We have not yet made it out of the so-called, legal tampering period of free agency and there have been several verbal agreements that affect the Packers, in terms of free agency, their competition in the division and the effect on their own free agents. The money has been flying fast and furious with huge contracts and guarantees within the first few days of free agency. This could be easily predicted because of the absurd amount of cap space many teams had this offseason. Its a classic case of too much money chasing too few a goods.
The Packers first big news of free agency came at around 3:15 CDT, when Adam Schefter was first to report the Packers agree to terms with Jimmy Graham to a three-year deal. As of this writing, other terms of the deal are unknown.
Brian Gutekunkst proclaimed that the Packers would like to “be really aggressive and see (if) we can be in every conversation.” He has so far held up his end of the bargain. There have been several high profile free agents the Packers have contacted only to lose out on their services to other teams in addition to the Packers agreeing to terms with Graham.
- Richard Sherman CB – 49ers – 3 years 39 million. (In reality, this is a team friendly contract and not $13/year)
- Sammy Watkins WR- Chiefs – 3 years 48 million, $30M guaranteed
- Allen Robinson WR – Jaguars – 3 years $42 Million, $25 guaranteed
- Trey Burton TE – Bears – 4 years $32 Million, guaranteed not reported at this time
- Aaron Colvin CB – Jaguars – (Re-signed 4 years)
It has also been reported the Packers are interested in the following free agents that have yet to be signed by other teams, listed in terms or likely size of the contract for which they will command.
- Trumiane Johnson CB – Rams
- Dominque Rodgers Cromartie CB – Giants
- Muhammad Wilkerson DE – Jets (Visited the Packers last week and has strong ties to Mike Pettine)
- Bashaud Breelan CB – Washington
- Ed Dickson TE – Ravens
The Packers have been “in on every conversation” or so it seems. The list listed above runs the gambit from top level and young talent to back end of the roster. And this list only includes those that I know to be reported. Most likely they have contacted most of the top free agents remaining at each of their list needs, especially that of Cornerback and Wide Receiver.
Trumaine Johnson is clearly the top free agent still remaining the Packers are targeting and the buzz is that the Packers are one of the few remaining finalists. His contract is hard to judge because there have been no corners aside from Sherman to sign to indicate what his value would be, as Sherman didn’t negotiate the best deal he could have obtained. But a guess would be four years at $13.5M per year. Do they have the room under the cap to take on such a large contract?
After the Randall trade, they are $20.5M under the cap. On its face that isn’t much at this point in the offseason. As I spoke of before, there are many contracts the Packers can adjust. But the five most obvious are Nelson, Cobb, Matthews, Bulaga and Rodgers. Many have argued that the Packers should cut Cobb and Nelson, whether or not that is true. They don’t have to right right now. They can gain as much information about their roster before deciding what to do with Nelson as Cobb and wait until they sign a player or two. (Update: The Packers have released Nelson.)
Cutting Bulaga would save another $4.7M. For Matthews, he won’t likely get a raise, but an extension could easily save the Packers a few million. And while much of Packers fandom is concerned about the Rodgers extension and its implications on being able to field a championship roster outside of QB, (they shouldn’t be), if that is completed, it will likely create cap space due to the large signing bonus that will come with it and be pro-rated over the life of the contract. Its impossible to say exactly how much would be created as it all depends upon the structure of the contract, but it would be significant. Regardless, they have a great amount of flexibility and could save an additional $20M-$30M just by extensions/restructure.
Speaking of Rodgers, another signing of significance for the Packers is that of Kirk Cousins, who agreed to terms with the Vikings for three years at $28M per year. Of course the biggest issue is that the Packers need to play the Vikings and Cousins twice a year who have one of the best defenses in the league. But this also affects the Rodgers extensions. It was likely that the Packers and Rodgers were waiting for the Cousins deal to be completed. Now that its done, a Rodgers contract extension could be soon and likely in the $30M or so range as was suspected.
Brian Gutekunst certainly has been active. There is a lotta golf left in this free agency period and there is no reason to be overly concerned at this point about the defense or other areas of need. It should be a fun few days.Originally from Glidden Wisconsin, Jason Straetz is a lifelong Packers\' fan, who has lived in Maine for over 30 years. He is a writer for packerstalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @jsnstz