Green Bay Packers

NFC Links: Willis, Bowman, Johnson, Cobb

The 49ers have a pair of decisions to make on their All-Pro inside linebackers, who are scheduled to make nearly $14MM in 2015. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman both missed significant time with injuries last year, but replacements Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite filled in admirably. However, general manager Trent Baalke is confident both Willis and Bowman will be back next season, writes Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com“I think if you look into those numbers, they’re not as daunting as you might think,” Baalke said.

Here are some more links from around the NFC:

  • The 49ers also have a decision to make on veteran receiver Stevie Johnson. There is much debate over whether the team will release him or ask him to take a pay cut to stay with the team, writes Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Florio adds that the club is unlikely to release him without first trying to negotiate a new contract number.
  • The Packers have a huge question mark on offense as the team has not made progress in extension talks with Randall Cobb, but the team is still focused on re-signing the star slot receiver, writes Rob Demovsky in his mailbag for ESPN.
  • There has also been rumors that the Buccaneers have asked star wide receiver Vincent Jackson to take a pay cut, but that is not true according to Florio. He writes that the team could ask him to do so down the line, but more than likely won’t since they believe he is an important part of the team and that his contract reflects the current market for wide receivers.

NFC Mailbags: Rams, Panthers, Lions, Packers

We took a look at ESPN.com’s AFC mailbags earlier this morning. Let’s now shift focus to the NFC…

  • Nick Wagoner says the Rams would like to re-sign tight end Lance Kendricks, but the writer wonders if the rumored $4MM annual salary the player is seeking is too pricey.
  • The Panthers need a speedy wideout to pair with Kelvin Benjamin, and David Newton suggests free agents Eddie Royal, Ted Ginn Jr. and Michael Crabtree, although he warns that the former 49ers receiver may not be a “Dave Gettleman guy.”
  • With Cam Newton‘s contract situation being a priority in Carolina, Newton says the Panthers likely won’t make any progress on an extension for Luke Kuechly until next season.
  • The Lions releasing Reggie Bush is not an indication that they’ll draft a running back early, says Michael Rothstein. The team still has Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, so there doesn’t need to be any panic from the organization to replace the former second-overall pick. With the said, Rothstein still believes the team will select a running back, albeit much later in the draft.
  • Dan Graziano believes Bush would be the type of running back the Giants would be looking to acquire. However, the writer says that the team wasn’t among the organizations that displayed initial interest in the veteran.
  • Rob Demovsky says the Packers could keep both Tramon Williams and Davon House, but he notes that it’s unlikely for both players to remain on the roster. After all, the team is looking to expand Casey Hayward‘s role, meaning one of the two defensive backs would be on the outside looking in.
  • John Keim opines that Washington needs to improve their tight end depth. The writer says the team can’t rely on Jordan Reed, and he adds that Logan Paulsen is most productive as a blocker. Keim points to former Eagles tight end James Casey, noting that Washington has already shown interest in the 30-year-old.

NFC Notes: Raji, Iupati, Fitz, Weatherspoon

Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji is scheduled to become a free agent next month, but it appears that the 28-year-old will remain in Green Bay for at least another season. Bill Huber of PackerReport.com writes that, according to a league source, Green Bay is expected to re-sign the six-year veteran.

Raji missed all of 2014 after tearing his right bicep during the preseason, but he stayed with the team through the season to rehab and should be at full strength by training camp. Raji has played in 76 games for the Packers since they drafted him ninth overall out of Boston College in 2009. The one-time All-Pro made $4MM last season and, per Huber, is likely to re-up in Green Bay on a one-year deal.

