Veteran linebacker Brad Jones is likely playing himself into a contract extension
General manager Ted Thompson has already extended two of his potential unrestricted free agents (T.J. Lang and Brett Goode), but another five players remain on schedule to hit the open market in early March. That list includes a Pro Bowl wide receiver, two “starting” linebackers, a currently injured running back and a future Packers Hall of Famer. Here’s a look at what I expect to happen with each player:
CEDRIC BENSON: The veteran started the first five games, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury against Indy and was placed on IR. He’s eligible to return next month, but that’s probably not going to happen. What’s even more unlikely is his return in 2013. While Benson looked pretty good in his brief – pardon the pun – run with Green Bay, it’s hard to imagine Thompson re-signing an aging back coming off a serious injury.
DONALD DRIVER: If the 37-year-old wants to play another season, he’ll probably have to do it in the UFL or Canada. The Packers wasted money and a roster spot on Driver this season, but that won’t happen again. He simply has nothing left. Look for Jarrett Boykin to move up a notch on the depth chart and for Thompson to add a rookie who could help out on special teams while developing on offense.
GREG JENNINGS: I’d love to see the 2-time Pro Bowler return, but I just don’t see it happening. While the Packers don’t have a true No. 1 receiver under contract for 2013, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones are all legitimate No. 2s. And that trio, along with Jermichael Finley, provides QB Aaron Rodgers with more than enough weapons. Plus, Thompson has proven quite adept at drafting at this position. There’s a chance Jennings could be franchised, but I only see that happening as a prelude to a trade.
BRAD JONES: It’s been a good month for the former Colorado star. After barely playing on defense in the first six weeks, Jones has started the past four games at inside linebacker and has acquitted himself quite well. In the process, he’s gone from a player with no future in Green Bay to a player who stands a pretty decent chance of earning an extension. With Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith coming off serious injuries, it’s hard to imagine Thompson letting the young (26) and versatile Jones get away.
ERIK WALDEN: The veteran was arrested last November and then played poorly down the stretch, and yet Green Bay still brought him back. That tells you what Thompson and the defensive coaches think of the former Middle Tennessee star. But unless Bob McGinn takes over as GM, don’t expect Walden to sign a lucrative extension. However, I could see him getting a two-year deal worth $5M. That would be a relatively small price to pay to provide insurance in case Nick Perry still isn’t ready to seize sole control at LOLB.