What Are Unrestricted Free Agents?
According to NFL.com, unrestricted free agents are any players with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract. They are free to negotiate with any team. Restricted free agents are players with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. They are also free to negotiate with any team but their original team can make “various qualifying offers (“tenders”) that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation.”
The Packers head into the 2023 off-season with questions on what they should do with their cap and their unrestricted free agents. Currently, the Packers have $-25,052,478 in cap space. Some magic needs to happen; the top five highest-paid players on the roster (Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Clark, Alexander, and Jones) account for 55% of the cap space.
Rodgers and Bakhtiari, the top two paid players in Green Bay, account for 26.69% of the cap space and will need to restructure their contracts if they wish to remain on the team. Clark’s and Alexander’s contract bonuses are due soon and restructuring those will save a lot of space. Jones is a trade candidate, seeing as he is 28 years old and the Packers have AJ Dillon on his rookie contract. If anything is to be done with the unrestricted free agents, something needs to be done about these players’ contracts.
A few unrestricted free agents that are fan favorites may not return in 2023. Mason Crosby had one of his best years, but only made one kick over 50 yards. Allen Lazard is a beast blocker but may be too expensive. Dean Lowry is an ironman who hasn’t missed a game in three seasons but was placed on IR at the end of 2022. Randall Cobb is the only Packers receiver besides Lazard to play multiple seasons with Rodgers, but he is getting old. It will be hard to see these players leave, but the Packers will still (hopefully) try to hang onto a few of their unrestricted free agents.
The Unrestricted Free Agents (2023 salaries in millions)
- Adrian Amos FS 29.8 $9.0
- Randall Cobb WR 32.4 $9.0
- Dean Lowry DE 28.6 $6.775
- Mason Crosby K 38.3 $4.3
- Allen Lazard WR 27.1 $3.986
- Robert Tonyan Jr TE 28.8 $3.75
- Jarran Reed DE 30.1 $3.25
- Marcedes Lewis TE 38.7 $2.96
- Dallin Leavitt S 28.4 $1.2
- Rudy Ford S 27.2 $1.137
- Eric Wilson OLB 28.3 $1.035
- Keisean Nixon CB 25.6 $.965
- Justin Hollins OLB 27 .706
- Yosh Nijman T 26.9 .54
4 Unrestricted Free Agents That The Packers Should Absolutely Re-Sign
4. Rudy Ford, FS, 28 years old
Rudy Ford signed with the Packers in the 2022 off-season as a special teamer on a one-year deal. Ford, along with coach Bisaccia, KR Keisean Nixon, and P Pat O’Donnell, helped turn the Packers’ special teams unit around from last in the league in 2021 to 22nd in 2022. The gunner also filled in admirably for Adrian Amos when the latter was injured against the Patriots. He is one of the league’s fastest and most skilled gunners, reaching 22 MPH twice in 2020. Special teams unrestricted free agents usually don’t demand a large salary (an average of $2.775 million) so the Packers could probably afford him.
3. Marcedes Lewis, TE, 38 years old
Big Dog will be entering his 18th season in 2023, setting the record for most seasons played by a tight end. Lewis is important in the run game where he is primarily used as a blocker for the Packers’ offense. If the Packers don’t resign Lewis or Tonyan, that would leave Josiah Deguara as the team’s only tight end. The Packers will need to draft a tight end in 2023, and the 38-year-old Lewis’ veteran presence will be key in developing the young talent. His last three contracts with the Packers were in the $2.1 – $2.25 million range, so expect about the same if he resigns in 2023.
2. Yosh Nijman, T, 26 years old
The Green Bay Packers offensive line was an ever-changing unit at the beginning of the 2022 season. Yosh Nijman is one of the constants on the offensive line where he started 13 games with 756 snaps in 2022. On those snaps, Nijman committed six penalties and allowed four sacks. David Bakhtiari’s time with the Packers is coming to an end soon and the Packers will need a veteran on the line to replace him. Spotrac.com calculates that his market value going forward is $3.2 million per year, which isn’t so bad for an offensive tackle. Nijman is one of the unrestricted free agents that Green Bay cannot allow to walk this off-season.
1. Keisean Nixon, CB/KR, 25 years old
Keisean Nixon is a priority re-signing for the Packers’ unrestricted free agents. Nixon was 2022’s PFWA All-NFL team kick returner. An absolute game changer, Nixon turned a position that was a liability for the Packers into an asset. Finishing 2022 with 1,009 return yards and a touchdown, he had eight games in a row where he eclipsed 100 return yards. In this writer’s humble opinion, I believe that the Packers need to do whatever they can to retain Nixon. This article hypothesizes that Nixon will earn around $3.45 million per year if resigned.
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