NFL Free Agency: Packers updates

NFL free agency got underway Thursday with a myriad of big and surprising deals around the league, but in Green Bay it was the status quo for what fans have come to expect of Packers general manager Ted Thompson. Negotiate (T.J. Lang, Jared Cook) and sign (Nick Perry) guys you want to keep and let the others (Micah Hyde, J.C. Tretter) walk.

There will likely be more of that Friday and into the weekend, and we’ll be following all the movements right here.

Packers announce they’ve re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry

Report: Center J.C. Tretter will sign with the Cleveland Browns

Safety Micah Hyde leaves Green Bay after four seasons, signs with the Buffalo Bills

(note: newest updates are at the top)

Friday 3/10

11:42 a.m. — Julius Peppers’ agent tweets that his client is headed back to Carolina where he played the first eight years of his career.

10:26 a.m. — NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the Carolina Panthers are working to sign pass rusher Julius Pepper, who spent the last three seasons in Green Bay.

8:19 a.m. — ESPN’s Adam Shefter tweets that negotiations between the Packers and free agent tight end Jared Cook have broken off and that he’s expected to visit other teams.

Thursday 3/9

7:10 p.m. — The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Michael Cohen reports that the Packers have re-signed guard/tackle Don Barclay to a one-year deal.

6:35 p.m. — Jordan Schultz of the Huffington Post tweets that the Seahawks have made guard T.J. Lang a priority and want to get a deal done.

4:52 p.m. — Safety Micah Hyde tweets a thank you to Packers fans, while also revealing the team didn’t even make him an offer to stay in Green Bay.

4:10 p.m. — ESPN’s Adam Shefter reports that running back Eddie Lacy will visit the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings, in addition to meeting with the Packers.

3:48 p.m. — The Packers announce they’ve officially re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry.

3:47 p.m. — The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that running back Eddie Lacy doesn’t have an offer from Green Bay and will visit other teams.

3:45 p.m. — Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that safety Micah Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills on a five-year, $30.5 million contract.

3:17 p.m. — ESPN’s Rob Demovsky tweets that guard T.J. Lang will visit the Detroit Lions tomorrow and the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.

3:15 p.m. — CBS Sports Jason La Canfora reports that center J.C. Tretter’s deal with Cleveland is for three years and $16.8 million.

12:11 p.m. — ESPN Rob Demovsky reports that outside linebacker Nick Perry’s contract is a 5-year, $60 million deal that includes an $18.5 million signing bonus.

10:09 a.m. — Green Bay is losing guard/center J.C. Tretter to the Cleveland Browns, reports NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo.

10:01 a.m. — NFL.com reporter Mike Garafolo reports the Cleveland Browns are working to sign Green Bay guard/center J.C. Tretter.

8:46 a.m. — Packers defensive tackle Mike Daniels tweets his congratulations to outside linebacker Nick Perry on his new deal to stay in Green Bay.

8:31 a.m. — Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets the team’s priorities are clearly in re-signing guard T.J. Lang and tight end Jared Cook, while not making a push for safety Micah Hyde

8:11 a.m. — NFL.com reporter Mike Garafolo tweets that Green Bay tight end Jared Cook is receiving interest from the Detroit Lions and the Buffalo Bills.

7:31 a.m. — Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Packers are nearing an agreement to keep outside linebacker Nick Perry, but the deal is not done yet.

7:09 a.m. — Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets the Packers have a long-term agreement in place with outside linebacker Nick Perry.

Wednesday 3/8

9:24 p.m. — Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Packers have keyed in on outside linebacker Nick Perry and guard T.J. Lang as priorities to get signed before free agency opens.

8:33 p.m. — Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets that the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts are showing interest in outside linebacker Nick Perry, but that the Packers want him back.

7:38 p.m. — NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that safety Micah Hyde is “aggressively pursuing other options” out of Green Bay.

7:26 p.m. — ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reports that safety Micah Hyde will hit the open market as the Packers did not make him an offer.

3:14 p.m. — Bill Huber of PackerReport.com tweets that the New York Jets are prepared to make an offer for outside linebacker Nick Perry.

The Neighborhood: What decisions should the Packers make in free agency?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — I’ll begin by admitting I’m not an expert on the salary cap, and I don’t have a direct line to Ted Thompson’s office. But with about $42 million in cap space heading into the offseason, here are some of the options the Green Bay Packers are faced with, along with my predictions of how they’ll handle them. My predictions are only for those positions in which Green Bay also has options in free agency.

