The Packers have been quiet this offseason, especially compared to their unprecedented offseason of 2019. They signed Christian Kirksey and Rick Wager to cheap two year deals that both have outs after one year. These signings were critical after losing top two linebackers, Martinez and Goodson, and starting right tackle Bulaga in free agency. In addition to those signings the Packers re-signed safety and dime package linebacker Will Redmond. Compare that to four signings for $127 million last season it pales in comparison.
So what’s changed?
The Packers are a more complete team. The majority of holes on the defense were filled last offseason, and the few that remain can be addressed in the draft. The draft also seems like the best bet for adding to their wide receiver corp. The Packers have holes, but it seems that the best and most cost efficient way to address these needs is waiting for the draft and preseason releases.
Another glaring reason to be conservative in this offseason is the crucial offseason the Packers face next season. Two of the Packers top players, left tackle David Bakhtriari and defensive tackle Kenny Clark, are both becoming free agents next offseason. The Packers will have resigning those two as top priority.
What will the contracts look like?
In order to determine what a contract will look like, we need to look at how their play compares to top players at their position as well as recent contract extensions.
Clark has been a cornerstone for the Packers defense. He sures up the middle of the defensive line and provides consistent top level play. Here is a tweet from Ben Fennel showing how he impacts opposing offenses:
Having an interior DL presence like this is hugeeee for the collective pass rush! Need the complementary rush to pair with the EDGEs
Kenny Clark really stepped his game up in 2019 with contributing getting after the QB… Not all impact plays result in sacks! pic.twitter.com/soujilCIkL
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 21, 2020
Kenny Clark was a workhorse for the Packers. He ranked third in the NFL in snap percentage for interior defensive linemen. He fought through injury this season to be on the field with his defense and help lead the Packers to the NFC championship. He recorded nine tackles for loss, six sacks, eight hurries, and 15 pressures. Clark has done enough to earn himself a contract for a top 10 defensive tackle, but how much exactly?
Let’s compare Clark to the top five paid defensive tackles. The top three DTs are Aaron Donald, Fletcher Cox, and newly signed DeForest Buckner. In the last three season they each have had at least one year with 12 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. They all have signed contracts for over $20 million per year and for good reason. They are at a tier of their own.
Looking at Geno Atkins and Brandon Williams, 4th nad 5th highest paid DTs, their numbers and play are more comparable with Kenny Clark. Both are big impact players even if numbers don’t necessarily show it. They combined for 5.5 sacks and were strong against the run. They were forces in the middle that offensive lines needed to worry about. They earn $14.2 million and $14.17 million respectively.
The Packers are working to sign Kenny Clark and reports have shown that he wants to come back to Green Bay, but believes he has earned a top contract. The Packers could try to sign Clark to a contract close to a contract close to what Grady Jarrett of the Falcons received last year. Clark is ranked a top 5 interior defensive lineman on PFF and should be paid like it. Look for Clark to get close to a 4 year $54 million with $30 guaranteed deal making the 24 year old the 7th highest paid DT in the NFL.
Bakhtiari is one of the best left tackles in the NFL. He was named PFF pass blocker of the year in 2018 and was one of the top 50 players entering 2019. He has been an anchor on the offensive line protecting Aaron Rodgers blindside on every down. Bakhtiari is a key reason the Packers were ranked the 6th best offensive line in the NFL last season. They are consistently giving Rodgers time to hold onto the ball, which he seems to hold for far too long.
Bakhtiari was a huge snub on the 2019 top 100 players, but I believe he should be paid as one of the top left tackles in the NFL. The top three offensive tackles make more than $14.5 million a year, and if the Packers want to pay Rodgers, they will likely need to pay close if not more than than. The Packers will want to keep future hall of famer Rodgers off the ground, especially heading into his 16th season at the age of 36. The window is closing on his championship window, and letting your star left tackle walk with help it snap shut.
Look for the Packers to sign Bakhtiari to a 4 year $60 million contract. That would make him the 4th highest paid tackle, give him a $3 million raise, and keep a fan favorite in Green Bay. I mean can you really put a price tag on this? Cue the Stone Cold entrance music.