Rob Demovsky, ESPN Staff Writer 40d

Green Bay Packers free-agency overview: An empty backfield for now

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers enter 2021 NFL free agency coming off a 13-3 season in 2020 and have 14 unrestricted free agents.

They'll have to decide whether they can afford to re-sign two key members of their top-scoring offense: running back Aaron Jones and center Corey Linsley. Perhaps the Packers might be willing to use the franchise tag on Jones to keep him around for one more year. They also have to consider that No. 2 back Jamaal Williams also is headed for free agency. Yes, they have AJ Dillon, but other than him, their backfield looks thin.

Here's what to expect from the Packers when the NFL offseason hits high gear with the start of free agency on March 17:

QUARTERBACK

Under contract: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

UFA: None

Game plan: Tim Boyle, who was Rodgers' backup last season while Love was inactive for every game, is a restricted free agent. Rodgers loves having Boyle around, but at some point the Packers are going to have to make Love the No. 2 and see if he's got what it takes to be an eventual starter.

RUNNING BACK

Under contract: Dillon, Dexter Williams, Mike Weber, Patrick Taylor

UFA: Jones, Williams, Tyler Ervin

Game plan: The Packers are the only team that hasn't used the franchise tag in any of the past 10 years, but considering they could get Jones back for a little more than $8 million by using it, that might be a viable option. A long-term deal would almost certainly lower his cap number for 2021, but the Packers had not been willing to commit to the kind of guaranteed money Jones wanted to get a deal done. Either way, don't be surprised if the Packers try to do a value re-sign on Williams (around $4 million a year) and then draft another back or two in the middle rounds, where they found Williams (fourth) and Jones (fifth) four years ago.

RECEIVER

Under contract: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Devin Funchess, Juwann Winfree, Reggie Begelton, Chris Blair

UFA: Tavon Austin

Game plan: The Packers will tender Allen Lazard as an exclusive rights free agent. They inquired about Will Fuller V before the trade deadline but weren't willing to give up enough for the Houston Texans to move him. That, however, says general manager Brian Gutekunst wants to add to the group. Funchess, who opted out last season, would cost them only $1.45 million to see if he can help.

TIGHT END

Under contract: Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara, Dominique Dafney, John Lovett, Bronson Kaufusi, Isaac Nauta

UFA: Marcedes Lewis

Game plan: They will tender Robert Tonyan as a restricted free agent, likely using the second-round tender, to bring him back as their No. 1 tight end target. The ageless Lewis, who will be 37 in May, might be worth re-signing as well given what he means as a leader and his willingness to do the dirty work in the running game. It had to be troubling that Sternberger, a third-round pick in 2019, couldn't get on the field late in the season even when he was healthy. Deguara (a third-rounder last year) looked like he would have a big role until a torn ACL in Week 4 ruined his rookie season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Lucas Patrick, Billy Turner, Jon Runyan, Simon Stepaniak, Ben Braden, Jake Hanson, Zack Johnson

UFA: Corey Linsley, Lane Taylor, Jared Veldheer

Game plan: As one longtime NFL offensive assistant said, "Good teams pay centers." Linsley, an All-Pro selection last season, certainly qualifies. But can the Packers afford what likely will be a $10 million-a-year contract? If they don't re-sign him, they'll start 2021 without two All-Pro offensive linemen because Bakhtiari will have a hard time being ready from his Week 17 torn ACL much before the end of October. The Packers could slide Jenkins or Patrick to center (or hope Hanson can win the job even though he didn't play at all as a rookie), but they're going to need another starting-caliber tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke, Anthony Rush, Delontae Scott, Willington Previlon

UFA: Damon Harrison, Montravius Adams, Billy Winn

Game plan: Lowry could be a cap casualty and if Tyler Lancaster isn't tendered as a restricted free agent, then there will be a sizable hole in the middle. Adams, a former third-round pick, never materialized and likely won't be back, either. While Keke showed flashes last season, this is a spot of need.

LINEBACKER

Under contract: Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Krys Barnes,  Kamal Martin, Ty Summers, Oren Burks, Jonathan Garvin, De'Jon Harris, Tipa Galeai, Rayshawn Wilborn

UFA: James Burgess

Game plan: The Packers released last season's snap leader at inside linebacker, Christian Kirksey, so they'll be looking for depth there, even though they like Barnes and Martin. Preston Smith is another possible salary-cap cut, especially since they didn't land J.J. Watt.

CORNERBACK

Under contract: Jaire Alexander, Josh Jackson, Ka'dar Hollman, Stanford Samuels, Kabion Ento

UFA: Kevin King

Game plan: If the Packers don't re-sign King, their top pick in the 2017 draft, then this position vaults to the top of their needs. Even if they get King back -- and if they did, it wouldn't be on an expensive deal -- they're going to need more. Nickle corner Chandon Sullivan is a restricted free agent, and they could use an upgrade there, too.

SAFETY

Under contract: Adrian Amos, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott, Henry Black, Innis Gaines

UFA: Will Redmond

Game plan: Amos and Savage are locked in as the starters, while Scott and Black showed potential. Raven Greene is a restricted free agent who they like but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. They should be set with their top four or five at this spot.

SPECIALISTS

Under contract: Mason Crosby, JJ Molson, JK Scott, Ryan Winslow, Hunter Bradley

UFA: None

Game plan: Crosby is coming off one of his best seasons, but Scott did not punt well and Bradley's snaps were all over the place. Expect both to face competition this year.

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