NFL Nation: Jermichael Finley

The Green Bay Packers' greatest needs would seemingly be on the defensive side of the ball.

Even with the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, they likely need to upgrade a few more spots in order improve on its 25th overall ranking last season. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that in ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft , version 4.0, he has the Packers taking offensive players not only with their first-round pick but also with their second.


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The Green Bay Packers have four picks in the first 100 selections of the upcoming NFL draft -- something they haven't had since 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (36th), quarterback Brian Brohm (56th), cornerback Pat Lee (60th) and tight end Jermichael Finley (91st).

If draft analyst Mel Kiper were in charge of the Packers' draft room, he'd find plenty of defensive help along with an intriguing tight end prospect. In an ESPN Insider exclusive, Kiper put a different twist on the mock draft. Rather than predicting who he thinks the Packers will pick, he detailed who he would pick if he were in charge.


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The Green Bay Packers have big plans for their returning tight ends, even if Jermichael Finley isn't one of them.

Finley still has not been cleared to resume his career following last season’s neck injury.

Bostick
Quarless
Even if Finley is cleared, which at this point remains in question, there's no guarantee general manager Ted Thompson will re-sign him.

So it was no surprise to hear coach Mike McCarthy talk Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings about Andrew Quarless and Brandon Bostick as players he views as possible significant contributors this season and in the future.

The Packers re-signed Quarless to a two-year, $3 million contract after he finished last season as the starter in place of Finley.

But Bostick, a former small-college receiver, might be the more intriguing of the two. At 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and with a basketball background at Newberry (S.C) College, Bostick is a Finley clone in terms of body type and athleticism. In limited opportunities last season, his first on the active roster after spending his rookie season on the practice squad, Bostick averaged 17.1 yards per catch on seven catches and had one touchdown.

His role increased following Finley's season-ending neck injury Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. He first proved himself on special teams before getting a chance on offense.

"When you look at performance on special teams, it's always a pretty good indicator of how guys are going to transition to their offensive and defensive responsibilities," McCarthy told reporters at the NFC coaches breakfast. "And Bostick's right there. I thought he really improved and was one of our four core players on special teams. He's doing some really good things in his limited opportunities on offense."

It was surprising to hear McCarthy call Bostick the team's best blocking tight end before a foot injury ended his season in Week 15.

"That is something he had to grow into, develop into," McCarthy said. "I look at him as still a young, ascending player."

Both Bostick, 24, and Quarless, 25, fit that category. Quarless missed all of the 2012 season after blowing out his knee late in 2011.

"I felt like last year, he wasn't quite where [he was] two years ago,” McCarthy said. "Just quite wasn't himself. I thought last year there was a big hurdle that he actually made it through the whole season. It's something that he struggled with. We felt that he has a chance to get all the way back and still is a young ascending player."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Sometimes, NFL players outperform their contracts.

Without tearing up those deals, there is a way for players who fit that description to earn more money. It’s called the NFL's performance-based pay distribution in which each team can allot a total of $3.46 million in additional play to its players.

It typically benefits players in their first NFL contracts or minimum-salaried free-agent signings who become key contributors.

For example, Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, a fourth-round pick with a base salary of $405,000 last year, will receive an additional $256,882.22 in performance-based pay, according to documents obtained by ESPN.com. Bakhtiari started every game last season as a rookie. He received the largest pay increases among Packers' players. According to the NFL, those payments will be made on April 1, 2016.

The smallest distribution to a Packers' player went to backup tackle Derek Sherrod, who will receive $2,154.55. He was active for seven games but only took six snaps on offense all season.

Here’s a list of the top-10 and bottom-10 performance-based bonuses on the Packers’ roster:

Top 10
Bottom 10
On the eve of free agency two weeks ago, our four NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears) -- compiled a list of the top-15 free agents in the division.

Only three of the original 15 remain unsigned as free agency enters its third week. One of them, former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, could remain that way for a while because of his neck injury.

Perhaps the biggest-name free agent from the NFC North, former Bears defensive end Julius Peppers, did not make the original list because he was not a free agent until he was released shortly after free agency opened. He signed with the Packers on March 15.

