Can Nick Perry Become a Pro Bowl-Caliber Player?

Nick Perry

The 2016 NFL League Year started on March 9. That also was the first day teams could sign prospective free agents, starting at 4 p.m. ET. As expected, the Green Bay Packers were slow out of the gate.

Anyone who has followed the Packers since Ted Thompson became the general manager of the team in 2005, knows that he rarely uses free agency to enhance his team.

Especially since he hired Mike McCarthy to become head coach of the team in 2006.

Since then, the Packers have been primarily a draft-and-develop team. The draft is the main focus for Thompson to build the roster that McCarthy and the rest of his coaching staff try to develop.

So far, that formula has been somewhat successful. Since Thompson and McCarthy became a duo in 2006, the Packers have gone 104-55-1 in the regular season in 10 years.

In that time, Green Bay has also won five NFC North titles, plus have gone to the postseason eight times, which includes seven consecutive years now. That also includes a victory in Super Bowl XLV, as well as three appearances in the NFC Championship Game.

But when it comes utilizing free agency, Thompson has been very cautious and deliberate. You might call him Ted the Tortoise when it comes to that method of improving his team.

When he does use it, at least in it’s “pure” form, Thompson has had success. Examples are Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett and Julius Peppers.

Normally, Thompson will instead sign “street” free agents or undrafted rookie free agents. Examples are Sam Shields, Don Barclay, Chris Banjo, Tim Masthay and Jayrone Elliott.

The main thing that Thompson tries to do in free agency though is to re-sign his own players. Before free agency began on March 9, the Packers did make a few moves for players who were slated to become free agents.

The Packers signed defensive lineman Mike Daniels to a four-year, $41 million deal in mid-December and then in February, signed defensive lineman Letroy Guion to a three year deal worth $11.25 million. Last week the team signed kicker Mason Crosby to a four-year deal worth $16.1 million.

The team has been very quiet in free agency until late yesterday afternoon, when the Packers re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry to a one-year contract, worth $5 million.

To me, it’s sort of a prove-it contract for Perry. It’s also a sizable raise, as Perry made just $1.412 million last year in the final year of a four-year contract.

Perry was the No. 1 pick of the Packers in 2012, as he was selected with the 28th pick of the draft. Perry played at USC, where he was a defensive end who had led the Pac-12 in sacks with nine in 2011.

Perry also excelled at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. The 6’3″ Perry went into the combine weighing 271 pounds. Still, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.64 seconds. In addition to that, Perry also had the best vertical jump (38.5 inches) and tied for first in the broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches) among defensive linemen.

Perry also showed he was plenty strong, as he had 35 reps in the bench press.

The Packers made Perry into an outside linebacker under the tutelage of now Pro Football Hall of Famer Kevin Greene, when he was still on the coaching staff of the Packers.

Perry learned the nuances of outside linebacker slowly but surely, but it was the injury bug that hampered him his first two years in the NFL. In those two years, Perry only played in 17 games, with 71 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles.

In his rookie year, it was first a wrist injury and then later a knee injury which put No. 53 on on injured reserve after just six games.

In 2013, it was foot injury that kept him out of five games.

In 2014, Perry was able to play in 15 games, even with a bad shoulder injury. Because of the bad shoulder, Perry only had 24 tackles and three sacks.

Perry had shoulder surgery in the off-season and was able to play in 14 games in 2015. The former Trojan star finished with with 31 tackles and 3.5 sacks in the regular season.

Perry really came on in the playoffs,  as he totaled 3.5 sacks, eight tackles and a forced fumble.

Nick Perry II

In his career, Perry has shined in the postseason. In five games, Perry has six sacks and a forced fumble.

The Packers are hoping that Perry can continue the style of play he exhibited late in the 2015 season and into the playoffs this past year. That is why they gave him a good increase in his salary for 2016.

Perry has always been a very good run defender and if he continues to show the prowess rushing the passer that the Packers expected out of him when they drafted him in 2012, he might be looking at a long-term deal with the team after 2016.

Perry has not yet turned 26. He’s still very young. The Packers are giving him a chance to prove himself in 2016. My guess is that he will split time with Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers at outside linebacker to keep all three players fresh.

With his new deal, the Packers seem to think Perry may have turned the corner in his development. If that’s true, than Perry needs to keep elevating his game and become a Pro Bowl-caliber player like the two guys that he’ll be sharing snaps with, Matthews and Peppers.

Will that happen? That’s a good question. Perry certainly has the ability and has shown flashes of being that type of player.

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