Ranking Green Bay Packers 2014 Free Agents in Order of Importance

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Ranking Green Bay Packers 2014 Free Agents in Order of Importance

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

With the season wrapped up for the Green Bay Packers, it is time to get ready for free agency. Those two words are not often heard around Green Bay, especially since Packers general manager Ted Thompson would much prefer building through the draft than spending the big bucks on the open market. However, 2014 must be different because Green Bay needs proven playmakers immediately.

Before Thompson can see what’s available in free agency he must first take care of his own players. The Packers have 19 players that will become free agents once the season is officially over. At this point, it is up to him and the rest of the organization to decide which ones are worth brining back. More importantly, which players will make the most financial sense, especially when Green Bay gave out monster contracts to two players (Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews) this past year.

The issue Green Bay will face is that there are several fan favorites ready to enter free agency. Obviously, the Packers can’t focus on the fan’s feelings because they have a business to run. At the same time, several of those fan favorites are actually quality players that certainly make a difference on the gridiron. It will be interesting to see who stays and who goes.

Make sure to click through the slideshow to the see the ranking of all 19 Packers 2014 free agents in order of importance. Also, do not forget to comment below on which Packers free agents you would like to see return this year.

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19. Seneca Wallace

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

The least important of the free agents is definitely quarterback Seneca Wallace. With the addition of Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien, there’s simply no room for him. Not to mention, he faltered when it was his time to shine, which is something a backup quarterback can’t do.

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18. Kahlil Bell

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Kahlil Bell was signed in December to provide depth at the running back position. However, the only time he saw the field was on special teams. I can’t imagine a situation where the Packers re-sign him.

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17. Marshall Newhouse

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse had every opportunity to prove his worth to the team. In fact, he was put in position to be a starter. However, Newhouse simply couldn’t take advantage of his opportunity. With the emergence of other linemen, it’s time for Newhouse to walk.

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16. Robert Francois

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Before his injury, Robert Francois was very productive on special teams. Not to mention, he shined when given an opportunity to play linebacker as he forced two fumbles even though he played in just four games. Unfortunately, I don’t see the Packers bringing him back. The inside linebacker position needs a major upgrade and Francois isn’t the man to get the job done.

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15. M.D. Jennings

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Safety M.D. Jennings was given a chance to shine and he couldn’t make the most of it. There’s no reason why he should start next season, and for that reason, he won’t. The Packers must do whatever it takes to acquire a top-notch safety, whether it is through the draft or free agency. Jennings was the only safety in the league who suited up for 800 snaps and didn’t defend one pass. On top of that, he failed to record an interception or a forced fumble.

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14. Ryan Pickett

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Ryan Pickett is someone I could see Green Bay re-signing for a cheap one-year deal. However, I feel that the Packers are going to try to go in a new direction and give some younger talent a chance on the defensive line. The reality is the defensive line needs to improve ten-fold in the offseason and keeping Pickett doesn’t really do that. With that being said, it might come down to money, in which case Pickett will be the best bet for the price.

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13. Jermichael Finley

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

Like Nick Collins before him, I’m not sure the Packers will clear Jermichael Finley to play because of his neck injury. Even if he is cleared to suit up, I can’t imagine Green Bay will be able to afford him. I would like nothing more than to see Finley with the Packers next season. However, money is money and there just might not be enough to go around, especially for the contract I’m sure he’ll be looking for.

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12. Jamari Lattimore

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

Jamari Lattimore showed signs of brilliance, but mostly, he gave up a lot of big plays when it mattered most. I could see the Packers bringing him back on a cheap deal as a backup inside linebacker. With that being said, I would prefer if they could find some better options.

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11. B.J. Raji

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Verdict: Shouldn’t Re-Sign

A majority of fans would like to see B.J. Raji stay in Green Bay. However, the reality is he is most likely gone. Raji already rejected an offer of $8 million per season and I don’t see the Packers going any higher than that. The reality is Raji hasn’t been as productive along the line since the 2010 season. Along with that, Raji appears ready to move on to a team that is willing to pay him more money and allow him more freedom of getting after the quarterback in a 4-3 defense.

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10. Matt Flynn

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

After his performance with the Packers, I wouldn’t be surprised if other teams were willing to give Flynn a shot as a starter. However, I think it’s in the best interest of everyone involved that Flynn stay in Green Bay. For whatever reason, playing for the Packers agrees with him. More importantly, Green Bay needs a solid backup who can step in and win games if something horrible happens to Rodgers again.

