LB Nick Perry and Packers Strike 5-Year Deal

The first domino of the offseason has fallen. Pass rusher Nick Perry re-signed with the Packers hours before free agency officially began.

First reported by CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora and confirmed by Ian Rapoport, Perry’s deal with Green Bay is said to be five years in length:

USA Today's Tom Pelissero reported the deal is worth $60 million with an $18.5 million signing bonus.

ESPN's Rob Demovsky provides more details on how the contract breaks down:

According to professional sports contract hub Spotrac, Perry’s calculated market value is equal to an $8.5 million annual salary:

“The agent will say he should get a similar deal to Brandon Graham, Ryan Kerrigan and Pernell McPhee,” a personnel executive told in an article posted early Thursday. “Kerrigan got $11.5 (million), McPhee got $8 (million) and Graham got $6.5 (million). They're probably shooting for $8.5 (million).”

The Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets were rumored to be interested in acquiring the former first-round pick. The Jets were said on Wednesday to be preparing a “monster offer” for the linebacker, and had recently hired former Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene.

Perry’s breakout season puts him in good company

2016 was Perry’s finest season and demonstrated his unique ability to rush the passer and defend the run. From a statistical perspective, he sacked the quarterback 11 times.

Justis Mosqueda noted yesterday that only four of the 21 edge defenders drafted between 2005 and 2014 who have had a single season of 11 or more sacks have averaged under 10 sacks in their three best seasons. Here’s the list:

  • 2005: Shawne Merriman: 13 sacks
  • 2005: DeMarcus Ware, 18 sacks
  • 2006: Kamerion Wimbley: 9 sacks
  • 2006: Tamba Hali, 13 sacks
  • 2006: Mario Williams: 14 sacks
  • 2007: Anthony Spencer, 8 sacks
  • 2008: Chris Long, 11 sacks
  • 2009: Brian Orakpo, 11 sacks
  • 2009: Clay Matthews, 13 sacks
  • 2010: Jason Pierre-Paul, 12 sacks
  • 2011: Cameron Jordan, 10 sacks
  • 2011: Ryan Kerrigan, 11 sacks
  • 2011: Robert Quinn, 13 sacks
  • 2011: Aldon Smith, 14 sacks
  • 2011: Von Miller, 15 sacks
  • 2011: J.J. Watt, 20 sacks
  • 2012: Nick Perry, 6 sacks
  • 2012: Whitney Mercilus, 9 sacks
  • 2012: Chandler Jones, 12 sacks
  • 2013: Ezekiel Ansah, 10 sacks
  • 2014: Khalil Mack, 10 sacks

At first blush, Perry has the lowest average of sacks across his three best seasons. The Packers are investing in their former first-round pick in the hopes of him continuing to stack sacks in the years to come.

Also, that’s a pretty impressive list of names.

Not just a pass rusher

Perry’s value to the Packers extends beyond his ability to push the pocket. In fact, his pass rush ability might actually be a secondary value.

Though he’s shown he can rush the passer well (and fairly consistently), Perry’s true strength might be his run defense. Pro Football Focus ranked Perry as the 10th best edge defender in run defense, ahead of big names like James Harrison, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Terrell Suggs.

Digging deeper into the numbers, Pro Football Focus reveals one inescapable conclusion: Perry is a truly elite run defender.

Defending the run isn’t reason enough alone to shell out a big contract to an outside linebacker, but it certainly helps. Not only does it help your defense as a whole, it also means that a player like Perry can stay on the field for every defensive snap, rather than rotating in on passing downs.

His run defense was a big reason the Packers were able to move Julius Peppers into a more complementary role in 2016, and his well-rounded game should allow the Packers to either bring along a rookie pass rusher more slowly or sign another free agent that would be able to slide into the specialized role formerly occupied by Peppers.

Signing Perry long-term is a good gamble

When the Packers drafted Nick Perry 28th overall in 2012, the hope was that he’d become an athletic, versatile pass rusher to complement Clay Matthews. In 2016, they finally got it.

Green Bay will be banking on that version of Perry showing up, one that used his leverage and power against offensive lineman to affect the pocket and stop the run.

Perry has struggled with injuries in his five years, however. He’s appeared in 60 of the team’s 80 regular season contests. Now paired with Clay Matthews, it’s likely both Perry and Matthews will miss at least a game or two going forward. It’s important the Packers continue to invest in young, promising edge defenders to pick up the slack when one or both are unavailable.

Impact on the Packers’ offseason

Perry and guard T.J. Lang are Green Bay’s two best players entering free agency this offseason. It’s unsure whether the Packers will be able to keep Lang, but signing Perry goes a long way to helping solve the pass rush problem.

Beyond Perry, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers, the Packers’ pass rush is low on talent. Mike Daniels was the only member of the front seven to record more than three sacks in 2016.

Linebackers Datone Jones and Peppers, who will be returning in 2017, are also free agents.