Just as “Go Pack Go” chants echo through Green Bay during the NFL season, the offseason brings with it a three-word mantra under Ted Thompson, “Draft and Develop.”
However, there have been rare occasions when Thompson will take a dip into the free agent pool. This offseason has been one such occasion, with the re-signing of Nick Perry and the additions of Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks, Ricky Jean-Francois and Davon House. In fact, this offseason is Thompson’s most active in free agency since 2006, his second season at the helm. Let’s take a look at those pickups, and see if this group set the tone for Thompson to avoid free agency like the plague going forward.
The headliner of the 2006 free agent class was the second-best signing in Packers history, Charles Woodson. The former Oakland Raider cornerback was signed on May 1, 2006 for seven years, $52 million after surprisingly not receiving much attention from other teams. Every year when teams open their pocket books, they hope a player can come into their system and have half the impact Woodson did with Green Bay. In those seven years, he made five Pro Bowls and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2009. This was a home run the likes of which the Packers had not had in free agency since Reggie White.
The other big signing in 2006 was defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who originally came on board for four years, $14 million, but later signed a four-year, $28 million extension in 2010. Pickett was instrumental in the switch to Dom Capers 3-4 system, serving as a run-stuffing nose tackle who ate up blocks and allowed other players to have free lanes stopping the run and rushing the passer. He is also the only player Ted Thompson has put the franchise tag on.
The last significant contributor signed was safety Marquand Manuel, who started his lone season with Green Bay and had a career high of 62 tackles and a pick-six. He would bounce to three other teams in the next three years, and was promoted this last offseason to defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons after spending a couple seasons coaching their secondary.
Most of the rest brought aboard barely made it through training camp. Kicker Billy Cundiff lost the job to Dave Rayner, although he would go on to play for six other teams in a productive 12-year career. Linebacker Ben Taylor had 113 tackles with the Browns the year before signing in Green Bay, but mostly provided special teams help in Green Bay, with 12 tackles in ten games. WR Marc Boerigter was brought in as a big-bodied (6’3″, 220 pounds) target from Kansas City, where he caught 39 passes for 697 yards and eight touchdowns over three seasons. He did not make the final roster that year. Finally, defensive tackle Kenderick Allen (6’5″, 328) was signed as potential depth along the defensive line, and would play two regular-season games before a foot injury landed him on injured reserve.
Thompson hit big on Woodson and Pickett, two valuable pieces of the 2010-2011 Super Bowl campaign. He also picked up a stop-gap at safety in Manuel, which is an underrated aspect of free agency. A few other potential contributors were signed but washed out, which cost the Packers little more than bringing in undrafted free agents.
Will the class of free agents so far be comparable to the 2006 class? Who do you see having the greatest impact in 2017-2018? Let me know in the comments.
——————Zac Bellman is a sports writer, experienced journalist and Marquette University graduate with a degree in journalism. You can read his current articles here on PackersTalk.com. To connect with Zac, follow him on twitter at @ZacBellman_WNY. or check out his Facebook page Zac Bellman-Sportwriter