The Green Bay Packers are coming off a very disappointing season in which they finished 8-9, one of the worst seasons recently and the worst under Matt LaFleur. This year Packers fans endured constant drama surrounding Aaron Rodgers’ future as a Packer, and we as fans had to watch this historic franchise finish behind the Detroit Lions (!) and the Minnesota Vikings (!), two teams that we have generally dominated in the past. As this franchise moves forward in a very uncertain state, this upcoming free agency is extremely important, as even the smallest moves can end up deciding a season. That being said, this is also a franchise that does not historically spend in free agency. So, with the Packers 14 outgoing free agents, it is important to evaluate which ones should be kept, and which ones should be allowed to leave.
Jarran Reed – Keep
While Jarran Reed may be going into next season on the wrong side of 30, he is still a valuable re-signing for this Packers team to make. Reed was not really expected to be a crazy defensive player for the Packers last year, if anything he was a depth signing. However, he proved himself to be a valuable addition to the starting 11 of the Packers, especially near the end of the season. Reed was able to give the Packers a small renaissance of a season that resembled his prime Seahawk days, although he didn’t quite reach his peak numbers. Regression from last season is likely for Reed, however he does provide consistency and stability opposite Devonte Wyatt. His age and experience in the NFL also makes him a very good mentor for up-and-coming players who clearly still need some mentoring (see week 18 Lions incident where Wyatt and Quay Walker pushed Detroit medical staff). All these factors considered, Jarran Reed is a worthy re-addition to a Packer’s defense that definitely needs consistency regarding who is manning what spot.
Keisean Nixon – Keep
This one is honestly a no-brainer. The conversation regarding whether or not to re-sign Keisean Nixon should be a five minute celebratory recap of the player he has become under Packers special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, and then handing him his new contract on a silver platter. Keisean Nixon became a 1st team All-Pro returner this year as he broke onto the season with some of the most exciting returns Packer fans have seen in a long time. Nixon is also widely regarded as a Pro Bowl snub, but we all know that doesn’t really matter. The fact of the matter is, Green Bay Packers special teams have been atrocious over the past few years, and Keisean Nixon has been instrumental in making actual strides towards fixing this. As any football fan knows, special teams can win and lose football games. Nixon’s 105 yard kickoff return touchdown against the Vikings just five minutes into the game in Week 17 set the tone for the Packers’ 41-17 domination over Minnesota. Nixon also does provide good depth at the cornerback position, as he is currently listed at CB3 while Eric Stokes Jr recovers from injury. Overall, Keisean Nixon is absolutely a necessary player to sign back for this team, as he provides the juice and energy that this Packers squad desperately craves.
Justin Hollins – Keep
The mid-season acquisition of Justin Hollins from the LA Rams is one of the more under-the-radar moves of the NFL season, but it was also a very productive move for Green Bay. Hollins immediately became a big-time playmaker for the Packers. Whenever his number was called, Hollins was there and ready to go for the Pack. While there may be multiple players ahead of Justin Hollins on the depth chart, the need for him on this roster is very much apparent. Injuries are a major part of today’s NFL, and the small signing of a solid depth OLB can be season changing for a team. Hollins may end up sitting behind Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, and Kingsley Enagbare for most of the season, but his value as a change of pace and substitute linebacker will never go unnoticed. That kind of value is exactly what every team in the NFL needs, and he should be signed for a good value considering he is still a fairly under-the-radar player.