Here’s the latest on some of Raji’s fellow NFC players:

  • Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com tweeted Friday that 49ers guard Mike Iupati is expected to hit the open negotiating market March 7. Even if that happens, the three-time Pro Bowler could still end up re-signing with the 49ers, according to Maiocco.
  • Earlier this month, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald agreed to a two-year contract to stay with the Cardinals, for whom he has caught over 900 passes in 11 seasons. Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that Fitzgerald’s deal is rare in that it contains a no-trade clause.
  • New Falcons head coach Dan Quinn hopes the team can retain linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, per Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Weatherspoon, who’s currently without a contract, sat out all of last season because of an Achilles’ tear and missed nine games in 2013 on account of a Lisfranc injury. The five-year veteran’s only 16-game season came in 2011, when he totaled 115 tackles and four sacks

Extra Points: Cobb, Ravens, Clary

The Packers have not given up hope on re-signing Randall Cobb, per ESPNWisconsin’s Jason Wilde, despite a report earlier this week indicating they were prioritizing their other free agents.

Wilde cites multiple sources indicating the Packers remain persistent in their efforts to re-sign Cobb, who at 25 is younger than the majority of the players headlining this year’s unrestricted free agent market. The earlier report came from CBSSports’ Jason La Canfora and noted Green Bay is focused on keeping Bryan Bulaga, probably the top free agent right tackle, and defensive tackle Letroy Guion.

Should Cobb, who set career highs in receptions, yards and TDs last year, reach the market like recent Packers pass-catchers Greg Jennings and James Jones, he could be the top WR available with Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant set to be franchised. The Packers have more than $32MM in cap space and have Jordy Nelson on a reasonable $4.6MM number at present.

Some additional links from Thursday night …

  • The Ravens also have several players primed to reach the open market, and OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald examines who they should retain, allow to exit and whose contracts need restructuring. At $4.7MM of space, the Ravens have Torrey Smith and Pernell McPhee heading a talented contingent heading for free agency and won’t be able to have as open of discussions regarding their own free agents as the Packers can.
  • The Chargers cut Jeromey Clary with a failed physical designation, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun noted on Twitter. Clary, 31, announced his retirement back in January. Although he was a sixth-round pick, Clary soon became a mainstay in San Diego’s lineup, starting 93 of the 103 games he played for the team during his career, primarily at right tackle. In his final season with the Chargers, the veteran lineman accepted a pay cut that reduced his base salary from $4.55MM to $1.6MM.

Zach Links contributed to this report.

Packers Release A.J. Hawk

After spending the last nine seasons – his entire NFL career – in Green Bay, linebacker A.J. Hawk will be looking for a new contract and a new team. The Packers announced today in a press release that they’ve parted ways with the veteran linebacker, releasing Hawk from their roster.

“A.J. is a consummate Packer and we are grateful for all that he has given and how he represented the organization over the past nine seasons,” GM Ted Thompson said in a statement. “He was a durable and consistent contributor to our success, but more importantly, he is a great person and teammate. The Packers are grateful for all that he has done on the field and in the community.”

Hawk, a former fifth overall pick, had been entering the final year of his contract, and would have counted for $5.1MM on Green Bay’s cap. By cutting him, the Packers clear his base salary, roster bonus, and workout bonus from their books, creating $3.5MM in cap savings.

Over the last nine years, Hawk has been one of the most recognizable players on the Packers’ defense, averaging over 100 tackles per year and appearing in all but two of the team’s regular-season games. However, toward the end of his tenure with the franchise, the 31-year-old’s production no longer matched his salary. In 2014, he saw his playing time scaled back toward the end of the season and in the playoffs as he struggled with an ankle injury, and he recorded a -14.4 grade for the season, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics (subscription required).

Hawk is the second longtime Packers linebacker to find himself on the free agent market within the last week. Green Bay also cut Brad Jones last Friday. Like Jones, Hawk won’t have to clear waivers, and is immediately free to sign elsewhere.

