Where Do You Stand on Pack's Free Agency Decisions?Posted:Mar 22nd, 2017 4:38 pm
There are two ways to interpret the first couple weeks of free agency. You are likely standing in one of two lines.
Line #1: All in? This is what you call all in? Aaron Rodgers' thinly veiled play after the loss in the NFC title game made it clear that he expected the team to stock up on talent, not let a handful of key veterans walk out the door.
Line #2: If you've followed the Packers over the last 10-15 years, nothing that's happened in the last two weeks should surprise you. Except maybe the Martellus Bennett signing. The team is being careful with its cap dollars and will continue to tweak the roster with an eye on keeping all of its core players. Emphasis on 'core.'
I fall in the second line. The Packers clearly set Nick Perry as their top priority. In a thin pass rush market, he was going to be in high demand. They knew the Jets and Colts were ready to pounce. So they swallowed hard, paid him a bit more than they wanted (but structured it in a very team-friendly way) and made sure they kept a player who turned a significant corner in 2016.
They also prioritized Jared Cook, a favorite of Rodgers. There's no denying what a difference he made to the offense when he was on the field. It sounds like his agent got a little cute and played the 'talks broke down' angle to try to get a better deal. The Pack knew there was a more dynamic, well-rounded (read: blocker) tight end on the market and turned their attention to Bennett. There's no way Rodgers will shed any tears in this trade-off. When the team doubled down with Lance Kendricks a few days later, it opened up the idea of a Patriots-like double tight end formation that could make the offense even more dynamic.
Some of you would have liked to see the Pack go all in on one of the top tier cornerbacks. But that's just not how this team does business. I admit, I was intrigued at the prospect of trading the first round pick for Malcolm Butler (sounds like the Saints will ultimately make a deal with New England), mainly because the unforeseen injury to Sam Shields put the team in a real bind at the position. Bring back Davon House was a solid, if unspectacular move. He is much better suited to playing the Pack's defensive scheme than what the Jags were running, so he should be able to step right into one of the outside spots and be an immediate upgrade.
Let's talk about the players who left for greener pastures: Lang, Hyde, Lacy, Jones, Tretter and Peppers. I'm guessing most of you are most upset about TJ's departure. The truth is, this staff just doesn't value guards as highly as most other positions and to pay $19 million guaranteed to a 30ish, banged up veteran was way too steep for them. Make no mistake, he's a warrior, a guy who has played hurt and is one of the best at what he does. But he's been dealing with multiple injuries and is likely to break down sooner rather than later. His hometown Lions offered him a deal he couldn't refuse. I have no issue with letting him walk. But there is no surefire replacement currently on the roster.
Of the other guys, the Packers will likely miss Hyde the most, because of his versatility. But the truth is, he is mostly a safety and the team feels good about their trio of Burnett, Clinton-Dix and Brice. Datone was never a great fit in Capers' defense but flashed a bit when moved to outside linebacker. With the uncertainty beyond Perry and Matthews, I would have been inclined to try to keep him around. Maybe they did and the thought of playing the 3-technique in Mike Zimmer's defense was more appealing. I have no idea.
As for Lacy, I was lukewarm on bringing him back. The team had to have serious doubts whether he was committed to keeping himself in shape, in light of how last season went down. We've seen what he can do when healthy and in condition, but he seems like a young man who doesn't understand what it takes to compete at this level. The report that he weighed in at 267 when visiting the Seahawks makes me wonder how any team could sign him. I believe the Packers will address this position before the weekend and maybe in the first round. The latest mock drafts have either Chrisian McCaffery or Dalvin Cook landing here. Either would be a serious upgrade to Lacy, and would give the Pack an intriguing complement to Montgomery. And if Thompson chooses to address CB or OLB in the first round, the draft is considered very deep with RBs and there will plenty to choose from in round two and beyond.
Tretter's ability to play center made him a valuable commodity, despite his inability to stay healthy and we knew he was a goner. Peppers outperformed our wildest hopes for three years, but the team was ready to move in a younger direction. He'll be a nice rotational player in Carolina, and finish his Hall of Fame career where he started.
So where do we go from here? DL Ricky Jean Francois is visiting as I write this, a player the team has coveted for a while. He could slide in to Mike Pennel's spot and may allow the team to move on from the suspended Letroy Guion.
With $24 million in cap space, the Pack can continue to sniff around and add a player here or there and address whatever needs may still be out there after the draft. Perhaps a player or two will be cut this summer and Green Bay can pounce if they think it makes sense.
The Packer way is to reward its core players and dip into free agency where it makes sense. Signing the tight ends and bringing back House were strong moves. Much of the remaining cap money will go toward keeping their hands on the next wave of free agents: Burnett, Adams, Linsley, Taylor and Clinton-Dix (fifth year option).
It's not sexy, it makes for a boring March, but let's see how this roster shakes out four or five months from now. My guess is it will still be a top three Vegas pick to be playing in US Bank Stadium next February. Whether Adrian Peterson is on the sidelines in green and gold remains to be seen. Free agency isn't over after two weeks. So just r-e-l-a-x.