You can follow all of the NFL free-agent moves in Bill Polian's free-agent tracker, but let's revisit the NFC North top 15 and see what has changed in the last week:

1. Sam Shields, Packers CB: Signed a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period on March 8. His $9.75 million per year average made him the fourth-highest paid cornerback in the league behind Darrelle Revis ($16 million), Brandon Carr ($10 million) and Aqib Talib ($9.8 million).

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: Re-signed with the Lions for four years and $16 million, including a $4 million signing bonus.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Trying to come back from neck fusion surgery, Finley remained unsigned after a visit to the Seattle Seahawks during free-agency's first week. According a report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette over the weekend, the Seahawks failed Finley on his physical during the visit, leaving his status in doubt.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: Signed a one-year contract to return to Chicago after missing half of last season because of a torn triceps. The deal is worth about $3.5 million.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Less than a year after reportedly turning down a multi-year offer that averaged $8 million per season, he returned to the Packers for a one-year, $4 million contract.

6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year, $10.5 million deal with the Vikings on March 7, just before teams could start contacting his agent and will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Signed a three-year, $9 million contract with the Bears. Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time with the Lions in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: After going unsigned during the first week of free agency, Jones signed a three-year, $10 million contract with the Oakland Raiders. The deal was similar to the three-year, $9.6 million deal he signed with the Packers three years ago.

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: Was weighing an offer from Seattle, where he has visited twice since the start of free agency. After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen's time in Minnesota is over.

10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: Signed a two-year, $10 million contract to rejoin his old coach, Lovie Smith, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Coming off a torn ACL, Melton signed a one-year contract with the Dallas Cowboys that could become a four-year deal if the team exercises an option after the first year.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Signed a three-year, $9 million with the Atlanta Falcons after the Bears decided not to pursue an extension with the kick return specialist.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Remained unsigned after playing in 15 games and taking over as a starter early in the season last year.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: Cashed in on March 9th by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: Signed a one-year, $2.25 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after the Lions released him with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014.

Free-agency review: Packers

March, 18, 2014
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Peppers
Most significant signing: Re-signing perhaps their top three defensive free agents -- cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal -- was important, but that didn't necessarily make the Green Bay Packers' 25th-ranked defense better. They hope the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers does that. Peppers had seven sacks in a down season last year for the Chicago Bears, yet that was more than any of the Packers' defensive linemen had last season. Even at age 34, expect Peppers to be motivated to bounce back and energized playing for a team he considers a Super Bowl contender.

Most significant loss: When Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, it ensured that quarterback Aaron Rodgers will take snaps for a fourth starting center in as many seasons. It also broke up an offensive line group that started all but two games together last season. The most likely internal replacement is second-year pro JC Tretter, but he was a college tackle at Cornell who did not play a single snap last year as a rookie.

Jones
Jones
Biggest surprise: Apparently 24 touchdown catches over the last three seasons doesn't count for much on the free-agent market. How else to explain why it took a week for anyone to sign former Packers receiver James Jones, who finally landed a three-year deal with the Oakland Raiders on Monday? Maybe it's that Jones will turn 30 on March 31. While Jones caught only three touchdowns last season, he had 14 in 2012 and seven in 2011. Last season, he caught 59 passes for a career-best 817 yards despite missing nearly three full games.

What’s next? Even after Jones signed, the Packers still have 10 of their own free agents still unsigned. Among them are quarterback Matt Flynn, fullback John Kuhn, tight end Jermichael Finley (visited the Seattle Seahawks), tackle Marshall Newhouse (scheduled to visit the Cincinnati Bengals) plus defensive tackles Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Re-signing Andrew Quarless on Thursday gave the Green Bay Packers some security at the tight end position.

Entering his fifth season, Quarless might be on the cusp of a breakout, so it was a wise move to bring him back.

He showed signs late last season of being the player they liked as a fifth-round pick in 2010 coming out of Penn State. He took over as the starting tight end midway through last season after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.

Given his size (6-foot-4, 252 pounds), the Packers like Quarless as both a blocker and a receiver. He caught 32 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns last season and is a more natural blocker than Finley.

