The Green Bay Packers made their first move since the start of free agency by agreeing to a one-year deal with outside linebacker Nick Perry on Thursday evening.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the contract is worth $5 million.
Perry had only 3.5 sacks last season but played his best down the stretch, matching that sack total with 2.5 sacks in the Wild Card game at Washington and another sack in the Divisional round against Arizona. Impressively, the big game against the Redskins came against Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.
Along with the pass rush, Perry is by far the best run defender of the Packers’ outside linebackers. When on the field, opponents averaged almost 1 yard less per carry compared to when he was on the sideline, according to league data.
The one-year deal makes sense for both sides. For the Packers, they need to see if Perry can stay healthy — he’s never played the full 16 games and has only 16 career starts — and whether he’s capable of potentially replacing Julius Peppers in the lineup in 2017. For Perry, he’d like to parlay his end-of-season success into a longer-team deal.
Still unsigned is fellow outside linebacker Mike Neal. Neal’s future with the team is now in doubt with the Packers’ desire to move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker. Peppers appears set to return, as well, and Jayrone Elliott looks worthy of a bigger role as he enters his third season. The team presumably will add another outside linebacker in the draft, as well.
Perry’s contract is short but it’s a big raise over last year, when he pocketed a base salary of more than $1.4 million during the final season of the four-year rookie contract he signed as the team’s first-round pick in 2012. But it’s less than the $7.75 million he would have earned had the Packers picked up his fifth-year option.
Also from Thursday:
— With exclusive-rights tenders for safety Chris Banjo and tight end Justin Perillo, the Packers started the day $19,492,816 below the salary cap, according to the NFLPA. That was the 19th-most space in the league.
— The New England Patriots have brought in free-agent running back James Starks, according to ESPN.com. The Packers want Starks back, a source told Packer Report on Wednesday, but added other teams were in the mix, as well. Starks led the NFL in yards per carry in 2013 and yards after the catch per catch in 2015.
— Scott Tolzien, who backed up Aaron Rodgers last season, will visit Indianapolis on Friday to discuss potentially backing up Andrew Luck. The Colts need a No. 2 with Matt Hasselbeck’s retirement.
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.