Packers: Green Bay’s backup plan after missing out on J.J. Watt

The Green Bay Packers lost out on J.J. Watt to the Arizona Cardinals. But now, they can pivot to retaining a key member of their offensive line.

The 2021 league year is over two weeks away, and one of the largest names in free agency is no longer available. Veteran edge rusher J.J. Watt was granted his release by the Houston Texans, leaving football fans and pundits speculating where he would land. One of the teams consistently in the running for Watt were the Green Bay Packers. Much like this year’s NFC Championship Game, the Packers did not get the end result they wanted.

On Monday, Watt confirmed reports that he had signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. With Watt off the board, the Packers need to pivot elsewhere. But instead of focusing on another edge rusher on the open market, general manager Brian Gutekunst needs to set his focus on retaining a key player at the line of scrimmage.

That player is center Corey Linsley.

Packers need to keep offensive line intact

The Packers have a difficult choice to make in regards to which players they can retain. As of this writing, they are currently $11.4 million over the cap and have pivotal offensive players in Linsley and running back Aaron Jones set to hit the open market. Even if Jones was not receiving interest from the Miami Dolphins, keeping Green Bay’s offensive line intact should be the priority regardless.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming off an MVP-winning season, where he completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 4,299 yards, 48 touchdowns and five interceptions. Rodgers’ ability to keep upright led to Green Bay’s success and made up for their deficiencies on defense. Why would the Packers want to take away his protection at the line of scrimmage? It makes no sense!

This past season, Linsley solidified his status as one of the best centers in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one sack and was not penalized once on 734 offensive snaps. Why would the Packers risk losing Linsley, especially after seeing these numbers?

With Watt no longer available to them, the Packers can continue to shed some unwanted deals and free up enough cap space to retain Linsley. Trust us, Rodgers will be very pleased to see his starting center remain with the team for the foreseeable future.