They also are high on Brandon Bostick, an athletic receiving tight end who resembles Finley in terms of body type and skill level more so than Quarless does. In a limited role last season, Bostick averaged 17.1 yards per catch before a foot injury ended his season on Dec. 15.

But the tight end position is hardly settled.

That won't begin to happen until a determination is made about Finley. It's unclear whether the Packers have had a chance recently to examine his surgically repaired neck. Finley underwent surgery last November to fuse his C-3 and C-4 vertebra.

Finley visited the Seattle Seahawks on Tuesday and Wednesday and was scheduled to meet with their team doctors. However, no deal has been completed, meaning Finley remains on the market.

Even if the Packers already have decided not to bring back Finley, that doesn't mean they will stand pat with Quarless, Bostick and their other returning tight ends (Ryan Taylor, Jake Stoneburner and Raymond Webber). They had Owen Daniels, formerly of the Houston Texans, in for a visit on Wednesday. Daniels is scheduled to visit the Washington Redskins next.

This is a tight-end-rich draft class. In fact, ESPN's Todd McShay had the Packers taking North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with the 21st overall pick in his latest mock draft. Insider
Jennings
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's official: The Green Bay Packers will have a new starting free safety next season.

We don't know who it will be, but we know it won't be M.D. Jennings.

After starting every game for the Packers last season, Jennings wasn't even offered a restricted free-agent tender before Tuesday's deadline. On Wednesday, he signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Bears.

Given how ineffective Jennings was last season, the decision not to tender him was expected. Although Jennings was a full-time starter last season, the Packers tried to replace him at various points, using Chris Banjo early in the season and Sean Richardson late in the year.

Jennings was part of a safety group that failed to come up with a single interception last season. The Packers were the only team in the NFL that did not get an interception from one of their safeties in 2013.

Jennings, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent from Arkansas State, will be best remembered for being on the wrong end of the Fail Mary play against the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. Jennings thought he intercepted a pass that instead was ruled the game-winning touchdown by Golden Tate.

The Packers were not involved in any of the first wave of safeties to sign shortly after free agency opened Tuesday. Six safeties -- Donte Whitner, T.J. Ward, Antoine Bethea, Malcolm Jenkins, Jairus Byrd and Mike Mitchell -- all signed significant contracts within the first 24 hours of free agency with Byrd's deal (six years, $64 million with the New Orleans Saints) topping the market.

Last month at the scouting combine, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Micah Hyde likely will play some at safety this season, but it's unclear if the second-year defensive back will make a full-time transition from cornerback.

Jennings might not be the only Packers player on the Bears’ radar. According to the Chicago Tribune, they have interest in Packers outside linebacker/defensive end Mike Neal, who is an unrestricted free agent.

Also on Wednesday, the Packers set up their first free-agent visit. Former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels will meet with the Packers. Daniels, who played at the University of Wisconsin, was released by the Texans last week in a cost-cutting move. Daniels missed all but five games last season because of a broken leg.

The Packers are in the market for a tight end because they could lose both Jermichael Finley (who is visiting the Seahawks) and free agent Andrew Quarless.
Green Bay Packers free agent tight end Jermichael Finley will be in Seattle on Wednesday to talk to Seahawks officials, but more importantly at this point, he will undergo a vigorous physical to see if he's healthy.

Bush
Finley
Finley underwent spinal fusion surgery in November after suffering a spinal contusion in his neck during a game against Cleveland in October. It was a scary moment after helmet-to-helmet contact when Finley suffered temporary paralysis.

"I was very conscious, but I could not move," Finley said afterward. "I looked my teammate, Andrew Quarless, directly in the eye and whispered, ‘Help me, Q. I can't move. I can't breathe.' The scariest moment was seeing the fear in Q's eyes. I knew something was wrong, but his reaction verified it. That really shook me up."

Finley's surgery, a fusion between the C-3 and C-4 vertebra, had a three-to-four-month recovery. If he's healthy and cleared to play, Finley is one of the top tight ends in the league.

In 70 games with the Packers over six seasons, Finley has 223 catches for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 2012, he set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61.

