Green Bay Packers: PFF Predicts they Sign Veteran LB in Free Agency

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 09: K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 09: K.J. Wright #50 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Fortunately for the Green Bay Packers, they are still playing playoff football. However, when it comes to a majority of NFL teams, their offseason has started, and that means looking ahead to free agency and the draft.

So with 28 teams focusing on 2021, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus recently came out with a free agency article, taking a look at one free agent that each NFL team should sign. And when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, he has them landing Seattle Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright. Here is a bit of what Monson had to say:

"“Wright has been a consistently excellent player for the Seahawks for years, and a switch in position this season to the strong side saw his PFF grade (75.7) jump back to its highest level since 2016. He will provide a consistently solid level of play that the Packers haven’t been able to rely on this season at linebacker.”"

Wright was a former fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State in 2011 and has spent his entire 10-year career in Seattle.

More recently, Wright appeared in only five games during the 2018 season after suffering a knee injury and was essentially given a one year prove-it deal for 2019 with a team option for 2020. And over the last two years, Wright has rewarded Seattle for having faith in him.

With the selection of rookie Jordyn Brooks in the 2020 NFL Draft, Seattle moved Wright to the strong side linebacker position where he was really able to shine at this stage of his career. He performed well as a run defender setting the edge, blew up screens on a regular basis, and was utilized more often as a blitzer as well.

"“Man, he’s been playing great,” Pete Carroll told Sports Illustrated in December. “The position allows for his freedom to make plays in the run and the passing game and rushing the passer at times. It suits him really well, so he’s looked pretty good right now. I don’t know why we’d be talking about anything other than playing football for about as long as he wants to.”"

According to Pro Football Focus ($), Wright finished the year with 12 pressures, two sacks, and 86 tackles, with 11 being for a loss. In coverage, he allowed a completion rate of 75.3 percent on 81 targets but did hold opponents to only 8.2 yards per catch while tallying an interception.

And while PFF’s grades are not the be-all-end-all by any means, they can be a useful tool to help illustrate who is playing well and who is struggling. Well, this season, Wright had the eighth-highest overall grade among linebackers.

While it appears that Wright has been rejuvenated with this recent position change, does it make sense for the Green Bay Packers to pursue the 32-year-old linebacker?

As always, and especially in 2021, we have to begin with the salary cap. As we are all well aware of at this point, due to COVID-19 and a lack of fans in the stands this season, the salary cap in 2021 could fall as low as $175 million, forcing teams to cut costs rather than going on spending sprees. This rings true for the Packers as it does for just about every other NFL team.

As it currently stands, Spotrac has Green Bay nearly $25.8 million over the salary cap in 2021, which they have projected at just under $179 million. Now, as I highlighted in an article about a month ago, there are ways to create space, some of which include veteran cuts, contract extensions, and contract restructures.

Related Story. 3 Salary Cap Saving Moves to Make in 2021. light

So, don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. But even with those cost-saving measures, would the Green Bay Packers sign Wright? I have my doubts.

Wright made $7 million this season and came with a cap hit of $10 million. Corbin Smith, who covers the Seahawks for Sports Illustrated, has an ideal contract for Wright being $7.5 million for a year or two. If this is the case, I imagine that it would be structured similarly to Chrisitan Kirksey’s current deal, which is for two years and $13 million, but Green Bay has an out after the first year.

So if Wright’s contract does fall in that range, the Green Bay Packers have just shown us that they will pay that much for a free agent linebacker. However, we need to point out that they made that deal with Kirksey before they had drafted and signed rookies Kamal Martin and Krys Barnes.

Over the last month, Barnes has taken over the Mike linebacker responsibilities, is wearing the green dot, and has been a key component to this defense’s late-season surge. While Martin, on the other hand — along with primarily Kirksey — has seen snaps as the Packers’ weak-side linebacker. And although Martin is nowhere near as refined as Wright is overall or in coverage, in his limited playing time, he’s shown that he certainly capable of blowing running plays up in the backfield as well as screens.

To put a bow on everything I’ve said, with the salary cap dropping this offseason along with Green Bay having two inexpensive options at linebacker already on the roster, one of which is Barnes, who has shown that he can be a starter in this league, even on a short-term, team-friendly deal, I just don’t see Russ Ball and Brian Gutekunst prioritizing the linebacker position and signing Wright in free agency.

Next. Kevin King Misses Friday's Practice. dark

But with that said, at this point, do any of us really know? I can’t say that at this time a year ago, Rick Wagner or Christian Kirksey were on my radar either. So maybe when free agency does roll around, keep an eye on Wright, you know, just in case.