Allen Lazard – Keep
Allen Lazard is the rare wide receiver where he could be a tight end by trade and still have lots of positional value. This, as many Packer fans have come to realize, is because of Allen Lazard’s extraordinary blocking ability. He is one of many few WRs out there that will put his body on the line to set an outside block in the run game, or even be set up inside in a TE-esque role. This value in itself makes Lazard incredibly valuable for any NFL team out there. However, Lazard is obviously not just limited to his incredible blocking ability. He is also a good receiver. This may not seem special, but his now 5 years with the Packers means multiple years in this offense, and multiple years with Aaron Rodgers. Clearly there is lots of uncertainty regarding Rodgers’ future in Green Bay, but if he were to stay the retention of Lazard would be well-received by Aaron’s camp. Aaron Rodgers’ pickiness with his receivers has been well documented over his years in Green Bay, so keeping receivers that he has a good rapport with would greatly assist this offense. If Rodgers weren’t to stay, it would still help to keep Lazard because he knows this offense well, and he has taken reps with Jordan Love over Love’s 3 years as backup. While they probably weren’t plentiful reps seeing as Love has very rarely run first-team QB, they are still reps. That kind of relationship for a veteran WR to have with a still learning QB could be extremely valuable for this offense to have. I’m not saying Jordan Love is Patrick Mahomes, but Mahomes and Travis Kelce had a great relationship before Mahomes took over in Kansas City. A relationship with your QB before he takes over the starting role is important, and retaining Lazard will help with the development of Jordan Love.
Adrian Amos – Keep
The final player that the Green Bay Packers need to retain is Adrian Amos. Adrian Amos might not seem like a sure bet to get re-signed at face value, but there are many reasons as to why the Packers must retain him. Amos, in his years as a packer, has become a leader in the secondary, and a stable force for the safety group while the strong safety position has been plagued by inconsistencies from Darnell Savage. Amos was also the Packers second leading tackler in the 2022-23 season, showing his value to the team in both running and passing defensive sets. The free safety market is also fairly weak for this upcoming free agent season. Adrian Amos is the third-youngest safety on the market, only behind Julian Love and Tarvarius Moore, both of whom he is better than. The only two free safeties on the market I would take over Adrian Amos at this point are Jordan Poyer and Jimmie Ward, with Devin McCourty being a debatable topic. That being said, the Green Bay Packers are known to not be big spenders in free agency. Adrian Amos is likely to command a larger contract than he has right now due to the lack of free safety talent available, but it is still essential that the Packers lock him up for a couple more years at the least. He anchors this secondary more than you think, and without him we may see this team’s safety group crumble around his absence.
Randall Cobb – Let Go
While the Packers do need to bring back an experienced receiver in Allen Lazard to strengthen an already depleted wide receiver group, they should not bring back Randall Cobb. Randall Cobb is forever going to be a remembered player in Green Bay Packer history, and he has been a part of many special moments and teams. However, Cobb is far past the prime of his career, and continuing to extend his time on this team is wasting a roster spot. The only reason the Packers brought Cobb back last season was to make Aaron Rodgers happy and make him think he had some sort of control over the front office. Now that the Packers are actively shopping Rodgers, there is no longer a need for Randall Cobb on this team. Bringing Lazard back gives the Packers a veteran wide receiver that can mentor the inexperienced ones, eliminating the only true value that Cobb can bring besides depth. Packers fans truly will love Cobb forever for everything he’s done for this team, but his time has officially passed. Choosing to spend millions of dollars on Randall Cobb is living in the past, something this franchise has done too much of in the past, and the opposite direction of where this team is going.
Mason Crosby – Let Go
Like the decision to bring Keisean Nixon back, the choice to let Mason Crosby walk should be a no-brainer for the Packers front office. Similar to Randall Cobb, choosing to bring back a player like Mason Crosby is living in the past for this franchise. Mason Crosby has been a phenomenal kicker and overall player for this team, and is a franchise great to be frank. However, his effectiveness is no longer at the caliber this team can continue to employ. There were multiple times this past season when the Packers had to go for it on an unfriendly fourth down or punt it because our kicker simply doesn’t have the leg to make a long-range field goal. In this day and age of NFL kickers who can smash in field goals from 50+ yards out, Mason Crosby is a weakness. I’d honestly be shocked if Crosby doesn’t retire during this free agency period, but if he doesn’t the Packers can not continue to use him as our kicker just because of his outstanding service to the franchise. This team needs to go in another direction for the kicker position, because like I wrote before, special teams can win and lose games. There were multiple games this season in which a made field goal could have changed the entire game script, but the Packers were simply forced to pull that punch because they were outmanned. As much as it hurts to say, the Packers can not afford to re-sign Mason Crosby.
