The Green Bay Packers have made several hard decisions of late, and next offseason won’t be any easier.
As the Packers continue transitioning toward younger players in positions of prominence, one name to watch is cornerback Eric Stokes. The No. 29 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is up for a contract extension one season from now. Green Bay will have to decide then whether to exercise its fifth-year option on Stokes or let him roll into unrestricted free agency following the 2024 campaign.
Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated wrote on Friday, May 26, that he expects the Packers to pick up Stokes’ deal, assuming the defensive back can remain healthy.
“Stokes had an excellent rookie season for the Packers, and he was on his way to another quality campaign last year before a season-ending ankle injury in November,” Verderame said. “Paired with Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas, Green Bay has terrific corners to build its defense around. It would be an upset if Stokes stays healthy in 2023 and doesn’t see his option picked up.”
Packers CB Eric Stokes Had Plate Surgically Inserted Into Injured Foot
While that assessment of Stokes’ play and future potential are positive, the surety that the Packers choose to pay him big money in year five is tied to Stokes’ injury status. As Verderame noted, the cornerback missed the second half of his second season due to a serious ankle injury, but Stokes’ issues were worse than they appeared.
ESPN’s Rob Demovsky reported details on multiple surgeries Stokes that underwent to deal with the lisfranc issue that cut his 2022 campaign short.
“CB Eric Stokes said he had surgery on his knee and foot — they were done at the same time — after his November injury. He had a lisfranc injury and had a plate inserted into his foot,” Demovsky tweeted on May 23. “He said he finally started running a couple weeks ago and believes he’ll get his speed back.”
Stokes has two months until the start of training camp and more than three months before the Packers open the 2023 season on the road against the Chicago Bears on September 10.
Eric Stokes Will Garner Large Contract if Packers Pick up His Option
What Green Bay will owe Stokes should they pick up his fifth-year option is yet to be determined. Such options go up based on snaps played and Pro-Bowl honors earned. Stokes played in 16 of 17 games during his rookie campaign in 2021, starting 14 of those contests. He started in the first nine outings of 2022 before hurting his ankle.
Even if the cornerback doesn’t make the first Pro-Bowl team of his career in 2023, his fifth-year salary number figures to be well into the eight-figures. Stokes will play next season on the third year of a four-year deal worth just shy of $12 million total.
Stokes has tallied 81 tackles, 14 pass breakups and one interception across his first two NFL campaigns, per Pro Football Reference.