GREEN BAY, Wis. – At the end of the season, All-Pro center Corey Linsley said there had been no talks with the Green Bay Packers toward a new contract.
With the start of free agency less than three weeks away, that has not changed, a source said on Wednesday. The expectation is that Linsley will be playing elsewhere in 2021 and the Packers will be looking to replace their starting center from the past seven seasons.
While there is time to work out a deal with Linsley, it seems unlikely to happen. The Packers had all season to engage in talks with Linsley, and the season ended almost exactly one month ago.
“My agent hasn’t had any talks with the Packers,” Linsley said one day after a bitter loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game – Linsley’s fourth empty trip to the title game in his seven seasons. “That’s obviously not to say something couldn’t happen, but up to this point it’s kind of been complimentary but nothing of substance. We’ll move forward with that. It is what it is. I felt like I personally had a good year. We obviously didn’t get the goal that we wanted to, but I felt like I put out some good film. Hopefully a team values that and we’ll move into free agency with that in mind.”
Linsley’s is a fascinating free agency.
He was voted first-team All-Pro and, for what it’s worth, was by far ProFootballFocus.com’s highest-rated center. According to Sports Info Solutions, Linsley didn’t allow a sack or a stuff (a tackle at or behind the line of scrimmage vs. the run). Among centers with 500-plus snaps, he had the third-lowest blown-block rate at 0.6 percent, according to SIS. He wasn’t penalized, either.
On the other hand, Linsley missed three full games and most of two others due to injuries. After not missing a snap in 2017 and 2018, he played 88 percent in 2019 and 71 percent in 2020. And he’s going to turn 30 right about the time training camps are opening next summer.
The Packers being $11.45 million over the projected salary cap certainly doesn’t help facilitate a re-signing. While there are levers to pull to create ample space, there are 10 centers making at least $10 million per season, led by Ryan Kelly’s $12.4 million average.
The Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers and Baltimore Ravens should be among the suitors. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ new coach, Urban Meyer, coached Linsley at Ohio State. The Jaguars have a standout center in Brandon Linder but Linder played guard in college and as a rookie.
Linsley hasn’t been just a superb center but he’s been a pillar of the community. He was the team’s nominee for prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
However, by season’s end, Linsley sounded prepared to leave his teammates and community connections behind.
“I had a talk with a buddy of mine in town,” Linsley said. “The relationships that we made, shoot, we didn’t see anybody this year, anyways, so it’s kind of like a gap year from that standpoint, but the relationships that we built, we’ll always keep in contact with people and see them. Again, it might be infrequent, not as much as it would’ve been here, but our home’s in Ohio, anyway, so it was going to happen sooner or later.
“But we love the people that we’ve met here, the relationships that we’ve built. We’ve been so many fortunate to be a part of so many people’s lives and them being a part of ours. If it doesn’t happen, it stinks. The guys in the locker room, I’m going to miss the guys in the locker room for sure. This locker room’s a great locker room. Again, if it doesn’t happen, the dudes in here are fantastic leaders, can’t say enough about them. So, that’s going to be tough but, other than that, this is a business. I mean it is what it is. Some guys, that’s just what happens.”