With Desmond Bishop receiving a contact extension, defensive end Cullen Jenkins should be the top priority for the Green Bay Packers.
The Packers have several key players who are scheduled to be free agents under the current system, which is expected to be extended at some point. In addition to Jenkins, they include fullbacks John Kuhn and Korey Hall, kicker Mason Crosby, safeties Charlie Peprah, Atari Bigby and Anthony Smith, running back Brandon Jackson, guards Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz and receiver James Jones.
Of the group, Kuhn, Crosby and Colledge are the only players who would seem to have the inside track to open next season as starters, if they’re retained. However, Jackson and Jones are solid contributors and Jones may be a starter when Donald Driver finally hangs it up.
Hall is a valuable special teams player, but the Packers also have Quinn Johnson on the roster at fullback. If the team doesn’t re-sign one or possibly two of the safeties, they’ll be extremely thin at that position.
Colledge is adequate at best and Spitz hasn’t played well in two seasons.
Let’s go back to the top, though.
Although he only started eight games and posted 18 tackles this season, Jenkins is a valuable pass rusher. He recorded seven sacks in the 11 games he played in.
The Packers have been playing waiver-wire pickup Howard Green and rookie C.J. Wilson extensively in Jenkins’ absence. While both guys have made plays, they haven’t given the Packers the pass rush Jenkins has.
Mike Neal, a second-round pick this season, might also be an option if Jenkins isn’t retained, but he’s missed most of the year with an injury.
After Jenkins, the most valuable players are Crosby, Kuhn and Jones.
Crosby will never be confused with a top-flight NFL kicker, but he’s been decent this season, and might be harder to replace than anyone else on this list.
Likewise, Kuhn will never be a top-flight NFL running back, but he’s a solid blocker, solid on special teams and he’s developed into the Packers best short-yardage option.
Jones, meanwhile, posted career highs in receptions (50), yardage (679) and tied a career high with five touchdowns. If he proves he can hold onto the ball, he can become a solid NFL receiver.
Who would you like to see the Packers re-sign?