By bringing Finley in, it could mean the Seahawks are having trouble trying to restructure Zach Miller's contract, who will count $7 million against salary cap if it isn't changed.

Finley had a two-year deal with Green Bay worth $14 million, which ended after the 2013 season. But his uncertain status coming off the injury probably means he would have to accept a one- or two-year deal at around $5 million a season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Seattle Seahawks will be the first team to take a look at tight end Jermichael Finley.

Just minutes after Finley hit the free-agent market, an NFL source said he would arrive in Seattle on Tuesday night and will visit with the Seahawks on Wednesday. One of the first orders of business, according to the source, was a meeting with the Seahawks doctors, who will examine his surgically repaired neck.

Bush
Finley
Finley underwent fusion surgery between the C-3 and C-4 vertebra last November following the season-ending neck injury he sustained on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.

It's unclear if the Green Bay Packers have had a chance to examine Finley recently. In fact, it's not even known if Finley's surgeon, Dr. Joseph Maroon, has cleared Finley. Maroon is the Pittsburgh Steelers' team doctor.

Last month at the NFL scouting combine, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was optimistic that Finley would be cleared, saying the injury wasn't exactly the same as the one suffered by former Packers safety Nick Collins. The Packers released Collins following a C-3/C-4 fusion surgery in 2011.

Finley is a free agent for the second time in three years. Two years ago, he opted to sign only a two-year deal (for $14 million) in the hope that he would blossom into a star and command an even bigger contract the next time around.

If Finley signs with the Seahawks, he would be reunited with general manager John Schneider, who was one of packers general Manager Ted Thompson's top personnel advisors in Green Bay when the Packers drafted Finley in the third round in 2008.

In 70 games with the Packers over six seasons, Finley has 223 catches for 2,785 yards and 20 touchdowns. In 2012, he set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end with 61.

In other news involving Packers' free agents, center Evan Dietrich-Smith is scheduled to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan confirmed the visit. The New York Giants also are believed to be interested in Dietrich-Smith.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC North

March, 10, 2014
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A few deals have been signed around the NFC North in the days leading up to free agency, but plenty of valuable players are about to hit the open market.

Here is a ranking of top NFC North free agents, with information provided by ESPN.com reporters Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers), Ben Goessling (Minnesota Vikings), Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions) and Michael C. Wright (Chicago Bears).

We will update this periodically throughout the next several weeks.

1.Sam Shields, Packers CB: Emerged as the Packers' top cover cornerback last season while playing for the restricted free-agent tender of $2.023 million and was re-signed to a four-year, $39 million contract just a few hours into the open negotiating period Saturday. His 2014 total pay of $15 million makes him the NFL's second-highest-paid cornerback for next season.

2. Brandon Pettigrew, Lions TE: The No. 20 pick in the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma State, Pettigrew spent the past five seasons as one of Detroit's primary tight ends, specifically known for the ability to both block and run routes effectively.

3. Jermichael Finley, Packers TE: Had surgery to fuse the C3 and C4 vertebra in his neck but expects to be cleared by his doctor. Gambled two years ago in free agency, signing just a two-year, $14 million deal in the hope that he would blossom into a star and command an even bigger contract the next time around.

4. Charles Tillman, Bears CB: The NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year, Tillman started eight games last season before finishing on the injured reserve with a torn triceps. The Bears hope to bring back Tillman but might not be able to come up with a suitable offer.

5. B.J. Raji, Packers DT: Reportedly turned down an $8 million per year offer from the Packers last season, which might have been a sign that he preferred to play in a system that gave defensive linemen more freedom. After a disappointing season, his value has gone down, and as of last week, he was close to signing a one-year deal to return.

Cassel
Cassel
6. Matt Cassel, Vikings QB: Opted out of his 2014 contract after the Super Bowl but signed a new two-year deal with the Vikings on Friday, just before teams could start contacting his agent. He will likely head into training camp with the inside track on the starting job.

7. Willie Young, Lions DL: Former seventh-round pick received his first extensive playing time in 2013, becoming a full-time starter after Jason Jones was injured for the season in Week 3. Young turned into one of the more disruptive players up front, making 47 tackles, recovering two fumbles and recording three sacks.