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9. C.J. Wilson

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

With Raji and Pickett most likely gone, the Packers will need C.J. Wilson to step his game up. Obviously, the fact that he only played in half of the games in 2013 is a bit of a concern. With that being said, he has definitely show the ability to shine when the Packers need him to. More specifically, he has been fantastic at defending the run, which is definitely an area of need for Green Bay.

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8. Andrew Quarless

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

With Finley most likely not returning, the Packers will need a proven tight end who is familiar with the system. For that reason, there’s no way they can let Andrew Quarless walk. Quarless has shown plenty of potential, at least enough for the Packers to invest several years into him. The biggest issue with Quarless, and all of the tight ends for that matter, is the inability to be a threat in the red zone. This is something Finley is great at, but the other tight ends have yet to develop. The good news is Quarless has shown enough in the development process to give Green Bay hope.

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7. Mike Neal

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

The fact that Mike Neal is prepared to do whatever it takes to help the team win is a big reason why the Packers can’t let him go. He had a career year in 2013 in which he recorded 47 tackles, five sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. Green Bay desperately needs someone to apply pressure to the quarterback opposite of Matthews. As of right now, it appears Neal is the only person who is capable of doing that.

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6. John Kuhn

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

John Kuhn is a veteran leader who isn’t afraid to do the dirty work to help the team win. Even though the fan base adores him, he still fights through the pain on special teams and makes huge plays. More importantly, he’s been the best blocker for Rodgers in the backfield. That block he had on Julius Peppers in Week 17 was insane. The fact is Kuhn is what the Packers organization is all about, which is why I can’t imagine a situation in which he isn’t on the team next season.

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5. James Starks

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

James Starks is someone I believe Green Bay must re-sign because he proved to be a great complementary back to starter Eddie Lacy. Not to mention, he proved that he can handle the starting role if necessary. However, there’s a good chance the Packers won’t re-sign Starks because they have DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin on the roster. On top of that, Starks showing he can be a starter will lure the interest of other teams around the league. It would be great if Green Bay brought him back but the reality is they probably won’t.

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4. Johnny Jolly

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

One of the most costly injuries of the season was that of Johnny Jolly. The defensive lineman showed that he can be a huge asset to the team. Not only did he make big plays in the trenches, but also he was a leader on defense. He’s another player the Packers will not allow to walk because of his ability to ball and the fact that he will be cheap to keep. Of course, his neck injury will definitely play a role in the decision-making process.

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3. Evan-Dietrich Smith

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

According to Pro Football Focus, Evan-Dietrich Smith graded out as the eighth best center in the league. On top of that, he ranked as the fourth best pass blocker among centers. The fact that he did so on a ridiculously cheap contract made it that much better. It’s no secret that Rodgers is a big fan of Smith and wants nothing more than to keep him at the center position for many years to come. The downside is several other teams will definitely show an interest, which could cause problems for Green Bay. What it comes down to is Smith clearly improved the pass and run game. That means he’s an intricate part of the team in 2014.

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2. James Jones

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

Beating out Smith by a very close margin, wide receiver James Jones is someone the Packers can’t let go. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance he will find plenty of other deals in free agency. That certainly works against the Packers greatly because they simply don’t have the money to compete with some of these other teams. If the price is too much, Green Bay will let him go. However, the organization must do everything in their power to make sure he remains a member of the Packers. The relationship he’s built with Rodgers and the fact that he can line up all over the place means he’s a tremendously valuable asset.

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1. Sam Shields

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Verdict: Must Re-Sign

Green Bay’s top ranked free agent is that of cornerback Sam Shields. He’s the best coverage corner on the team and continued to prove that he’s a takeaway machine. His four interceptions tied for the fourth most in the league, which is saying something considering a huge issue in the early going was the Packers’ inability to create takeaways. Shields has done nothing but make big plays since his arrival in 2010. For that reason, he’s a must keep. However, re-signing him will definitely come at a price, which is why several names on this list won’t return in 2014. The good news is Shields is a sure thing and will be worth every cent of his new contract.

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  • Scott

    There is no world in which Starks is a “must re-sign.” He’s an injury prone back who even this year was banged up for several stretches. If you’re going to list Raji so low due to financial reasons, then you can’t list guys like Starks and Kuhn so high, two players who will combine to cost what Raji costs and who can be replaced rather easily.

