After a disappointing year, the Green Bay Packers have already made several big changes to the framework of the organization. They replaced GM Ted Thompson with Brian Gutekunst, they finally fired Dom Capers and hired Mike Pettine to replace him as defensive coordinator, and they brought back Joe Philbin to be their offensive coordinator. Still, there are plenty of moves that have to be made in order to get the Packers back into the playoffs. Here are five predictions, some bold and some not so bold, for the Green Bay Packers this off-season.
Aaron Rodgers will become the highest paid player in NFL history
We recently saw the 49ers give Jimmy Garoppolo the biggest contract in NFL history less than a week ago, but there are 3 QB’s that could get even bigger contracts in the upcoming months. But the guy that will get the biggest is Aaron Rodgers. In what will likely be his final extension with the team, there are reports that Rodgers could become the NFL’s first $200M player. I think the contract will be huge, but less than $200M. My final prediction for the deal? How about $180M over 6 years, with $85M guaranteed. That would put him with $25M more than the current record for guarantees, which is now held by Matt Stafford at $60M.
Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb will be released or traded
The Packers have currently $17M in cap room, and if they want to be any sort of players in free agency, they’ll have to make several changes to create the room. Nelson is 32 years old and showed some signs of slowing down this past season. If they released or traded him before June 1st, they would save $10M against the cap. As for Cobb, his production has slowed down ever since he signed his 4 year deal, and they already have his replacement on the roster in Ty Montgomery. If they released or traded him before June 1st they would save $9.5M. The point is they have to make room for Rodgers new deal and for additions to their defense, so it’s more than likely that one of these two fan favorite receivers will have to go.
The Packers will try, but strike out on Malcolm Butler
I think it’s more than clear that cornerback is the number one need for the Packers this off-season. They drafted Kevin King, and Demarious Randall showed flashes near the end of the season, but they still need a clear cut top corner. After getting benched for the Super Bowl, Malcolm Butler has likely played his last game in a Patriots uniform. Since Butler has been one of the better corners in the league the last several years, and is the top corner on the market this year, he’s going to command a big time deal. Last season AJ Bouye signed a 5 year $67.5M deal with the Jaguars as the top free agent corner, and I bet Butler signs something similar, which will likely prove to be too rich for the Packers considering their salary cap situation.
Clay Matthews will restructure his contract
Clay is entering the final year of his deal, where he’s scheduled to make $11M. They could save all that money if they release him, but Mike Pettine wants to keep him so they can move him around the offense. His sack numbers have gone down each of the last 3 seasons, and with his likely move to inside linebacker, and to help the team gain some more talent, I expect the Packers to at least approach Matthews on restructuring his deal, with the possibility of tacking on an extra year as an incentive.
80% of the Packers draft will go to defensive upgrades along with an extra surprise
The offense will be fine as long as Aaron Rodgers is under center, and the defense has been atrocious the past few seasons. The compensatory picks have yet to be announced, so we don’t know for sure how many picks the Packers will have, but we do know that most of the draft will go towards the defense. The focus will be on speed, especially in the secondary, while also focusing on an eventual replacement for Clay Matthews as the next big pass rusher. As for the surprise? I could see the Packers using a day 2 pick on a QB to replace Brett Hundley as the developmental QB behind Aaron Rodgers. With the possibilities being Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph, or Louisville QB Lamar Jackson if they fall to the 3rd round.