The NFL’s official free agency period began earlier this week and, shockingly, the Green Bay Packers refrained from making any big moves. In fact, the team has yet to sign a player from another team.
This has become a common trend for the Packers and their fans since Ted Thompson was named the team’s general manager in 2005. Thompson has orchestrated a couple big-name signings, such as Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson in 2006 and Julius Peppers in 2014, but for the most part Green Bay has prioritized retaining its own players.
So far in the 2016 offseason, not much has changed. The team had locked up Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion and Mason Crosby before free agency began, and has since given one-year deals to Nick Perry and Justin Perillo. Lane Taylor and Chris Banjo will also return to the team on cheap contracts.
But while Green Bay has taken a similar approach the last couple seasons, it seems like the fan base was particularly restless this year. Sure, it would have been nice to see Danny Trevathan or Ladarius Green sign with the Packers, but it is not the end of the world because they decided to go elsewhere.
Trevathan and Green ended up signing contracts that the Packers could very well have matched, but it is not as simple as just matching the monetary amount. Other factors impact where players decide to play. Additionally, one could just as easily look at a contract like the $36 million deal Coby Fleener signed with the Saints as a warning against overpaying players. Packers tight end Richard Rodgers posted better numbers than Fleener in every meaningful category last year, and will come much cheaper for Green Bay.
While Packer fans may think that making big splashes in free agency will instantly benefit the team, there is no way to know how it will play out. It is true that Trevathan or Green or Matt Forte could have given instant help to the Packers, but that is no certainty.
In 2013, a large part of Green Bay’s fan base was clamoring to sign Steven Jackson to fix the Packers’ running game problems. In 2014, it was Jairus Byrd that fans wanted to fix the team’s underperforming safeties. Instead of spending big money to sign those players, Green Bay drafted Eddie Lacy in 2013 and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2014 to fill their needs. In retrospect, the Packers clearly benefited from their decisions to stick to a draft and develop philosophy.
Additionally, the Packers would be wise to save cap space for their 2017 free agents. Green Bay has already locked up their most important players who were set to hit the market this year, but next year the team will have a number of crucial free agents.
Three starting offensive linemen, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang and David Bakhtiari, could test the market. Eddie Lacy, Datone Jones and Micah Hyde are also important players who the team would like to bring back. It is already unlikely that the Packers are able to bring back all of them. Kelechi Osemele, who just signed with the Raiders, set a ridiculous market for offensive guards that will make either Lang or Sitton unaffordable. Green Bay would be wise to make sure they carry over some money to 2017 for their much more important class of free agents.
So while it would have been nice to see the Packers address inside linebacker or tight end with an established veteran, it is not a death sentence to the team’s chances that they chose not to sign a high-profile player. Green Bay could still sign a cheaper free agent as a temporary fix, and Thompson has proven his ability to address needs through the draft.
The Packers have made the postseason in each of the last seven seasons, and have won the NFC North four of the past five years. While the team has not been to a Super Bowl since winning it all in 2010, Green Bay has turned into a perennial contender, and will be a league favorite once again in 2016.
Thompson and Mike McCarthy know what they are doing in putting together a roster, and are much more qualified than you, me, or any other fan who claims to know the best course of action for the Packers to take. If the team signs a free agent without breaking the bank in the next few weeks, then that would be fine. But even if they don’t the Packers will still be fine when the 2016 season kicks off in September.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .