The Green Bay Packers have a lot of salary-cap space.
So why doesn’t general manager Ted Thompson sign some players?
One reason is likely because he’s got one eye already turned to the 2018 free agent class.
Compare the Packers’ 2013 draft class, which hit free agency in 2017, to the Packers’ draft class of 2014, which will hit free agency in 2018.
Class of 2013
First round, DE-turned-OLB Datone Jones: Jones had nine sacks in four disappointing seasons, including just one last year. He signed a one-year, $3.75 million deal with the Vikings this week.
Second round, RB Eddie Lacy: Lacy was the next big thing at running back with 3,001 total yards in his first two seasons. And then he turned into the next big thing. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal with Seattle this week.
Fourth round, LT David Bakhtiari: Bakhtiari might be the biggest steal of the entire NFL Draft. The Packers wisely gave this premier left tackle a contract extension early last season, which locks him up through the 2020 season and averages $12 million per year.
Fourth round, C J.C. Tretter: Cursed by bad luck, Tretter joined the Browns on the opening day of free agency. Now that he got paid — three years, $16.75 million — will he stay healthy?
Fourth round, RB Johnathan Franklin: The promising running back had his career cut short with a neck injury.
Fifth round, DB Micah Hyde: Hyde had four interceptions in the final eight games but the Packers, feeling the need to get faster on defense, let him go to Buffalo with a five-year, $30.5 million contract.
Fifth round, DE Josh Boyd: Boyd started four games in 2014 but suffered a broken ankle early in the 2015 season. He was released in May and was out of the league last season.
Sixth round, LB Nate Palmer: After missing the entire 2014 season with an injury, Palmer started 10 games at inside linebacker in 2015. He was released in April and played 14 games for Tennessee last season.
Seventh round, WR Charles Johnson: Johnson was signed off the Packers’ practice squad by the Browns about a month into his rookie season. He eventually landed in Minnesota and caught 60 passes for 834 yards and two scores in three seasons. Johnson signed with Cleveland last week.
Seventh round, WR Kevin Dorsey: Dorsey missed all of his rookie season and most of his second season due to injuries. His career likely is over with one career catch.
Seventh round, LB Sam Barrington: Barrington looked like an impact player when he started seven games in 2014, but he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the 2015 opener. The Packers released him at the end of camp last summer, and he spent the season with the Chiefs and Saints. He’ll vie for a roster spot for New Orleans.
Class of 2014
First round, S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: There’s no urgency with Clinton-Dix, since the Packers can use the fifth-year option available for all first-round picks. That figure has not been set but was $5.68 million for a safety taken between picks 11 and 32 this year. That’s less than Hyde’s annual salary.
Second round, WR Davante Adams: Adams is coming off a breakthrough third season. With Jordy Nelson turning 32 in May, the Packers must keep Adams. It’s worth noting the Vikings re-signed Adam Thielen on Wednesday for a reported $27 million over three years. That’s $9 million per year. Adams’ cap number for this season is about $1.25 million.
Third round, DT Khyri Thornton: Thornton was a bust in Green Bay but has carved out a decent career with the Lions.
Third round, TE Richard Rodgers: Rodgers was given a “proven performance escalator,” which goes to players selected in the third through seventh rounds who have met certain playing-time thresholds. That meant his base salary went from $690,000 to $1.787 million. With Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks added in free agency, the Packers will be under no pressure to keep the sure-handed but athletically limited Rodgers.
Fourth round, LB Carl Bradford: The Packers gambled — and lost — on the productive Arizona State pass rusher. He spent most of three years in Green Bay but barely played. He signed with San Francisco late last season.
Fifth round, C Corey Linsley: Like Rodgers, Linsley saw his base salary go from $690,000 to $1.787 million because of the “proven performance escalator.” If Tretter received $5.58 million per season from Cleveland, how much will Linsley be worth? He will be a big priority.
Fifth round, WR Jared Abbrederis: Injuries outweighed the periodic production, and the Packers gave up last season. He signed with Detroit in January.
Sixth round, CB Demetri Goodson: A key special-teams performer and depth player at corner, Goodson suffered a serious knee injury against Washington in November.
Seventh round, WR Jeff Janis: Janis might never be a competent receiver but he is a standout performer on special teams. That alone makes him an excellent seventh-round pick. In a year, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the league views him in free agency.
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.