2014 free-agent countdown
20. Chris Banjo, safety
19. Seneca Wallace, quarterback
18. Kahlil Bell, running back
17. Robert Francois, inside linebacker
16. Marshall Newhouse, offensive lineman
15. C.J. Wilson, defensive lineman
14. M.D. Jennings, safety
13. Jamari Lattimore, inside linebacker
12. Johnny Jolly, defensive line
11. Matt Flynn, quarterback
10. Andrew Quarless, tight end
9. James Starks, running back
8. Ryan Pickett, defensive lineman
Ryan Pickett still wants to play, but knows that decision isn’t completely up to him.
After almost 200 regular-season games played, the 13-year defensive lineman is waiting to see whether the Green Bay Packers or any other NFL suitor will seek his services for a 14th season.
Pickett, who’ll turn 35 in October, is in the autumn of his career and coming off a down year. He gutted through a knee injury to play in all 16 games, but saw a significant drop in production with 19 tackles despite playing only about 100 fewer snaps than 2012, when he finished with 51 tackles.
Pickett, a respected yet quiet voice in the locker room, and inside linebacker A.J. Hawk are the longest tenured players on the defensive side of the ball. However, Pickett's struggles over the last two months of the season contributed in the run defense’s fall from third in the NFL to 25th.
What often made Pickett so disruptive in his prime was the ability to eat up blockers and effortlessly glide down the line to stifle opposing rushers. Some of those traits resurfaced in the wild-card playoff loss to San Francisco, but a changing of the guard on the line might be inevitable.
Pickett, B.J. Raji, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson are all unrestricted free agents this offseason and one report from NFL Network has the Packers moving away from 330-pound anchors in favor of more athletic 290-pound options.
Capers’ 3-4 defense still needs a big nose tackle for its two-gap structure. If the Packers deem he has another season in him, it’s more likely Pickett will command a base salary closer to the $955,000 veteran minimum than the $6.2 million he made last season.
Pittsburgh came to this same crossroads last year before deciding to move on from five-time Pro Bowler Casey Hampton, who didn’t play last year after turning 35.
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac has lauded Pickett for maintaining his weight and routinely returning to the offseason program in shape.
But does he have another season left in the tank?
“I think Pick can still play,” Trgovac said. “There’s a lot more factors that go into that. Pick finished the year strong. He had some good tackles in the (49ers) game. We’ll see.”
Editor's note: Prior to the start of the new league year in March, Press-Gazette Media is counting down the top 20 unrestricted, restricted and exclusive right free agents the Green Bay Packers will have to decide on this offseason.
No. 8 Ryan Pickett, 13th-year defensive lineman
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: 494 total (488 defense, 6 special teams).
The stats: 19 tackles with two pass deflections.
The 2013 salary: $6.2 million.