Rumors before the start of free agency might be just that — rumors — because there is a lot of misinformation, interest, and loose talk from agents. This week, Pro Football Network’s Aaron Wilson reported that the Green Bay Packers are interested in edge defender Von Miller, who is an unrestricted free agent after winning a championship with the Los Angeles Rams.
Miller could demand up to $20 million per year, which will be hard for the Packers to offer considering their salary cap constraints. But it shows general manager Brian Gutekunst knows he needs to add pieces to Green Bay’s edge depth.
Last season, the Packers struggled with the Za’Darius Smith injury because there were no solid rotational options behind Rashan Gary and Preston Smith. Jonathan Garvin, La’Darius Hamilton, and Tipa Galeai won’t do the trick. Now adding edge pieces is an offseason priority, considering that the Packers are expected to release Za’Darius Smith as a cap casualty.
Is a Von Miller deal possible?
Miller is a star and had a significant impact on LA’s title run. The Rams gave up second- and third-round picks to acquire him from the Denver Broncos midseason. But he’s going to be 33 this fall. Because of his age, his market value is more difficult to calculate. According to Spotrac, his contract projection has a $10.5 million average on a two-year, $21 million contract. That’s feasible for any team in the league.
But the open market tends to be different. With several teams interested, Miller’s value could reach the $20 million average mentioned by Aaron Wilson. In this case, although the Packers could make it work under the cap, they will probably go a cheaper route.
What should we take from it?
Even if Von Miller isn’t the final choice, the most important thing we take from this report is that the Packers are in the market for an edge rusher. Wilson also mentioned that Green Bay is in the conversation for Los Angeles Chargers’ former second-round pick Uchenna Nwosu, a decent rotational edge. The $15 million the Packers will open up if/when they release Za’Darius Smith is more than enough to sign a replacement, especially using tools like void years to spread the cap hit.
Gutekunst is not shy about double-dipping
In 2019, his second offseason as general manager, Brian Gutekunst knew he needed to add edge defenders after releasing Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. He agreed to terms with Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith during the legal tampering period. Later, when nobody thought he would allocate more capital to the position, Gutekunst used the 12th-overall pick to select Rashan Gary.
Three years later, Gutekunst’s strategy seems wise. Gary is an inexpensive building block, and the Packers can keep one of the veteran guys while cutting the other to create cap space.
Considering how impactful the edge position is – in general, and specifically to Joe Barry’s system – don’t be surprised if Gutekunst decides to double-dip once more. He might go the free-agency route to have an immediate impact with guys like Miller or Nwosu, extend Preston Smith, re-sign Whitney Mercilus, and draft a player in the early rounds simultaneously.
The Packers’ profile
With Gutekunst, the free-agency profile the Packers look for constitutes guys going to their second contracts in the NFL, who are generally undervalued by their former teams or want their first chance to be a starter. That’s what happened with Za’Darius Smith, a Baltimore Ravens backup, and Preston Smith, who was a second option for the Washington Commanders. Uchenna Nwosu fits that description. He was a starter in 2021 for the first time after the Chargers let Melvin Ingram walk.
There are other alternatives with similar situations in free agency. Dorance Armstrong was a fourth-round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2018 and doesn’t have impressive numbers, but he is a solid player who’s just 24 years old.
Jordan Willis has spent time with three different teams. After the Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the third round in 2017, they released him, and the New York Jets claimed him. Then the Jets traded him to the San Francisco 49ers. Last offseason, he signed a one-year prove-it deal to remain in San Francisco and had a good season, recording three sacks. He is going to turn 27 during the season.
And his age is another reason why a Von Miller deal is improbable. But Gutekunst has shown he’s willing to adapt his approach, especially since Aaron Rodgers decided to keep playing in Green Bay.