Will the Packers Use the Franchise or Transition Tag This Offseason?
Here’s the transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Brian Carriveau: With Wednesday being the first day NFL teams can apply the franchise tag, I want to start with the player the Packers avoided giving the franchise tag when they signed David Bakhtiari to a contract extension at the beginning of the 2016 season. How important was that for the Packers to get that deal done before he became a free agent?
Gary Zilavy: I think it was huge. Bakhtiari’s been healthy throughout his NFL career. He’s a young dude, and he’s stepped into the left tackle role and been absolutely solid. His contract extension gives the Packers a lot of flexibility. In my opinion, I don’t think any of their free agents this offseason are mission critical to keeping in order to have a successful 2017.
BC: The Packers player that figures to get the most money this offseason would appear to be Nick Perry. But with the linebacker franchise tag being more than $14 million, it seems like the Packers would probably let him leave as a free agent rather than tag him, wouldn't you think?
GZ: I’d have to believe so, too. I love Nick Perry, and I think he’s a really good linebacker. But when you sign Nick Perry, it seems like you’re also signing up for a clubbed hand for a half season. His best game was against the Lions early in the season, when he took over the game and had a couple sacks on Stafford. I don’t know how many of those games the Packers will get versus late in the season when he had the club on. $14 million is a lot to pay. It’s about what we’re paying Clay Matthews. I can’t see allocating 10% of the salary cap on Perry, especially considering that when he wasn’t on the field, the Packers seemed to be no better or worse.
BC: I have a similar question on Jared Cook. Wouldn't even the transition tag for tight ends at over $8 million be too expensive for a player that earned $2.75 million last season?
GZ: $8 million feels really steep. When you look at the tight end market, you’ve got Jimmy Graham at $10 million, Jordan Reed, Julius Thomas and Gronkowski around $9 million. At times last year when Cook was healthy and Rodgers was throwing his way, he was pretty close to making the same impact as those other tight ends. The transition tag seems steep, and I don’t know if Cook’s going to be that in demand. Statistically, it wasn’t like he exploded with the Packers this year in a way where he hadn’t before with the Rams or Titans. He simply benefitted from a quarterback who was accurate. If I’m going to put on my Ted Thompson ski mask, I would refuse the transition tag on Cook and let it ride.
BC: We know T.J. Lang is set to become a free agent, and we know he's also unlikely to get a franchise tag. But the cost of the franchise tag for offensive linemen is influenced heavily by offensive tackles receiving so much money compared to guards and centers. Do you think the NFL should have a separate category for guards and centers?
GZ: I think it makes a lot of sense. There’s so much specialization in the NFL now that it seems archaic to have one tag for the entire offensive line. If you’re the players, you like having one tag because the rising tide of offensive tackles lifts all boats. Not having a separate tag for guards and centers makes the market a little harder to flesh out for T.J. Lang, and you’ve got to look at Sitton’s contract with Chicago as an indicator. It seems like a slam dunk for the NFL to have a separate category, but then again, it seems like there’s a lot of things that they’re slow to adopt.
BC: Speaking of T.J. Lang, we learned this week through a radio interview he did that he hasn't been in contact with the Packers since the season ended. Is there any reason for concern there?
GZ: I don’t think so. When you read the tea leaves the last few years, the Packers aren’t very quick to go out and contact players. I remember last year linebacker Danny Trevathan said he wanted the Packers to contact him, but they never did. When they signed Julius Peppers, it was completely out of the blue. I feel like the Packers front office during free agency is a bit like when the Vatican selects a new pope. Nobody really knows what’s going on. There’s a cloud of white smoke and suddenly the free agent appears. I don’t think there’s a reason for concern, but Lang is most likely going to make it to free agency. He’s said openly he wants to be back in Green Bay. If he really means that, he’ll hold out as long as he can to see if Thompson will match the other offers in the marketplace.
Thanks to Brian and Cheesehead TV for having Gary on! Be sure to tune in to Railbird Central on Friday morning to hear from The Power Sweep's Jon Meerdink.