I, and a few other Packers writers, have been trying to temper the expectations of the Packers faithful as it pertains to free agency. We’ve been reminding them on Twitter that most players whose options aren’t being picked up, extensions aren’t being worked out and whose outright releases aren’t being granted are probably not a good idea.
There are plenty of players who fit in that box. Players that make a lot of sense to add to the squad in Madden. Darrelle Revis, Mario Williams, Jairus Byrd, certainly Adrian Peterson, even Alteraun Verner fit this mold. There’s no reason to believe that even with ~$41 million in cap space that Thompson is going to change his basic strategy on signing his own free agents, and more importantly signing ones from other teams.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t and haven’t been exceptions in the past. Thompson has been able to identify free agents that he’s able to get at the price that he wants, and usually ones that have been outright released so that he doesn’t lose the mid-round compensatory picks that he cherishes (and does well with).
Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, and Julius Peppers were home runs. Letroy Guion and Charlie Peprah went fine. There are a few guys that didn’t work out but there wasn’t any real money associated with those signings.
The key is to find guys that are undervalued and can make a difference.
There are two guys that most of the “smart” Packers writers that I respect have no time for, that I do. All the time in the world, in fact.
That’s unrestricted free agent Alshon Jeffery and recently released Brandon Marshall. I know that Jeffrey would count against the compensatory picks but I’m not sure that it matters as much this season. Even in the Free Agency Primer i did last week in this space, they still lose Perry, Tretter, Michael and Barclay. They might lose TJ Lang too. Compensatory picks are coming in 2018 one way or the other.
I’ll make the same case for Jeffrey and Marshall that I made for Jared Cook a season ago, the sh***y quarterback theory. Here’s your list of the QBs these guys have played with: Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton, Patrick Ramsey (yeah, you forgot he was a thing, didn’t you?), Matt Moore, JP Losman, Jason Campbell, Chad Pennington, Josh McCown, Jimmy Clausen, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore, Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, Brian Hoyer, Caleb Hanie, and Matt Barkley.
Sweet mother of all that is holy.
Jay Cutler, who is bad, is probably the best QB either one has played with (and they’ve both played with him), though Marshall said it was probably Kyle Orton. Either way that’s really, really awful. These are both players that have been on bad teams for most of their careers and could be revitalized by winning.
Jeffery is 27 years old, has a 6’3″ frame, 4.48 speed and a 36+” vertical. He’s been injured in recent seasons but Green Bay offers an opportunity for reduced snaps. Injuries at a perimeter spot like wide receiver are largely bad luck.
Marshall wouldn’t even cost against the compensatory pick equation. He might not be 27 (he’s 32), but his game is going to age well, and he’s produced with god awful quarterbacks his entire career. They’re completely different players in terms of style, but Moss was in his 30s when he finally joined up with Tom Brady.
The point is, both players are Pro Bowl level players who have been Pro Bowl level players with replacement level QBs getting them the ball. Jared Cook was nothing of the sort, and Aaron Rodgers elevated him to that level. Imagine how he could elevate Jeffery or Marshall.
It also makes a ton of sense schematically. Green Bay has stated desire to run 75 plays a game. Let’s even say that they don’t get there on an average Sunday. Let’s call it 70 plays, with an average of 3 receivers on the field per play. Some times Green Bay plays in “21” or “12” personnel sets with two receivers, but they also have 4 WR and 4 WR 1 TE sets. All in all there are 210 wide receiver snaps to go around.
Nelson is a player that starts at the #1 position. He plays outside for the most part. His long term future in Green Bay is in the slot. Yes, so is Randall Cobb’s but he’s basically playing on a one year deal with a one year option at this point.
It’s difficult to find a week in which all of Green Bay’s three main wide receivers were healthy last season, so let’s look at week one. In week one, the Packers ran 64 plays. Randall Cobb played 62 snaps, Adams 59, and Nelson 54. That’s 97, 92 and 84%, respectively. That’s too many snaps. This isn’t 2014 when Green Bay had three receivers and a tight end all in their athletic primes, running no huddle up and down the field.
These guys need to be managed from a snap count perspective to stay healthier and more effective. Imagine splitting up 210 wide receiver snaps as follows: 60 for Adams, 50 for Nelson, 45 for Cobb and 45 for Jeffery. Cobb is always in the slot. When Cobb’s off the field Nelson plays the slot. Now imagine 4 WR sets with Jeffery and Adams on the outside with Nelson and Cobb working the slot against nickel and dime corners.
Jeffery’s value is depressed because he’s coming off of two injury prone seasons and Marshall’s is depressed because he’s 32 and he was just released. Add Aaron Rodgers to either player and their value wouldn’t be depressed any more. It’s not like Green Bay doesn’t have the money to spend.