After what was a treacherous 2018 season, the Green Bay Packers go into the free agency period with a decent amount of cash to spend ($44,000,000+), no head coach and a braintrust of general manager Brian Gutekunst, who has gone on the record with saying that he is not afraid to spend money for improvements.
With this outlook in mind, it is hard to develop a plan for free agency due to the lack of schematic elements currently in place with no plan for a coaching staff at this moment. However, by looking at the 2018 season, those results provide certain areas that require improvements.
The likes of edge rusher, interior offensive line (guard), wide receiver, tight end, safety and linebacker are all varying positions that could use improvements if the team wants to return to the playoffs, having missed them the past two seasons.
Here are some under-the-radar finds that would not break the bank for the Packers.
Edge rusher- Za’Darius Smith
Coming off his fourth season in Baltimore, Smith recorded his career-best sacks number, earning 8.5 in 15 games. He has remained relatively healthy, playing in at least 13 games in each of his first four seasons.
Overshadowed by the likes of Jadeveon Clowney, Demarcus Lawrence and Dee Ford, Smith’s spot in the defensive linemen free agency class hopefully is low enough that can help teams like Green Bay swoop in and get him for a cheaper three-year deal.
Tight end- Jesse James
Also in his fourth season with an AFC team, the Penn State alum had a career high in yardage this year for the Steelers, amassing 423 yards on 30 catches. While only having two touchdowns, the catch to target ratio for James was very efficient, as he only had nine targets that did not result in catches this season.
The Steelers use their tight ends in a similar way to what Green Bay has in the past, and James would be a good addition to the team on the cheap. The 24-year-old has played in all 16 games the past three seasons, and his durability would be a fresh sight for the Packers tight end corps.
With both Lance Kendricks and Marcedes Lewis probably leaving as free agents this offseason, James would be a good addition to Jimmy Graham and Robert Tonyan.
Guard- D.J. Fluker
Having played on the Seattle Seahawks this season after being on the Giants last season, Fluker has had a solid season, helping anchor the Hawks offensive line from the right guard position. For Green Bay, Byron Bell is a free agent, and with his hopeful departure, Fluker could help plug a hole in between Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga.
Fluker has bounced around the league, most recently being cut by the Chargers and playing out a cheap, one year deal with the Giants in 2017 before going to Seattle. While the 2017 version of the Seahawks was the team with the fewest rushing yards, the 2018 version had the league’s highest rushing total, averaging 160 yards per game.
Fluker could earn a modest three-year contract on the market, as the 27 year-old is coming off a few trips around the league, and although he has publicly said he wants to come back to Seattle, Green Bay would be smart to throw their hat in the ring for him.
Safety- Kenny Vaccaro
Having played for the New Orleans Saints for his first five years in the league, Vaccaro signed a one-year deal with the Tennessee Titans, starting 13 games.
More of a field general safety than an in the box safety, Vaccaro had one interception, four defended passes and 58 total tackles for the Titans.
While Vaccaro has had a bit of an injury history, having been placed on the IR by the Saints twice in his career, he has played in 13+ games in every season but two. He would be another good but modest addition to a position group so dire for any sort of talent influx. A two year deal would probably be enough to convince him to give up his shorts for some snow boots in Titletown.
As always, leave any thoughts, comments or concerns you may have below in the comments and thanks for reading!
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23