    Signing Starks to a 3 year 14 million dollar deal, or an even bigger one would be monumentally stupid for the Packers. What’s more, BJ Raji rates behind Quarless and Kuhn, a marginal FB who’s strength is PASS BLOCKING? Seriously? And you have Ryan Pickett rated BEHIND all of them!! I also don’t understand the line about how even though the fan base loves him, he fights through pain and makes huge plays on special teams. First of all, what huge plays? You named one. Other than that, he’s just a guy who’s been here for a while who’s reliable. If he comes back, it’ll be for ~1.5 million or so. They’re not going to pay a FB 3 million dollars to come back at 32 years old.

    You claim our DL has to improve “tenfold,” is clearly hyperbole, but…whatever. One thing it really CAN’T do is get worse. You let Raji leave, the most talented interior DL available(and the 8 million dollars is off the table now reportedly anyway, so they wouldn’t go higher) and Pickett, a reliable run stuffer, a guy playing one of the few positions players CAN play well into their 30′s like Ted and Pat Williams have done, Grady Jackson among others. And Pickett is still playing the run very well and wants to come back cheap.

    And by the way…LOL…what team is going to give Flynn another chance to start? He was only good in Green Bay last year when compared to how bad the other QB’s were. Tolzien would have a better chance starting elsewhere than Flynn.

    Packers most important FA’s(their MUST re-sign players)
    1-Shields-Too valuable and still a ton of upside.
    2-EDS-Most important position on the OL according to McCarthy and the 8th best according to PFF.
    These are the only two players they MUST re-sign.
    –These players are on the list due to the limited financial commitment we’d have to make.
    3-Ryan Pickett-Vet still tough vs the run and should cost very little over 1 year.
    4-Jamari Lattimore-Emerging young player who gives the D a big hitting LB’er.
    5-CJ Wilson -Very good vs the run.
    6-Johnny Jolly -If healthy…was very good vs the run 1st half, struggled before injuries struck.

    –Players we should try to bring back if we can get them at a team friendly deal
    7-James Jones-Just a tough, tough SOB, and very sure handed despite some memories of the 2010 season in which he had VERY ugly drops that would have gone for 6.
    8-John Kuhn -A glue type player, but one that doesn’t do anything but pass block well.
    9-James Starks-I’ll throw him in because he was explosive, but he’ll almost certainly get more money than he’s worth to US. Especially because we have Franklin coming back.

    10-Mike Neal -Not a good fit in our D, and only stayed healthy in contract year. If Erik Walden got 4 years and 16 million, he should get at least that. Nick Perry is a better option, though he comes with his own injury concerns.

    11-JerMichael Finley -Still wants a big deal despite career threatening neck injuries. That’s just absurd. Should take another 1 or 2 year incentive laden deal. Maybe 2 years 8 million with a 6 million dollar roster bonus for 2015, OR bonuses for games played, catches, TD’s..etc…

    12-BJ Raji-He’s in a unique group. Bring him back for 6-8 million per year IF the Packers are willing to actually take the reigns off him again. He is the most talented DL we have and one of the most talented in the NFL. If the Packers are willing to let him rush the passer more and penetrate more, he and Mike Daniels will both get 7/8 sacks next year and leave a lot for Matthews to clean up when the QB has to leave the pocket early(along with Nick Perry who has a very nice pass rush). If they keep using him the same way, then what the hell is the point? We could sign a guy like Terrance Cody from Baltimore for a third the money to just eat up blockers.

    The rest;

    13-Francois-Non-guaranteed deal, see if the LB’ers you bring in can beat him out for the job.

    14-Flynn-See how Tolzien does over the off’season in McCarthy’s QB camp.
    Let Walk
    15-Newhouse -Just too bad this year. Showed something 1st couple years.

    16-Wallace -Could be a coach in the future, nice backup in his career, Tolzien though is a better option with a full year in system.

    17-MD Jennings -Just don’t see the point.
    18-Bell -Didn’t see enough to really have educated opinion. But with Franlin and Harris both set to be back, I have to imagine we could do just as well with an UDFA.

    19-Andrew Quarless -Just a TERRIBLE blocker this last year, not a guy who can get separation.

    If they only end up signing EDS, Sam Shields and James Jones(of the guys who’ll cost significant money) then I’d seriously look at trying to grab one of those Dolphins interior defensive linemen that you listed in a previous article.