Wednesday was the opening of the new NFL year and the start of free agency. Comments from Head Coach Mike McCarthy indicating that the Packers might surprise everyone in free agency this offseason only strengthened the inevitable disappointment that ensued among Packer faithful when the team made no big splash acquisitions on the first day.
I am not quite sure how anyone is surprised. The Packers are absolutely the least likely team in the league to sign a major contract for a free agent. As we saw on Wednesday, teams were throwing exorbitant amounts of money around.
The Packers’ philosophy of remaining above the early free agency frenzy appears to have largely worked out, however. A quick glance at the numbers shows this to be true. Not only does throwing around big money in free agency not lead to success, it actually seems to move in the opposite direction.
Buyer beware: Spending big in free agency doesn't always translate to wins. pic.twitter.com/KHUPB4PLjJ
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 9, 2016
The expectation that the Packers would or should suddenly reverse their philosophy was always going to lead to a let down. Clearly the Packers have had a lot of success with their draft and develop system. This team is built upon a base of young talent. The team needs to save cap space in order to resign key pieces that they have worked so hard to scout, bring in, and develop.
Those wanting the Packers to max out their cap space (which currently stands at about $20 million) should consider all of the players whose contracts will run out after the 2016 season: Eddie Lacy, Josh Sitton, TJ Lang, David Bakhtiari, Datone Jones, JC Tretter, Micah Hyde, Jayrone Elliott, and Sam Barrington, just to name a few.
This has not stopped fans from unloading the usual offseason tropes on social media, especially Twitter: #FireTT, “draft and develop hasn’t won us a Super Bowl since 2010,” “Ted only likes his own guys,” etc. The problem with the Twitterverse is that it inclines toward extremes. 140 characters doesn’t leave much room for nuance.
Unfortunately, this tends to see people falling into one of two reactionary camps. The first camp asserts that the sky is falling because we didn’t pay Coby Fleener $8 a year. The second camp is full of overreactions to the first camp, those who spend much of their time belittling the reactionaries and going to the opposite extreme. This second camp is often populated with beat writers who state that the Packers have been a top 5 team for the last decade or so. Asking to acquire free agents just shows the imbecilic nature of the Cheesehead bourgeoisie.
Perhaps there could be some golden mean between these two extremes. Clearly the Packers’ draft and develop philosophy has proven successful. Anyone who cares about the team will be happy that it has cap space during and after the 2016 season to sign back some of the names that I mentioned above (Sitton, Lang, Bakhtiari, Lacy, Elliott, etc), all players drafted and developed by the team, and all key components of its success.
But this doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have some money to spend on bringing in one or two moderately priced pieces. The organization has already been successful in acquisitions of this kind. Julius Peppers, Letroy Guion, and Ryan Pickett all come to mind here.
The 2016 Green Bay Packers have a great base to make a championship run. It doesn’t seem too ridiculous to imagine that one or two acquisitions could help push them over the top, however. I suspect that these are the sorts of surprises that McCarthy referenced at the NFL combine. I think we’d be fooling ourselves if we ever thought that this meant that he and Ted were going to throw $6+ million a year at someone like Danny Trevathan.
Fans wanted Matt Forte, but he signed a deal worth upwards of $4 million a year, including incentives. That’s a lot for a 30 year old running back who would play a supporting role in Green Bay. Fans should be upset if Thompson had matched that offer.
Sure, a few players have gone for modest contracts, players that probably could have helped the Packers. Tight end Ladarius Green signed a 4 year deal with the Steelers for about $4 mil. a year. I think that the Packers could have afforded that. I would have actually been pretty pleased with that deal.
But let’s let the dust settle on the first few days of free agency and see where things end up. There is still plenty of time for the Packers to make a move or two that could have a significant impact on the team.
There should be a temporary ceasefire between the free agency extremist camps. If a week or so passes and we’ve signed no one then you may return to the Twitter battle field and unleash all fury upon each other.——————
Taylor O\'Neill is a Packer fan born and raised in Oshkosh, WI. He currently lives in Florida and is pursuing his PhD. Taylor is a writer with PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @TaylorONeill87 for more Packer news.