Packers lose center Corey Linsley, who signs free agent deal with Los Angeles Chargers
GREEN BAY - There was never really any chance the Green Bay Packers were going to re-sign center Corey Linsley, not after ignoring him all last season and through the run up to the free-agency period.
So, his departure in free agency was a given.
It became a reality Monday when Linsley reached agreement with the Los Angeles Chargers on a four-year deal, according to NFL.com. Multiple reports said the deal was for five year, $62.5 million with a $13 million signing bonus and $26 million guaranteed overall, making him the highest-paid center in the league by yearly average.
Linsley, who was voted first-team All-Pro in 2021, fell too far down the priority list to make it back on the Packers' roster.
General manager Brian Gutekunst singled out left tackle David Bakhtiari and nose tackle Kenny Clark for in-season deals that would guarantee they would not get to free agency. He also tried to re-sign running back Aaron Jones during the season and finally got that done Sunday, a day before free agents could start informally shopping themselves around the league.
With the Packers adding Jones and still needing to extend some restricted and exclusive rights free-agent tenders, they were at least $8 million over the salary cap heading into Wednesday’s deadline for compliance.
They are expected to extend outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith’s deal, which could result in a gain of as much as $10 million in salary-cap room, and they have the option of lowering some other cap numbers with contract adjustments and paring the roster of some players with significant cap liability.
Even with the money they can clear, it would have stressed their cap situation immensely to add Linsley at what could turn out to be $12 million or more a year. They have invested a lot in Bakhtiari and tackle Billy Turner and will have to pay big money to retain guard Elgton Jenkins in two years, so someone had to be sacrificed.
The fact Jenkins’ best position is probably center may have played into the decision. The Packers also have several young interior players in Jon Runyan and Simon Stepaniak who they hope can emerge as starters this year or next.
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Just to be safe, the Packers inquired about Minnesota veteran center Brett Jones, who was released earlier this offseason. Jones, 29, started his career in the Canadian Football League, played two seasons with the New York Giants and played the last three seasons with the Vikings.
He has mostly been a backup but started 13 games for the Giants in ’17.
Linsley has been a rock in the middle of the Packers' offensive line, starting all 99 games in which he has appeared. He had a streak of 68 consecutive starts broken late last season when he tore the MCL in his left knee and missed the final three games of the season.
He returned in time to play in the team's two playoff games.
Linsley rejoins former Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga with the Chargers. Bulaga signed as a free agent with the Chargers a year ago, and Linsley told SiriusXM NFL radio that was a major factor in his decision.
Linsley, who became the first Packers center to earn first-team recognition since Jim Ringo in 1963, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2014 and became an instant starter. He missed just 13 games in seven seasons and was regularly one of the most consistent players on the offensive line.
The Packers have some rebuilding to do on the offensive line with Linsley gone and Bakhtiari probably out the first six games of next season while recovering from a torn ACL. They did extend an exclusive rights free-agent tender to tackle Yosh Nijman, an athletic big man they hope to develop into a swing tackle, according to a source.
Greene not tendered
The Packers did not offer restricted free-agent safety Raven Greene a tender, making him a free agent come Wednesday.
The Packers would have had to offer him a minimum of $2.13 million, but with young safeties Vernon Scott and Henry Black expected to compete for playing time, the team wasn’t willing to pay that price. It’s likely that Greene won’t be brought back.
The Packers did tender exclusive rights free agent Malik Taylor, securing their rights to him for this season.