14

March

All you Need to Know About Day 1 of NFL Free Agency and the Green Bay Packers

Brandon Marshall

The Bears traded two third-round picks for WR Brandon Marshall.

It’s 11:30 p.m. central time on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. I’m going to read a few pages in my book and go to bed. By the time this publishes around 7 a.m. central time on Wednesday, March 14, 2012, a bunch of other stuff might have happened and the news contained in this post might feel like it’s 10 years old.

Welcome to the start of NFL free agency.

A lot went down on Tuesday when 532 NFL players hit the open market. Let’s take a look at the developments that concern the Green Bay Packers:

  • Packers center Scott Wells is as good as gone according Packer Report. I was a big advocate for bringing Wells back, even if it meant overspending a little. Maybe it’s me accepting the fact that Wells is probably leaving, but I started changing my mind a couple days ago. Is it wise to overspend for a 31-year-old center that’s undersized and isn’t that great of a run blocker? Probably not, especially when there’s extensions for Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews coming up in the near future. The Packers will miss Wells’s pass blocking. They’ll miss his command of the pre-snap calls just as much. But it’s not a devastating loss…I don’t think.
  • And who knows? Maybe the Packers are treating Wells like they treated Clifton a few years ago, letting him explore the market to see what sort of offers are out there and hoping for an opportunity to match.
  • There’s been some scuttle that the Packers might go after Houston center Chris Myers to replace Wells. I’ll believe it when I see it. Myers would be an upgrade over Wells, but replacing his own high-priced free agent with another high-priced free agent isn’t how Ted Thompson typically operates.
  • Packers DE Mike Neal has been suspended four games for using a performance enhancing substance. The injury-prone Neal gets a lot of heat from Packers fans and this won’t make it any better. I always had sympathy for Neal. Why should we get angry at a young player just because he gets hurt? But this changes things. There’s no excuse for taking PEDs. The best thing Neal can do is admit his mistake, take his punishment like a man, and try to come back and salvage his career.
13

March

Packers Making a Splash on First Day of Free Agency

The Ted Thompson StareWho would have thought you would be reading stories about the Green Bay Packers on this first day of NFL Free Agency? Yes, the Packers are making news today, but unfortunately, it’s not the type you want to hear.

No, Ted Thompson didn’t go against form and dip into the free agent waters on the first day for the big fish. But then again, you knew that, right? No, the news is all bad today for the Packers.

First, Scott Wells, the one Packers free agent that fans have been saying the team “had to sign” is going to be leaving Green Bay. This hasn’t been officially announced yet, but it had been widely reported from a variety of reliable sources, including Packer Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Let me first say that I never bought into the Scott Wells Pro Bowl scenario.  Wells does a lot of things well (no pun…), but he’s not outstanding at anything. He’s had two really good years where he hit his physical peak and his years of experience put him over the top from good player to very good player. But a Pro Bowl center? Not for my taste.

Wells made the most with what he had, but I hold one grudge against Scott Wells – he can’t throw a block downfield on a screen to save his life. As a freakishly deranged fan of the screen game, I can assure you I have watched enough tape of this that you can take my word for it. Not that this makes him a bad player. As I’ve already said, he’s a very good player. Do remember, however, that the Packers tried very hard to replace him with Jason Spitz a few years ago.

For my money, however, Scott Wells wasn’t worth it and I’m not surprised that Ted Thompson has gone this route. Wells is at the peak of his career right now, the worst time to give a 31year old player a career-high contract. Think about this; what is the likelihood that Wells is going to improve on last season? I would put it at 10% Instead, the odds would heavily favor a decline as the age numbers increase.

But even with all of that, I still find myself a bit sad at the news. Wells was a known quantity, and helped solidify the Packers pass protection calls when the’ Jason Spitz experiment failed and Wells got his starting job back. But we have to think big picture, Packers fans.

12

March

Packers: Scott Wells “Appears Headed” to Free Agency

Scott Wells is likely to hit free agency, which opens Tuesday.

Barring any late change of heart or mind, Green Bay Packers center Scott Wells will get to the start of free agency without a new contract from the Packers.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wells “appears headed for free agency barring a last-minute deal.” The sides are still far apart on what the value of Wells’ new contract should be.

In my opinion, the two sides are playing a game of chicken, with the Packers going low and Wells going high and waiting to see which side breaks first. My guess is that the Packers are going to have to give in some, but whether it’s enough to sign Wells, I don’t know. Wells remembers that the Packers gave up on him two years ago only to see him beat out Jason Spitz for the starting job and become one of the most valuable players on the offensive line.

It appears that Wells is wanting a contract that puts him on par with the top centers in the NFL, somewhere in the $7-8 million a year range. The Packers are almost certain not to give him that kind of money, especially considering Wells will be 32 at the end of 2012-13 season and is a touch undersized for the position.

Given that wide impasse in yearly negotiations, the Packers are likely to let Wells scour the open market. Once there, it’s possible Wells will find out a harsher truth about his real value and the Packers will be able to negotiate a more cap-friendly deal for the veteran center.

GM Ted Thompson has seen this same scenario unfold with left tackle Chad Clifton and receiver James Jones, both of which got to free agency but re-signed with the Packers once they got a better grasp at what free agency valued them at.

Clifton flirted with the Washington Redskins back in 2010 but shortly returned on a three-year deal with the Packers. Jones was widely assumed to be finding a team that would make him a more targeted receiver last offseason but found no satisfying offers. He also returned on a three-year deal.

Despite that fact, Wells still has leverage in the talks because he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season and back-to-back years when many considered him one of the NFL’s top centers.