The Green Bay Packers may have moved on from Jamaal Williams, but the free-agent running back won’t be leaving the NFC North.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Detroit Lions are signing Williams to a two-year contract worth up to $7.5 million in a move that raises questions about the team’s plans for their backfield.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 17, 2021
The Lions currently have Kerryon Johnson and 2020 second-round pick D’Andre Swift under contract for next season, but they haven’t always gotten the necessary production or availability from Johnson. They also have veteran Adrian Peterson is set to become a free agent when the new league year begins Wednesday at 3 p.m. CT.
With Williams, the Lions are gaining a consistent change-of-pace back who racked up nearly 3,000 scrimmage yards and 18 total touchdowns over his four seasons with the Packers. The 2017 fourth-round pick also played one of the best games of his career against the Lions in 2019 when he rushed 14 times for 104 yards and caught four passes for 32 yards and a touchdown to help the Packers to a narrow 23-22 home win.
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Williams is the second Packers free agent who has reportedly agreed to sign with another team during the NFL’s legal tampering period. The Los Angeles Chargers also signed veteran Corey Linsley to a lucrative deal that made him the league’s new highest-paid center, while cap casualty Christian Kirksey landed with the Houston Texans.
Here’s a closer look at the rest of the Packers’ free-agent picture with unrestricted free agency less than 24 hours away:
Which Free Agents Will Packers Re-Sign?
The Packers have made a handful of moves in the past week to secure some of their pending free agents, including signing star running back Aaron Jones to a four-year, $48 million contract extension. They have also placed tenders on restricted free agents Robert Tonyan (second round) and Chandon Sullivan (first right of refusal) and secured all five of their exclusive rights free agents — Kabion Ento, Allen Lazard, Yosh Nijman, Randy Ramsey and Malik Taylor.
Some Packers free agents, however, were met with rejection.
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, the Packers declined to tender quarterback Tim Boyle, safety Raven Greene, defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster and cornerback Parry Nickerson. All four of them will now become unrestricted free agents but could still re-sign with the Packers if there was mutual motivation.
The Packers also have 10 other unrestricted free agents to consider bringing back for the 2021 season: starting cornerback Kevin King, veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis, wide receiver Tavon Austin, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, return specialist Tyler Ervin, free safety Will Redmond, inside linebacker James Burgess, offensive guard Lane Taylor and defensive ends Montravius Adams and Billy Winn.
How Will Packers Create More Cap Space?
The Packers are now more than $8 million over the 2021 salary cap after issuing their RFA tenders and will need to find a way back under before the new league year starts, but will the method be more roster deductions, contract restructures or outright extensions?
The Packers have already restructured the contracts of David Bakhtiari, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner, but Aaron Rodgers is another candidate who could help the team create the necessary space all on his own. They could also extend his current deal and make a deeper commitment to him; though, that would seem less likely with first-round quarterback Jordan Love on deck.
Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and wide receiver Davante Adams, both 2020 All-Pro selections, are two other Packers stars that would make sense for contract extensions given both are fixtures for the team and will become free agents in the next few years.