Packers Gamble Pays Off, Corey Linsley Rewarded With Extension

The Packers and center Corey Linsley have agreed to a three-year, $25.5 million extension on Saturday morning. At an average of $8.5 million per season, Linsley is now the ninth highest-paid center in the league.

It’s a well-deserved contract for the center, who is the only Packers player to be on the field for all 980 snaps on offensive this season.

Linsley’s contract includes a $10 million signing bonus, continuing the trend from the Packers’ front office to front-load their contract extensions.

Think of the way the Packers structure their contracts like a pay as you go cell phone contract. It’ll cost you more upfront to buy the phone outright, but you’ll make your return later on and have future financial flexibility.

"I like him better than any center Green Bay has had in recent years,” a pro scout told beat writer Bob McGinn during Linsley’s 2014 rookie season. “There's a lot of trash in this league. I would think he's top 10, maybe 10 or 12."

The Packers’ gamble on Linsley paid off

Last offseason, the Packers lost offensive lineman JC Tretter in free agency to the Cleveland Browns on a three-year, $16.75 million contract.

At the time, Tretter was a spot starter and backup at three interior line spots in 2015, and filled in well for the Packers in relief of Corey Linsley, who missed the early portion of the 2016 season. Through the first seven games of last season, Tretter was one of the top rated centers in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Green Bay gambled on Linsley, and he rewarded the team with a tremendous 2017 season. Over the course of his career, the Packers have scored two more points a game when he's in the lineup.

The extension now ensures three (left tackle David Bakhtiari and left guard Lane Taylor are the others) of the team’s five preferred starters on the offensive line will be under contract through 2020.

Linsley has proven his dependability after a 2015 ankle injury

It’s been a remarkable journey for the center, selected by the Packers in the fifth-round of the 2014 draft. When Tretter, the team’s presumed starter at center that season, suffered an injury in preseason, Linsley stepped in and played all 1,499 snaps at center as a rookie.

Pro Football Focus rated Linsley as the league’s fifth-best center, and the Pro Football Writers Association named him to the All-Rookie team. When Tretter returned at full strength in 2015, Linsley remained the team’s starting center.

In November 2015, an ankle injury kept Linsley out of the starting lineup for three games. That injury caused him to overcompensate in the weight room, and he tore his hamstring that summer. The Packers played Linsley on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, and he missed the first seven games of 2016.

The ankle didn’t completely heal after more than a year. Linsley opted to have offseason ankle surgery this past summer, and has yet to miss a snap in 2017.

What Linsley’s extension means for the Packers this offseason

When receiver Davante Adams agreed to a four-year extension yesterday, we wrote the timing of the deal allowed Green Bay some addition salary cap flexibility. Because the extension was completed before a 4 p.m. deadline today, the Packers can also apply Linsley’s deal to this year’s cap, leveraging their remaining $10 million.

The additional flexibility from both contracts means the Packers will have more salary cap room this offseason than had both free agents agreed to the same deal in the months to come before free agency.

If Green Bay continues to use free agency to add veterans like they did last season, the additional room will be needed.

With Adams and Linsley locked up, the Packers enter the offseason with just three starters set to become free agents: right guard Jahri Evans, cornerback Davon House and safety Morgan Burnett.

NewsGary ZilavyCorey Linsley