12

March

Surprise! Packers Quiet on First Day of NFL Free Agency

Jarius Byrd

Safety Jarius Byrd signed a monster NFL free agent contract on Tuesday, but not with the Packers.

C’mon, folks. You didn’t REALLY think that the Packers and general manager Ted Thompson were going to make a splash on the first day of NFL free agency, did you?

No way Thompson was going to fork over $56 million ($28 million guaranteed) like the Saints did for safety Jarius Byrd.

Give defensive linemen Lamarr Houston (5 years, $35 million, $15 million guaranteed) and/or Arthur Jones (5 years, $30 million) deals like they got from the Bears and Colts, respectively? Not on Thompson’s watch.

What about safety T.J. Ward? The Packers desperately need a safety and Ward’s deal with the Broncos (4 years, $23 million, $14 million guaranteed) is much more reasonable that Byrd’s. Sure, Ward came at decent market value, but Thompson wasn’t going to pay that much for a box safety.

The list could go on and on. Aquib Talib (6 years, $57 million, $26 million guaranteed), Linval Joseph (5 years, $31 million), Paul Soliai (5 years, $33 million, $14 million guaranteed). The prices were outrageous and the potential return on investment far from guaranteed. Hell, the Jaguars gave Toby Gerhart 3 years and $10.5 million. Toby Gerhart!

You didn’t REALLY think Thompson was going to suddenly start gambling on the high-risk game known as Day 1 of NFL free agency, did you?

If you did, hopefully you learned your lesson (again) for next time. If you’re upset that Thompson didn’t deviate from his norm and dive into Tuesday’s madness, don’t be.

There is still a long way to go in free agency. I do think Thompson is going to step outside of his comfort zone and bring in some free agents, but it sure wasn’t going to happen on day 1.

Once the chaos of the opening of free agency calms down and  the funny money goes away, Thompson’s real work begins. That’s when bargains can be found and holes on the Packers roster plugged with players who sign contracts more in line with their true value.

But isn’t now the time to take a risk and overpay for a major free agent or two? After all, Aaron Rodgers isn’t getting any younger and the Packers have a few obvious holes.

14

February

Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.