8. James Jones, Packers WR: Ranked second on the Packers last season in receptions (59) and yards (817), the latter of which was a career high despite missing nearly three full games because of a knee injury. Three years ago, coming off the NFL lockout, Jones did not draw strong interest on the free-agent market and re-signed with the Packers for three years and $9.6 million.

9. Jared Allen, Vikings DE: After three All-Pro selections in six years, Allen’s time in Minnesota is likely over. He could come back as a situational pass-rusher on a reduced salary, but after making $14 million last season, Allen might head elsewhere for a bigger role and bigger paycheck.

McCown
10. Josh McCown, Bears QB: He proved he is capable of filling in for Jay Cutler in a pinch and is instrumental behind the scenes for nearly every skill player on the offense. It's not a slam dunk he will be back, and talks with the Bears haven't been especially productive.

11. Henry Melton, Bears DL: Melton's representatives fully expect him to test the market in free agency because the Bears haven’t shown a ton of interest. Coming off a torn ACL, Melton probably won't command top dollar in the first wave of free agency.

12. Devin Hester, Bears KR: Became strictly a return specialist for the Bears last season and is still one of the league's best at his position. Probably expects a payday similar to what he's gotten in the past.

13. Rashean Mathis, Lions CB: Mathis signed with Detroit during the 2013 preseason and became one of the team's starting cornerbacks by the third week of the season. He played in 15 games, making 47 tackles and often drawing the opponent's top wide receiver.

14. Everson Griffen, Vikings DE: The 26-year-old cashed in on Sunday by signing a five-year, $42.5 million deal that included $20 million guaranteed to return to Minnesota. He should flourish in new coach Mike Zimmer's defensive scheme.

15. Louis Delmas, Lions S: The 26-year-old was released by Detroit with one year remaining on his contract in February, in part because of a cap number of $6.5 million in 2014. Has played in 65 games for Detroit over five seasons, with 328 tackles, six interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had five sacks and four fumble recoveries.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers would like to bring back tight end Andrew Quarless, but it might not be easy.

The former fifth-round draft pick from Penn State already is drawing plenty of interest on the free-agent market, according to his agent, Chris Cabot.

Quarless
Cabot said Monday that he has had discussions with the Packers and seven other NFL teams about Quarless since the free-agent negotiating period opened on Saturday.

Until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, only the Packers can sign Quarless. If a deal can't be reached by then, Quarless would be free to sign with another team.

The 6-foot-4, 252-pound Quarless is coming off a season in which he set career highs in receptions (32), yards (312) and touchdowns (two). He became the Packers' starting tight end after Jermichael Finley's season-ending neck injury on Oct. 20.

In perhaps the best display of what he could potentially become, Quarless had back-to-back games with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 14 and Dallas Cowboys in Week 15.

Quarless missed the entire 2012 season because of a knee injury he sustained late in 2011, and the Packers believe he still has room for growth.

"I think he's got more in the tank, and we talked about that throughout the season," Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said shortly after the season. "I think that he's made strides in being a better receiver and understanding where he needs to be on the field at any given point. As with anything, you always work on consistency."

Cabot did not name any of the seven other teams who have inquired about his client, but among those believed to be interested in Quarless are the New York Giants, where former Packers assistant coach Ben McAdoo is the new offensive coordinator. McAdoo was Quarless’ position coach in 2010 and 2011 before moving over to quarterbacks coach.
The decision to re-sign Jeff Cumberland could signal the start of a new era for the New York Jets at the tight-end position, which is to say they're actually planning to make the tight end more than an afterthought in the scope of the entire offense.

Nice of them to join the party.

[+] EnlargeJeff Cumberland
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsThe Jets have re-signed tight end Jeff Cumberland to a three-year deal.
In Year 1 of MartyBall, the Jets went against the leaguewide trend. In fact, they used two or more tight ends on only 206 plays. Only three teams used the package less than the Jets, according to ESPN Stats & Information. (As an aside, the Jets completed a league-low 50 percent of their passes from those sets.) Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg probably held back because ... well, it wasn't like he was loaded at the position. Kellen Winslow served a four-game suspension and rarely practiced, and the No. 3 spot was a musical-chairs game.

