Packers Free Agents: Who Will Return
Now that we know who the Green Bay Packers unrestricted free agents will be, we can tell you who’s likely to be back and who isn’t.
For several players, the writing is on the wall — they’ve played their last game with the Packers. Here’s a look at who’s likely coming back and who’s likely gone, based on the likelihood of their return.
Cullen Jenkins — 0 percent
If the Packers wanted Jenkins back, they would have done something before now. The defensive end approached the team about an extension prior to last season and even said he’d take less money to stay in Green Bay. The team hasn’t even discussed a new contract with him. His age (30) and injury history mean he’s moving on.
Atari Bigby — 0 percent
In March, coach Mike McCarthy termed Bigby’s future with the Packers a “business decision,” which is code for “we won’t be re-signing [intlink id="188" type="category"]Atari Bigby[/intlink].” The team has [intlink id="1034" type="category"]Morgan Burnett[/intlink] coming back from an injury and they re-signed [intlink id="525" type="category"]Charlie Peprah[/intlink] before the lockout. Bigby, who did not receive a tender offer before the lockout, is constantly injured and the Packers have no need for him.
Matt Wilhelm — 5 percent
Wilhelm is an inside linebacker. The Packers are stacked at inside linebacker. The only reason he was on the team in 2010 was because the position was decimated by injury. If Wilhelm has any chance of returning, it’s because he’s a valuable special teams player. With all the talent they already have on the roster, keeping a guy around to play on special teams doesn’t make sense.
Jason Spitz — 15 percent
Has there been a player on the Packers’ roster that has regressed more than Spitz? In 2008 he started 16 games at guard and played well. In 2009, Spitz began the year as the team’s starting center, but a back injury derailed him and he couldn’t unseat Scott Wells when he returned. Since then, Spitz has played terribly. Whether the back injury or his confidence is to blame, the Packers have more talented backups waiting in the wings.
Daryn Colledge — 25 percent
Colledge has been a durable starter for the Packers, but he’s easily the weakest link among the team’s starting offensive linemen. The Packers made it fairly clear they were ready to move on by not discussing an extension with the guard during the season. A team with a hole at guard will pay Colledge more than the Packers. The team has capable players like [intlink id="583" type="category"]T.J. Lang[/intlink] ready to step in.
James Jones — 30 percent
This isn’t so much a question of the Packers wanting Jones back, because they’d definitely take him at the right price. It’s more a question of the market. There are receiver-hungry teams out there and Jones will get a big payday and a chance to start from one of them. Those are two things he won’t get in Green Bay.
Korey Hall — 50 percent
The only fullback currently under contract is [intlink id="438" type="category"]Quinn Johnson[/intlink] and we know the Packers love fullbacks. Still, this is probably the year the Packers keep fewer than three on the roster. Hall is a core special teams player, but rarely plays on offense. It’s possible that gets him a new contract, but he’ll have to fight for a roster spot once training camp begins. Perhaps the biggest thing working in Hall’s favor to return is there won’t be much of a market for him.
Brandon Jackson — 50 percent
The Packers drafted running back [intlink id="1618" type="category"]Alex Green[/intlink] in the third round, adding him to an already crowded backfield that includes [intlink id="64" type="category"]Ryan Grant[/intlink] and [intlink id="1038" type="category"]James Starks[/intlink]. It’s hard to see Jackson fitting into that backfield, but the Packers value his ability in pass protection, which is an area Green will take some getting used to. There isn’t expected to be a huge market for Jackson, either, and those reasons could be enough to get him a deal with the Packers.
John Kuhn — 60 percent
Kuhn has already said he expects to return to Green Bay and he’s the team’s best fullback. He also proved himself as a solid short-yardage back in 2010. Plus, he’s a folk hero. The Packers won’t break the bank to re-sign him, but there’s a good chance Kuhn returns. That is, unless another team decides to throw big money at him.
Anthony Smith — 75 percent
Smith is nothing more than a backup, but he’s a decent insurance policy. He won’t cost much and the Packers won’t have much competition for his services. Smith plays better in the 3-4 than the 4-3, so that somewhat limits his options. He also seemed to say he plans to return to Green Bay and expects a deal when the lockout ends on Twitter.
Mason Croby — 90 percent
We know the Packers want to re-sign Crosby. We know Crosby wants to return. It seems unlikely another team will try to outbid the Packers for Crosby and his mediocre resume. If you’re betting, this is as close to a sure thing as you’ll get in free agency.