Tuesday Roundup: Cassel, Winston, Peterson

Vikings GM Rick Spielman said that nothing definitive has been decided about bringing Matt Cassel back to the team, but Spielman was complimentary of his veteran signal-caller when discussing him earlier this week. “We went through our process, we evaluated all of our players,” Spielman said, according to Brian Hall of FOXSportsNorth.com. “We looked at everything from what they bring to our football team, in the locker room, off the field, what they bring to us on the field. But we also have to look at where they’re at from a standpoint of their contract, where we’re at from a cap standpoint…Matt’s done a great job. Came in and has won some games when he had to play. He’s a great locker-room guy. Matt has a lot of value to us.” Cassel is signed for the 2015 season at a salary of $4.15MM, and he’ll count $4.75MM against the cap.

Now for some more links from around the league on this Tuesday evening:

  • Tahir Whitehead filled in capably for Stephen Tulloch when Tulloch went out last season, and that leaves the Lions with an interesting choice this offseason, as Kyle Meinke of MLive.com writes. Detroit could continue to roll with Whitehead at middle linebacker and carve out some space by parting ways with Tulloch. The 30-year-old is slated to count $5.8MM against the cap next season. Whitehead, meanwhile, costs just $713K.
  • The consensus around the league is that the Buccaneers will draft Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick, according to a tweet from the NFL Network (citing its own Ian Rapoport).
  • The Colts are in dire need of a running back, and Mike Wells of ESPN.com writes that the team will be closely monitoring the Adrian Peterson situation. If Peterson and the Vikings part ways, Indianapolis GM Ryan Grigson, a noted risk-taker, may pull the trigger.
  • Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora has no plans to retire, writes Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Umenyiora, 33, will become a free agent on March 10, and he said he would like to play at least one more season. If he could choose, Umenyiora stated that he would like to finish his career where it started: with the Giants.
  • Packers fullback John Kuhn is one of the last members of a dying breed, but the impending free agent reaffirmed his importance to the Green Bay offense in 2014, earning first team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. As Weston Hodkiewicz of PackersNews.com writes, there is mutual interest in Kuhn’s return to the Packers.
  • Former Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne, who has garnered interest from at least a dozen teams, is expected to sign with a club this week, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (writing for the National Football Post).
  • Bill Williamson of ESPN.com believes middle linebacker Nate Irving could be a fit with the Raiders if the impending free agent is not re-signed by the Broncos.
  • Parys Haralson, who signed a one-year deal with the Saints in February, hopes to end his career in New Orleans, writes Katherine Terrell of the Times-Picayune.
  • Jason Fitzerald of OverTheCap.com provides the Panthers‘ salary cap outlook for the 2015 season.

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

 

Pauline’s Latest: Falcons, Jets, Packers, Chiefs

With the 2015 scouting combine winding down in Indianapolis, draft guru Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net has several tidbits to pass along, having spoken to a number of league insiders over the past week. While most of Pauline’s updates relate to the draft, he also has some info on the upcoming free agent period. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights from his latest report….

  • It’s no secret that the Falcons will be targeting a pass rusher in the first round of this year’s draft, and while there are a few players who could fit that bill in the top 10, Pauline writes that Shane Ray‘s name was “constantly associated” with the team as the leading choice.
  • The Jets spent a significant amount of time in Indianapolis with speedy Miami wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who also drew interest from the Packers. According to Pauline, Green Bay is also “very high on” Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony, who is a favorite of Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers.
  • The Jets are expected to be very active in free agency, as GM Mike Maccagnan has suggested, and Pauline hears that the team will target outside linebackers and defensive line depth in addition to cornerbacks. New York would also like to add a mid-value guard, though the belief is that they won’t spend big on a player like Mike Iupati.
  • Per Pauline, the Chiefs are eyeing Benardrick McKinney as a potential replacement for Justin Houston, if they lose Houston in free agency. While Kansas City may like McKinney, I’m skeptical that the club would let Houston get away, as he seems like a logical franchise tag candidate.
  • Echoing what we’ve already heard this offseason, Pauline writes that it doesn’t sound as if the Browns‘ front office is working in harmony these days. Sources familiar with the situation compared Cleveland’s situation to the one that has played out in San Francisco in recent years, and Pauline hears there’s a good deal of dissension within the organization.