But now the philosophy appears to be changing.

They locked up Cumberland with a modest, three-year contract, and they're in the market for another veteran. Yes, they're serious about upgrading the position. They've been linked to Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions), Scott Chandler (Buffalo Bills) and Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers). The "legal tampering" period is underway, and they've already expressed interest in Pettigrew. I think they're trying to sell Pettigrew on the idea that he and Cumberland would be a two-headed monster, with Pettigrew handling the in-line responsibilities and Cumberland being deployed as the "move" tight end.

In theory, it sounds good, but Cumberland isn't known as that kind of tight end. In 2013, most of his receptions (16 out of 26) came when he lined up as a traditional, in-line tight end, per ESPN Stats. They tried to move him around the formation; in fact, he ran 76 of his 214 routes from the slot or split out wide, but he was targeted on only 15 of those 76 routes. In other words, he was a decoy. Either that, or he simply couldn't get open.

Obviously, the Jets thought enough of Cumberland to sign him before he hit the open market. Hey, why not? He'll be only 27 and the price was right -- $3.7 million over three years, according to the New York Daily News. I have doubts about whether he can be a legitimate, pass-catching tight end, although here's something you probably don't know about him: His yards-after-catch (YAC) was 6.35 per reception, second in the league.

One thing is certain: The Jets are trying to shake up the status quo at one of their weakest positions.

Free-agency primer: Packers

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

 
Key free agents: TE Jermichael Finley, CB Sam Shields, DT B.J. Raji, DT Johnny Jolly, DT Ryan Pickett, WR James Jones, OLB Mike Neal, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RB James Starks, QB Matt Flynn, FB John Kuhn.

Where they stand: The Packers, who have $35 million in available salary-cap space, on Thursday moved closer to re-signing Raji, one of their three starting defensive linemen who were in the final years of their contracts. Last month at the NFL scouting combine, coach Mike McCarthy sounded optimistic that Finley would be cleared to play again after undergoing neck fusion surgery in November. The Packers were in on-and-off negotiations with Shields dating to this past June, but they remain significantly apart, making it more likely he will hit the open market next week. There's a chance that many of, if not all, the remaining free agents could do the same. That doesn't mean they won't re-sign, but it means the Packers will let the market help determine their value, which means they could risk losing them.

What to expect: Everyone knows that general manager Ted Thompson does not use free agency as a tool for restocking his roster very often. But Thompson usually tries to retain many of the players who have come through the organization. He could lose more of them than usual if he can’t get any more deals done before Tuesday. However, it remains to be seen what kind of market there will be for players like Jones (who will turn 30 on March 31), Dietrich-Smith (who has just one full season as a starter to his credit), Starks (who has a long injury history) and Flynn (who failed to win starting jobs in Seattle and Oakland).

McShay Mock 3.0 reax: Packers

March, 6, 2014
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If North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron is available when the Green Bay Packers pick at No. 21, they would have a tough time passing on him.

Ebron
In what looks like a strong -- or perhaps more apropos -- an athletic class of tight ends, Ebron is the standout. That is why ESPN's Todd McShay has Ebron as the top tight end in his latest mock draft Insider, version 3.0, which went live on Thursday.

Despite the Packers' needs on defense, McShay thinks Ebron would be a perfect fit for their offense. Although he has Ebon going to Green Bay, McShay seems to have doubts about whether he will be available when the Packers pick at No. 21.

McShay wrote: "Aaron Rodgers would love to have this guy on his team."

Much of that could depend on what the Packers decide to do with Jermichael Finley, their ultra-talented tight end who is coming off a neck injury and was in the final year of his contract.

One thing seems clear, McShay does not believe the Packers will be in position to draft either of the top-two safeties. He projects the St. Louis Rams will take Calvin Pryor of Louisville at No. 13 and the Pittsburgh Steelers will take Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama two spots later.

According to the latest mock draft, the Packers would have the option to take either Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III or Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman. He has both going in the first round, but after the Packers pick at 21.

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