Most football fans are pretty well versed in restricted free agency.  It’s a basic concept.  Players that qualify for restricted free agents are tendered contract offers.  Those offers are dependent on the level of compensation the offering team would like if another team signs that player.  They are often referred to as “RFAs”.

I’m talking about the other kind of RFAs this afternoon.  Released free agents.  These are the free agents that our boy Theodore really gets a kick out of.  Why, you ask? Simple.  They only cost money.

As I’ve discussed ad nauseum in this space, NFL salary money isn’t real.  Every NFL team is extremely profitable.  The NFL is a salary cap league with a floor and a ceiling for what each team can spend and each team operates right around that limit.  There isn’t much of an advantage of being a big market team.

The only part of paying players that actually matters is how much cap space they take from your limit (other than what it means to the players which is the ability to uh……buy stuff).  For free agents there is a second aspect as well, the compensatory draft pick progrum.  There is a system, largely based on annual average values of new contracts, that rewards teams that lose highly priced free agents without replacing them.

Ted Thomspon does an excellent job of acquiring and using those picks.  As I mentioned in this piece for Cheesehead TV, Thompson has done a very good job in using those picks as well.  Davon House, Josh Sitton, Mike Daniels and Richard Rodgers were compensatory selections.  It’s likely Green Bay will receive two more mid-round compensatory selections in the 2016 draft.

Released free agents do not count against that system.  If a player is a released from his team while still under contract, he is considered a street free agent, not an unrestricted free agent.  Thompson doesn’t often choose to dip in to free agency, but when he does, released free agents are often the players that he targets.  Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion are recent examples.

Here’s a look at five released free agents that would help the 2016 Packers, might come at a reduced rate, and will not count against the compensatory selection formula.

1.  Chris Long- Long was released by the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams along with his teammates Jared Cook and James Laurinitis.  Long hasn’t lived up to his second overall pick potential, but he’s been a decidedly above average player.  Long has just 12.5 sacks over the course of the past three seasons, which is not enough production for a player that was drafted that highly.  It definitely wasn’t enough for a player  playing against offensive lines that are worrying about Robert Quinn and Aaron Donald.

I think that a return to the 3-4 defense Long played in in college and real shot at a winner might awaken 2010-2012 Chris Long, who is only 30 years old.  30 isn’t young, but at the defensive end position, it isn’t that old, either.  The Steelers got production out of Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith into their 30s in a 3-4, the Patriots and Raiders did the same with Richard Seymour.  It’s worth a shot.

2.  Matt Forte- Awwww yeah, baby.  The Packers can become the home for aging Bears desperate for a shot at a ring.  In all seriousness, though, count me in as one who believes Forte and the Packers were made for each other.

Not only is Forte probably irked that the Bears released him after all the wonderful things he’s done for that organization, but he needs the Packers and the Packers need him.  Forte is an exceptional pass catching running back, breaking the NFL record for catches just two seasons ago.  Not only is Forte a great fit, but he can use what the Packers can provide as well, rest.  Green Bay only needs to get 20-25 snaps from Forte, resulting in only 10-12 touches.

Imagine a 1×4 Set with Nelson and Adams on the outside, Cobb and Montgomery on the inside and Forte in the backfield.  Best of luck to you.  Nothing would be better for Davante Adams than being the defense’s 4th or 5th priority on every play.

3.  Arian Foster- Admittedly this is a little far fetched, but Foster fits the bill for the Packers for a lot of the same reasons Forte does. Green Bay can offer him a reduction in workload and give him a chance to play with a real quarterback for the first time in his career.  Despite being in the spotlight for what seems like forever, Foster is only 29 years old.  A one or two year deal wouldn’t be irresponsible.

It might not be as important of a trait as it is for Forte, but Foster can absolutely catch passes.  The Tennessee Vol has four seasons of 38+ catches.  There’s certainly more of a redundancy to Foster and Lacy’s game than there would be with Forte or unrestricted free agent Lamar Miller, but a Foster/Lacy combination is a formidable theoretical combination nonetheless.

4.  Geoff Schwartz- This has almost no chance of happening, but it would be a very shrewd move if Thompson can pull it off.  Schwartz is a good offensive lineman and he is versatile.  The Packers would be well served to replace Don Barclay with Schwartz.  Optimistic idiots fans like myself hoped that Barclay could be a poor man’s Schwartz for the Packers.  Unfortunately it was less poor like I am poor and more poor like the guy living in the alley in a house made out of cardboard Amazon boxes is poor.

Green Bay’s offensive line depth has long been developmental under Thompson, and that’s unlikely to change, but if what happen to Rodgers and the offense last season scared “TT” enough, Schwartz would be an excellent addition to the Packers, if even just for a year or two.

The difficult part of course, is explaining to Schwartz that he has no clear shot at a starting job.

5. Jared Cook- Cook is a viable starting tight end in this league, with three seasons under his belt with more than 630 receiving yards.  He has tremendous athletic potential that he’s seemingly never reached.  Cook has constantly shown flashes, but hasn’t produced with any kind of consistency.

I will say this: one of the best ways to find a sleeper who has already been in the league is to find a good athlete (he is) with a decent draft pedigree (3rd round) who has never played with a good quarterback.  Cook is a good complement to Richard Rodgers and would have the potential to break out if he had the chance to catch footballs from a healthy Aaron Rodgers


Ross Uglem is a writer at You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem