch of players who can have great games at any time, so time should help them become consistent difference-makers. After this season, with 218 yards in his 3 games players, Melton has become one of those players and is a must-keep for Green Bay. 

The defence. 

The biggest change for the Packers’ defence will likely come on the staff side of things, as they have replaced defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who they fired after being eliminated from the playoffs, with former Boston College coach Jeff Hafley. They have also brought in Derrick Ansley as defensive pass game coordinator and Anthony Campanile as linebackers coach.

Green Bay has a bunch of free agents to look at, including Darnell Savage, Johnathon Owens, and Keisean Nixon as the most notable names of the bunch. 

Johnathon Owens is a must-keep. Owens had a fantastic year for the Packers, posting 84 tackles. Owens played very well with other safety Rudy Ford and the two of them have formed one of the toughest safety duos out there. 

Darnell Savage is a tough one. Last season, he was benched by Joe Barry due to his poor play at safety. This year, he made a turnaround but played more CB, DB and safety when needed (where Owens and Ford were the starters). Savage’s positional flexibility and improvement have shown he can and should be a keeper for the Packers. 

Now it’s time to talk about Keisean Nixon, yet another tough one. He’s one of the fastest players on the team, as well as one of the toughest, but he’s not the best corner they have. That said, he does pair well with Carrington Valentine and Jaire Alexander. Nixon had 1 interception on the year, which came from Patrick Mahomes, but he is most notable for being a 2x all-pro kick returner. He has the most kick return yards in the league and helped get the Pack good field position at crucial points in the season. So, to me, the 2x all-pro momentum-changer has to be kept. There’s no reason to let Nixon walk away and out of all of the defenders and free agents, he’s one who makes a great impact on the game and can switch the momentum of the game into the Packers' favour anytime. 

Any free agents they should target? 

To me, the Packers’ biggest need is at middle linebacker.

Linebacker Patrick Queen is an option for the Packers to go after. A great run-stopper who can force fumbles and, like Nixon, turn the game around with his blazing intensity, he could bolster the defence in a big way. 

Could a reunion with linebacker Za'darius Smith be in the future? Coming off of a decent season with the Browns, Smith may want to take his talents back to GB to provide the attention Clark, Gary and Preston Smith already have. He’s a great run-stopper who could look good with Quay Walker behind him as a middle linebacker, while also bringing flexibility in positions like Savage. He can play both MLB and OLB, which gives Hafley options, something any coach is bound to appreciate. 

There were also rumours of a Micah Hyde reunion. That would certainly be something.

Some of these free agents may be unlikely and the Packers may just do what they have been doing and keep building through the draft. In that case, they would most likely target an MLB to eventually replace De'Vondre Campbell and a CB, which could be Kool-Aid McKinstry. 

The Packers look like they want to keep going in their new young direction. As a result, no matter who they keep or let walk and who they are able to sign, they have a new and exciting team to watch out for in the future. 


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