Center

Incumbent: J.C. Tretter has just finished up his four-year, $2.6 million contract and is an unrestricted free agent. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the 13th-best center in the league based on this past season’s performance, despite missing the last half of the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL). That’s nothing new for the Cornell product, but it’ll cost him when it comes to contract negotiations.

Options: A.Q. Shipley | Arizona Cardinals, Joe Hawley | Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brian Schwenke | Tennessee Titans, John Sullivan | Washington Redskins

Prediction: With Corey Linsley as the only other experienced center on the roster and Tretter the best available, he’ll likely come back on a one-year contract.

Guard

Incumbents: T.J. Lang ranked as the No. 6 right guard in the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus, and has expressed his willingness to return to Green Bay at age 30. Don Barclay suffered a shoulder injury in November and was replaced by rookie Jason Spriggs, who showed promise for the future protection of the Green Bay backfield.

Options: Kevin Zeitler | Cincinnati Bengals, Ronald Leary | Dallas Cowboys, Larry Warford | Detroit Lions, Luke Joeckel | Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction: I see this as a position the Packers only address in the draft, so the only move here is to re-sign Lang to a multi-year deal, while potentially cutting Barclay loose. With the promise of Spriggs and the frugal nature of Thompson, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barclay released.

Tight End

Incumbent: Jared Cook came over from the St. Louis (now Los Angeles) Rams on a one-year, $2.75 million contract, and despite missing six games with a high ankle sprain, he performed admirably and became a keystone to their success entering the postseason. He averaged 55 yards and four catches per game over the last 10 games (including playoffs).

Options: Martellus Bennett | New England Patriots, Jack Doyle | Indianapolis Colts, Vernon Davis | Washington Redskins, Jacob Tamme | Atlanta Falcons

Prediction: After earning a Super Bowl ring with New England and making it clear he wants to get paid, Packer fans dreaming of a Bennett-to-Green-Bay scenario can forget about it. At 29 years old, Cook is productive enough to warrant a two-year deal to remain in Titletown.

Running Back

Incumbents: Neither Eddie Lacy, nor Christine Michael were dominant forces in the backfield for the Packers, but because of that, Green Bay can cash in when it comes to negotiations. Lacy logged just 360 yards and no touchdowns before an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. Michael was seldom-used, logging 114 yards on 31 carries in Green Bay.

Options: Le’Veon Bell | Pittsburgh Steelers, LeGarrette Blount | New England Patriots, Latavius Murray | Oakland Raiders, Danny Woodhead | San Diego Chargers

Prediction: Thompson doesn’t like to go with what he doesn’t know, so I don’t see him contacting any of the above options (Bell will re-sign with the Steelers anyway). It’s already being reported that Lacy is likely coming back on a one-year deal worth about $2 million. And with Ty Montgomery looking like a more sure bet, Michael will try to find work elsewhere.

Outside Linebacker

Incumbents: Nick Perry finally had a breakout year, posting 11 sacks, 35 solo tackles, and 17 assisted tackles. Julius Peppers‘ numbers weren’t as great, but he was still effective at 7.5 sacks, 15 solo tackles, and eight assisted tackles.

Options: Chandler Jones | Arizona Cardinals, Melvin Ingram | San Diego Chargers, Malcolm Smith | Oakland Raiders, Barkevious Mingo | New England Patriots

Prediction: While it’s been a nice ride for 37-year-old Peppers, he’ll likely hit the free market and end his career with his first team | the Carolina Panthers. After finally seeing one of “his guys” break out, Thompson will re-sign Perry to a three-year contract and probably overpay. Don’t be surprised if the Packers tease us with a nibble in free agency on an OLB.

Safety

Incumbent: It was a career year for Micah Hyde, matching his personal-best three interception mark on the season. That’s despite making a switch to slot cornerback due to injuries in the Green Bay secondary.

Options: Eric Berry | Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Jefferson | Arizona Cardinals, Barry Church | Dallas Cowboys, Johnathan Cyprien | Jacksonville Jaguars, Quintin Demps | Houston Texans

Prediction: Hyde had a relatively team-friendly contract of four years, $2.3 million, and after earning the performance-based escalator last season, I don’t see why that changes. He’ll earn a three-year deal with the Pack. Plot twist: Thompson nabs one of the above options at safety, but it’ll be a player we know little about.

While cornerback was largely ignored in this post due to the fact that Green Bay doesn’t have any on expiring contract, I’d expect that to be the area where the Packers find a piece in free agency. The best players available are A.J. Bouye (Houston Texans), Trumaine Johnson (Los Angeles Rams), Stephon Gilmore (Buffalo Bills), Morris Claiborne (Dallas Cowboys), and Captain Munnerlyn (Minnesota Vikings).