2015 Edition of Packers Going Separate Ways

Uncertainty fills the air for the unrestricted free agents who may have played their final game for the Green Bay Packers.

With bins in the middle of the locker room filled with football shoes and garbage bags filled with personal belongings, the end is here for the 2015 version of the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers’ season ended in bitter disappointment – again – on Saturday night in Arizona. When the Packers get back together for the start of the offseason program in April, there will be plenty of new faces sitting in lockers once occupied by familiar faces.

Among the key free agents are nose tackle B.J. Raji, kicker Mason Crosby, cornerback Casey Hayward, receiver James Jones, fullback John Kuhn, outside linebackers Mike Neal and Nick Perry, and running back James Starks. With a projected $20 million in cap space for 2016 based on a 2016 salary cap of $150 million, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, general manager Ted Thompson will have his list of must-sign priorities. He’ll then try to keep as many of his own players as he can after the initial wave or two of free agency, like he did when he re-signed Starks in 2014 and Raji in 2015.

Crosby might be the priority, given his experience in cold-weather situations.

“This has become home for me and my family, and this is the team I want to play for, and I hope we can get something done so I can continue on and continue to be part of this organization,” Crosby said on Monday morning. “I don’t know if I can go anywhere else that there’s the opportunities that are presented here. The teammates, the friendships, the relationships I have in this locker room. It’s kind of weird to think about being anywhere else, but we’ll go through that process now that the season’s over and kind of start down that path.”

After signing defensive tackle Mike Daniels to an in-season extension, the Packers no doubt would love to re-sign Raji, too. After getting a one-year contract following a poor 2013 and settling for another one-year deal after missing all of 2014 with an injury, Raji again showed he’s an above-average starting defensive lineman. Talented big men are hard to find, so Raji could attract considerable free-agent attention. He will turn 30 a couple weeks before the start of training camp but should attract offers that give him some job security.

“I want to get the best deal for myself, but who knows at this point what that is,” Raji said.

While he didn’t intercept any passes, Hayward turned in a strong fourth season. However, the Packers might be willing to move on after first-round pick Damarious Randall had an excellent rookie season and second-round pick Quinten Rollins showed plenty of promise. With veteran Sam Shields, versatile Micah Hyde and intriguing undrafted rookie LaDarius Gunter, the Packers have plenty of cornerbacks and might make better use of their remaining cap space by investing in other positions.

“That’s possible but you just never really know,” Hayward said. “Those young guys are going to be pretty good. Once they detail some of the little things, those young guys are going to be pretty well off. Like I said, that could be the case, but you just never know. I’ll take it day by day and when the time comes and they offer me, me and my agent will look at it and say yay or nay.”

Jones was signed off the street to help replace injured receiver Jordy Nelson. At age 31, he ran hot and cold with 50 receptions for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones had three games of 100-plus yards but five games with zero or one catches, not including being shut out in the playoff loss to Arizona.

“I’ve said it before, I would love to finish my career here,” Jones said. “But – I said that last time -- it’s a crazy business. We’ll see want happens.”
OT Don Barclay
K Mason Crosby
LS Brett Goode
DT Letroy Guion
CB Casey Hayward
WR James Jones
FB John Kuhn
OLB Mike Neal
OLB Nick Perry
TE Andrew Quarless
DT B.J. Raji
S Sean Richardson
RB James Starks
QB Scott Tolzien

G Lane Taylor
OLB Andy Mulumba

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.

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