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For Corey Linsley, ‘all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year’
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For Corey Linsley, ‘all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year’

GREEN BAY — The day after the Green Bay Packers’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship Game, Corey Linsley said there’d been zero talks between his agent and the team about a new contract.

A month later and with three weeks to go before the NFL’s free agent market opens, nothing has changed.

Appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday, the Packers first-team All-Pro center admitted he’s resigned himself to the reality he’ll almost certainly be playing elsewhere in 2021.

“We’re not closing the door for anything,” Linsley said. “Obviously, we’d never do that for any team — especially the Packers. But, yeah, it definitely feels weird. It looks like all signs are pointing towards snapping the ball somewhere else next year.”

Linsley, who turns 30 in July, finished the season as Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated center and has been among the NFL’s best centers for several years after entering the league as a fifth-round pick from Ohio State in 2014.

But with the Packers historically having avoided signing even upper echelon offensive linemen to third contracts — most recently, the team let Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang (2017) and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (2020) walk as free agents and cut Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton with one year left on his contract in 2016 — Linsley would hardly be the first quality lineman to depart.

The Packers are currently $11.45 million over the projected $180.5 NFL salary cap for 2021, though that number has not been finalized. With other free agents of their own (running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, cornerback Kevin King and tight end Marcedes Lewis chief among them) and outside interests (including former University of Wisconsin star J.J. Watt), the Packers face numerous challenges as the new league year kicks off on March 17.

Linsley did miss three games in 2020 with a knee injury but has been durable throughout his career. He played every one of the offensive snaps in 2017 and 2018 before playing 88% of the 2019 snaps and 71% of the snaps this past season.

Linsley signed a three-year, $25.5 million extension just before the end of the 2017 season, avoiding free agency. He was the NFL’s 16th highest-paid center last season in terms of average-per-year salary, but he could be in line to set an NFL center record deal in free agency. Indianapolis’ Ryan Kelly got a four-year, $50 million extension in September.

Among the teams who could pursue Linsley are the New York Jets, Los Angeles Chargers, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens. The Jacksonville Jaguars may also pursue Linsley now that his head coach in college at Ohio State, Urban Meyer, is the Jaguars head coach. The Jaguars signed their center, Brandon Linder, to a five-year, $51.7 million extension in July 2017, but he did play guard in college and as a rookie in the NFL.

Linsley spent all year trying to block out any distractions created by his uncertain contract status. It was a topic of discussion before the season, during the season and as soon as the season ended.

“All in all, I feel like my agent and I have talked and I feel like I’ve put together good film and put together a good couple years the past few years and obviously had a good year last year,” Linsley said during Thursday’s interview. “I’m looking for the best fit, the best team. I really don’t have a desire one way or the other where I want to play for one team more than any other. I care about the best fit, given the teams that would want me to play for them.

“Whatever team feels like they want to sign me, I’m going to put in the work and do my absolute best to reach my potential with that team, regardless of who they are, where they are. It doesn’t matter to me. There’s only a limited number of teams that have cap space. It’s kind of a moving target right now as to what teams are going to create what cap space and how teams are going to get there.

“We’re sitting here, confident in what we’ve done and the film I’ve put out. We’re confident in that. But there’s a whole lot of uncertainty.”

Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures

Photos: Packers' 2020 season in pictures

Check out photo galleries from every game of 2020 through the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

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