Yosh Nijman – Let Go
Yosh Nijman is not a player the average NFL fan would know. He is a career in-and-out player, who plays when opportunity is given. There is a reason Nijman is not a consistent starter. He is painfully average at best when protecting the quarterback. While Yosh Nijman only played 756 snaps this year, he still gave up 5 sacks. This is a below average number for an NFL right tackle that plays a full season’s worth of snaps. Yosh accounted for these sacks on a reduced snap count, meaning he was even more of a liability than he would’ve been over a full season. The presence of Yosh Nijman on the field is a direct risk towards the Green Bay Packers offense, as he consistently allows pressures on Aaron Rodgers (or Jordan Love), forcing everything to be far more rushed than need be. If the Packers are going to do anything in free agency, it needs to be improving the offensive line. Green Bay has generally had a fairly good offensive line, especially during the Aaron Rodgers era, and that sentiment needs to be reignited. While Nijman is not the only player that should be replaced on the Packers offensive line, he is the only one on his way out the door, meaning that Green Bay should let him go on his way.
Robert Tonyan – Let Go
As much as it hurts to write, Robert Tonyan needs to be allowed to leave in free agency this year. It is not because he’s a bad tight end, quite the opposite actually. Tonyan was a rock solid player for the Packers last year, especially in short throw situations. However, that is exactly the problem with Tonyan as a player, and it may not be entirely his fault. Packer fans remember Tonyan’s incredible 2020 season, in which he had 52 catches, 586 yards, and 11 touchdowns. We all thought that Tonyan was the next big thing at tight end, and that he could really stick around for a long time in Green Bay. However, these dreams were dashed in 2021 when Tonyan suffered a torn ACL. Tonyan seemed to be off to a good season when his campaign prematurely ended, and he simply has not been the same explosive playmaker since. It’s not that he’s not an option in the passing game – he actually had a career high 53 catches this year. The issue is that he had about 100 less yards and 9 less touchdowns than his 2020 season. This is not entirely on Tonyan, as this offense was very limited due to a stepback in overall talent around Tonyan. It may also be because Tonyan simply is not the same guy he was before 2021, meaning he just can’t run those long, explosive routes he could in 2020 that made him such a game changer. ACL surgeries can absolutely mean physical regression on a player, especially in a physical game like football. The Packers simply can’t afford to bring back Tonyan, who limits their up the middle passing attack to shorter gains rather than the larger ones he used to offer. Many theorize that the Packers could be looking to draft a tight end in this year’s upcoming draft, and Tonyan’s exit opens up that door. It’s not that Robert Tonyan is a bad player, he simply just does not fit on this offense right now. The Packers need a Michael Mayer type guy to plug into this offense. Tonyan is old news, and this team needs a refresher.
Dean Lowry – Let Go
Did you know that Dean Lowry played for the Packers last year? I didn’t. While it’s not his fault that he was hurt for part of the season, he still is no longer the player he once was. He’s still only 28, but Lowry has run his course as a Green Bay Packer. There are better options at his position in house and in free agency. Look at Jarran Reed, a guy the Packers should bring back. Devonte Wyatt takes the other starting defensive end spot. Not to mention, Dean Lowry had a 2022 AAV of $6,775,000. That’s a lot of money for a guy who would be a backup on most NFL teams. Lowry is similar to Robert Tonyan in the sense that he’s not a bad player, he simply just doesn’t have a place on this team anymore. The Packers need to emphasize youth while picking smart values for veterans. Jarran Reed fits that description, and the Packers likely will be drafting in the defensive end department again this year, whether it be early or mid round. All these things group together to make sure that there is no room for Dean Lowry in Green Bay next season. That being said, he absolutely deserves to have another shot in the NFL. There should be teams that are looking for defensive end depth, and he can fit that description for many. He needs a change of scenery, and the Green Bay front office should agree with that.