NFC Notes: Peterson, Packers, Falcons, Dez

Refuting a portion of last night’s report from Jason Cole of Bleacher Report, Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has in fact not asked for a trade. Cole had indicated that Peterson prefers to play for the Cowboys, but sources tell Tomasson that isn’t the case. Perhaps more interestingly, Tomasson reports that the Vikings have not approached Peterson about taking a pay cut from his 2015 $12.75MM base salary. The 2012 NFL MVP recently said he was “uneasy” about a return to Minnesota, but Tomasson writes that Peterson is willing to return to the club.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • The Packers have not yet begun talks with free-agent-to-be Tramon Williams, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. The 32-year-old cornerback is coming off a season in which he started all 16 games and earned $6.9MM. In a thin CB market, he’s near the top of the list of available options. But sources tell Demovsky that general manager Ted Thompson is more focused on retaining two other pending Packers FAs, receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga.
  • The Falcons will enter free agency with more than $25MM in cap space to work with, and as GM Thomas Dimitroff explains to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the club is ready make upgrades. Specifically, Dimitroff noted that Atlanta could add several free agent pushers that would fit new coach Dan Quinn’s scheme.
  • Dez Bryant is a prime candidate for the franchise tag, and while Cowboys owner Jerry Jones doesn’t expect the star pass-catcher to sulk if he is tagged, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk outlines how Bryant could turn the situation in his favor.
  • The free agent receiver class will be exceptionally strong this offseason, leading Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times to examine how market factors could affect the Bears’ decision on Brandon Marshall.

NFC Links: Johnson, Eagles, Packers, Gore

Some notes from around the NFC…

  • Despite Calvin Johnson‘s 2016 cap-hit of more than $24MM, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew made it clear that the team would do whatever it takes to keep the talented wideout in Detroit. “Calvin’s a stud,” Mayhew said (via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press). “Calvin’s a great player. He’s a phenomenal player. He has a very bright future and a very bright past. I plan on him being around for a long time. He’s a heck of a player.”
  • Draft prospect Eric Kendricks would be thrilled to play with his brother, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, on the Eagles. “Man, that’d be crazy,” the UCLA linebacker told Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com. “I played with him in high school and I think I took it for granted at the time, as far as how cool it was. But that would be unreal to say the least.” The younger Kendricks brother is expected to be a late-first, early-second round pick.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul is the type of pass-rusher Falcons head coach Dan Quinn loves, and D. Orlando Ledbetter says the organization is keeping an eye on the Giants defensive end.
  • Former Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum still had one season left on his contract, ESPN’s Rob Demovsky points out (via Twitter). As a result, the team will pay the ousted coach for 2015.
  • Following news that 49ers running back Frank Gore could be seeking $4MM annually, Eric Branch of the San Franciscion Chronicle questions whether the veteran is worth the asking price. Ultimately, the writer believes the team will let Gore walk if he can “fetch” that $4MM in free agency.

Packers Release Brad Jones

The Packers have cleared some cap space for the coming league year, announcing today in a press release that they’ve released inside linebacker Brad Jones. In a statement, GM Ted Thompson thanked Jones for his contributions to the team for the last six seasons, and wished him the best.

Jones, 28, has been a Packer since the club drafted him in the seventh round in 2009. Although he was a starter for Green Bay in 2012 and 2013, his role was significantly reduced in 2014, as he played just 218 defensive snaps. After averaging 80+ tackles per season the previous two years, Jones recorded just 23 last year, to go along with a forced fumble.

Given Jones’ diminished playing time, it made sense for the Packers to move on, since he was set to earn a base salary of $3.25MM in 2015. Although he’ll still count for $1MM in dead money on Green Bay’s cap, the team will clear about $3.7MM in cap room by cutting the Colorado product.

As a vested veteran, Jones is immediately eligible to sign with another team, without having to pass through waivers.