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Keep Or Not, Packers Free Agents

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

I know the postseason isn't over yet, but I wanted to do an analysis of which unrestricted free agents I think that the Packers should keep after the season ends.  Almost every free agent the Packers have this year had a significant role, in other words, there are no Marwin Evans' on the list.  No offense to Marwin, but the Packers are going to have a lot more important decisions to make this offseason, in what could be the first for a new general manager.  With that, it's time for keep or not.

First, here is my restricted free agent list, aka the guys that wind up back on the practice squad and training camp rosters, and those starred are who we should keep.
LB Jordan Tripp*, OLB Jayrone Elliott*, DE Mike Pennel, P Jake Schum*, ILB Joe Thomas*, RB John Crockett, DE Christian Ringo*, RB Don Jackson*, FB Joe Kerridge

OL Don Barclay
He's been a Packer for a while now, and was brought back on a one-year contract in the offseason.  As far as should he come back next year, my answer is no, and it has been no since he re-signed in the summer.  He knows the offense and is versatile, but we can find numerous, cheaper players capable of replacing him.  I'd sometimes rather have Micah Hyde play on the line than him, as his play from my eye-test is awful.  Don't keep him.

TE Jared Cook
He's been incredibly valuable during the now seven game winning streak, and as long as the price is right here the Packers should take him back.  I can't imagine him asking for Rob Gronkowski or even Coby Fleener money, and his return has impacted the Packers.  His downside is he is injury prone, and that's not going to get much better.  I'd say keep him if the price is right.

LS Brett Goode
Not a lot to say about Goode, but I think he's a keeper.  He's been the long snapper since 2008, and he's not going to cost a lot.

DB Micah Hyde
Hyde has proven to be invaluable in multiple facets of the game, and his ability to play both corner and safety at a moderately high level makes him the jack-knife of the secondary.  If Sam Shields retires, his role will be more vital as the new elder-statesman of the cornerbacks.  If I had to make a priority of who to keep, it would be TJ Lang, Nick Perry and Micah Hyde.

OLB Datone Jones
I bet he does a Nick Perry deal in the offseason, as only one sack is not going to cut it for Datone.  He has had flashes, but a fourth year pro heading into unrestricted free agency shouldn't just have "flashes" anymore.  His consistency for impacting the game is not there, and as far as I'm concerned he should be on his way out.  I'm leaning towards don't keep.

RB Eddie Lacy
This is one of the more interesting ones, as he seemed to be in shape heading into the regular season, and was off to a good start.  However, that injury sidelined him for the entire season, leading to Ty Montgomery to take over and become a fan favorite at running back.  I think Lacy has earned a one year trial after his first two seasons, but if he's looking for big money I'd let Jacksonville scoop him up.  Only keep him if the money is right.

G TJ Lang
TJ Lang is the best guard in the NFL, and we need to keep him to fortify the line for a few more years.  With David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga on multi-year deals and rookie Jason Spriggs having three more as well, this could set up the line for the future.  Outside of that, why wouldn't you want to bring back a fan favorite who happens to be the best at his position?

RB Christine Michael
He has had some good plays with the Packers, and is more serviceable at this point than James Starks, so I would try to bring him back cheaply.  The Packers will probably let him go, but as this season has shown, depth at running back is not what Ted Thompson thought it was.  He'll probably move on, but I think he's worth a cheap contract.

OLB Julius Peppers
This is the other one that has me really torn and intrigued at the same time, as I really want to keep him, but he's also 36 and in the twilight of his career.  He still had a great year and can play at a high level, and seems to be in shape, but we can't afford to give him $10 million next season again.  If he takes a "Titletown Discount", bring him back, otherwise we can let him go because...

OLB Nick Perry
Nick Perry led the team in sacks, and has finally earned his payday.  He and Lang are going to be the most costly free agents, and I believe that they are the most necessary.  With Peppers aging and only Kyler Fackrell waiting in the wings, somebody is going to have to play alongside Clay Matthews for the next few years.  It should be Perry, he's proven it.

OL JC Tretter
I want to keep him, but we'll need to work out how much he will make.  And if he will start.  Should Lang return, Bakhtiari, Bulaga, Spriggs, Corey Linsley and Lane Taylor will all join him for playing time competition, so the line will be as deep and talented as ever.  I like Tretter and he is a great fallback for TJ Lang, but he knows he can't ask for much.  He's a must-keep if Lang goes, but he's expendable with him. 

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