This past off-season, Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst had to make a very tough decision when he parted ways with longtime wide receiver Jordy Nelson. Not only was Nelson a very productive wide receiver for the Packers for a long time, he had become a folk hero in the Green Bay area. But as Gutekunst has learned, being an NFL general manager isn’t an easy position to hold. Parting ways with Nelson couldn’t have been easy, but it was a decision he believed had to be made. With the Packers fighting to keep their playoffs hopes alive, there is no doubt that Gutekunst will have more difficult decisions to make once the season is completed.
Several Green Bay Packers Veterans Might Be Playing their Last Season for the Green and Gold
Unlike former general manager Ted Thompson, in his first season as the Packers general manager, Gutekunst has shown he isn’t afraid to dip into free agency. He will still utilize the draft to replenish the Packers roster, but it appears he will also use free agency to help the Packers. Gutekunst will need to utilize both if he decides to part ways with several Packers veterans this off-season.
There are four possible Packers veterans who might be playing for different NFL teams next season. Two of these four will be free agents after the season, meaning that Gutekunst and the Packers might offer them new deals. The other two are players who have shown that they can’t stay healthy and might not be worth the money the Packers are currently paying them. Here are those four possible players and the chance of them returning for next season.
Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
Currently, Randall Cobb has just 26 catches for 258 yards and one touchdown reception. So far, he has only played in just five games. He will sit out once again this week against the Seattle Seahawks with a hamstring injury. In 2014, Cobb had career-highs in receptions (91), receiving yards (1,287), and touchdown receptions (12). That season earned him a new four-year, $40 million deal. Unfortunately for the Packers, his numbers dropped after signing that deal.
Along with his numbers dropping, Cobb has battled injuries. Although Cobb has been a favorite of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, his drop in production and his health issues seem too much to give him a new contract. The Packers spent three draft picks on wide receivers this past NFL draft and it is highly likely that one of them will replace Cobb as the starting slot receiver next season. Rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling has shown that he has the potential to replace Cobb. Along with being bigger than Cobb, he is also faster, younger, and will be entering next season in his second season on his rookie contract. It appears that Cobb will be playing elsewhere next season.
Bryan Bulaga, Offensive Tackle
Bulaga, a former first-round pick of Thompson’s, stepped in for former standout right tackle Mark Tauscher back in 2010 when Tauscher was lost to injury. The rookie had big shoes to fill but he did and played exceptionally. He was the starting right tackle when the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl that season.
As he showed that season, and throughout his career, Bulaga is an above average right tackle. But his biggest problem is his penchant for injuries. Throughout his career, he has battled knee, ankle, and back injuries. Those injuries have forced Bulaga to miss quite a bit of time. During his career, Bulaga has only played a full 16-game regular season schedule just once (2016). In 2013, he sat out the entire season because of a season-ending knee injury he suffered in training camp. Last season, he only played in five games, again because of a knee injury.
He has started all nine games for the Packers this season. But he hasn’t been able to finish several of those games because of knee and back injuries. Parting ways with Bulaga won’t be easy. He has one year left on his deal, and this past off-season it was rumored that he turned down taking a pay cut. Along with that, the Packers don’t have a sound replacement if they do part ways with Bulaga. Former second-round pick Jason Spriggs has been Bulaga’s primary backup. He too has battled injuries and when he has played, he has struggled.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Bulaga returns to finish out his contract next season with Gutekunst selecting an offensive tackle high in next year’s draft. If you are a betting person, the odds on Bulaga returning are strong.
Nick Perry, Outside Linebacker
In 2016, Nick Perry registered 11 sacks and led the Packers in sacks. Because of the lean market in pass rushers that off-season, Thompson’s hand was forced and he re-signed Perry to a five-year, $59 million dollar deal. Thompson did this knowing that Perry had battled an array of injuries throughout his career.
Perry followed that season up with a seven-sack 2017 season. But once again he was hindered by injuries and only played in 12 games. So far in his career, he hasn’t played a full 16-game regular season schedule. That streak will continue with him being forced to miss the Seahawks game due to a knee injury.
But it isn’t like the Packers will be missing Perry this week. Perry has been a major disappointment this season. So far, he has registered just one and a half sacks this season and has been a non-factor in the Packers nine games. Known for his powerful bull rush, it hasn’t been seen this season. He is a major factor in why the Packers edge pass rush has struggled.
Perry’s contract has an opt-out for the Packers prior to the 2020 season. But Gutekunst and the Packers need to decide if they really want Perry to return for 2019. Injuries continue to mount up on Perry and it appears that his play might be deteriorating. With pass rushers being one of the deepest positions in this upcoming draft, our money is on Perry not returning for 2019, even with the Packers taking a hit from Perry’s contract.
Clay Matthews, Outside Linebacker
Matthews is one of the most interesting Packers veterans that they will need to make a decision on. Matthews is in the last year of his deal. There is no arguing that Matthews isn’t nearly the player he once was.
Matthews hasn’t registered double-digit sacks since 2014. Along with that, he too has battled injuries, but not nearly as much as Perry. While he has lost some of his burst, Matthews still can get to the quarterback. Currently, he has registered two and a half sacks, but that doesn’t count the two sacks he had taken away for so-called penalties.
It is highly unlikely that Matthews will command top dollar on the open market. Age and his body will prevent that from happening. But Matthews does have a place on an NFL defense. His former position coach, and Hall of Fame player, Kevin Greene extended his career being a pass rush specialist. Matthews might be able to do the same.
While we believe Nick Perry will be cut after this season, we do believe that Clay Matthews is one Green Bay Packers veteran who will return to Titletown next season.