OK, we’re more than a week removed from the end of the NFL season, and over three weeks removed from the end of the Packers season and there’s much to catch up on.
Let’s start with the biggest story of the week, the sudden free agency of JJ Watt, who was mercifully cut loose from the most dysfunctional franchise in the league and given a chance to ride into the sunset with a Super Bowl contender.
I know most of you are dying for this to happen, for Watt to return home and join Kenny, Za’Darius and Rashan in what would be an explosive pass rush. I’d like to see it happen, if the money isn’t exorbitant. But as I said on “In the Zone” Saturday, I think he ends up in Cleveland. That steam has picked up this week. That’s a team on the cusp, with oodles of cap room and a transformational player in Myles Garrett looking for a partner. It just seems like a perfect fit. For that matter, I think the Pack should see what the Kawann Short market looks like. The recently released Panther would look awfully good next to Clark.
For the Pack, Watt is the outlier. This is a season where they will not be shopping for free agents, at least not in the first three weeks of free agency. If the salary cap drops to the neighborhood most are projecting, the Packers will look to add to the roster later, with bargain veterans, cast aside by a lower than expected cap.
I expect them to lose Aaron Jones, Corey Linsley and Kevin King. I think they’ll cut loose Preston Smith, Christian Kirksey and Dean Lowry. That will get them under the cap and in a position to do some bargain shopping.
I hope they hang on to Jamaal Williams and Ricky Wagner. Williams would provide a solid complement to AJ Dillon and his popularity and work ethic, not to mention his performance, have earned him a second deal, as long as no one else is willing to throw big money his way. With Bakhtiari’s recovery time unclear, Wagner seems like a security blanket for one more year–unless the team plans to move Elgton Jenkins over to right tackle.
Now, about the new defensive coordinator. Not excited. Disappointed. I understand wanting to introduce Brandon Staley’s Rams concepts to this defense, but Barry is a two time washout at coordinator and I would have rather seen a young coach on the rise, perhaps a man of color, to get the opportunity to take this defense to the next level. Then again, I was underwhelmed by the Matt LaFleur hire too, so we’ll see how things shake out.
Finally, back to Watt. If he ultimately decides he wants to finish his career with his hometown team to try to help them get over the top, and the two sides can find a way to make Watt happy and Russ Ball happy, the Packers win the offseason before free agency and the draft even begins.