GREEN BAY - A trio of young players became unrestricted free agents when the Green Bay Packers decided not to extend qualifying offers or minimum tenders before the start of the new league year.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, outside linebackers Jayrone Elliott and Jordan Tripp, both restricted free agents, and running back John Crockett, an exclusive rights free agent, had their contracts expire and could begin negotiating with other teams.
The Packers issued tenders to the remainder of their exclusive rights free agents: punter Jacob Schum, inside linebacker Joe Thomas, defensive end Christian Ringo, running back Don Jackson and fullback Joe Kerridge.
In the cases of Elliott and Tripp, the decision to let them become free agents likely was driven by finances rather than a lack of interest from the organization. The minimum tender for unrestricted free agents is $1.797 million for the 2017 season, and that is more than the Packers were willing to pay for two players whose contributions are primarily on special teams.
Elliott, 25, has been with the Packers for three seasons after making the team as an undrafted free agent from Toledo in 2014. He played the sixth-most snaps among outside linebackers this season and remained most influential on special teams, where he led the Packers in tackles with 14. His physical tools never have materialized from scrimmage on a consistent basis.
Tripp, who is also 25, was signed off the street on Dec. 14 after spending time with the Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks. He played 91 snaps on special teams in the final month of the season and made five tackles. He did not play from scrimmage.
Elliott and Tripp still could end up in camp with the Packers. Both players could be re-signed for as little as $690,000, which is the league minimum for players with three accrued seasons. The Packers might be intrigued if a deal could be struck at a lower price.
There is mutual interest between Elliott and the organization for a possible return, according to a source, though he is also weighing other offers.
The same cannot be said for Crockett, however. By deciding not to extend an offer, the Packers turned down an opportunity to bring Crockett back for the league minimum of $615,000 next season — a clear signal they are moving on from the former North Dakota State star.
Crockett spent the year on injured reserve after damaging his shoulder in an exhibition game, and it’s possible the injury factored into the Packers’ decision to walk away.
Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contributed to this report.
Michael Cohen can be reached at email@example.com or https://twitter.com/Michael_Cohen13.