Interest in Edge Free Agents Could Open up Draft

After their reported interest in trading for Dee Ford from the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers are trying to get out ahead of the rush for top-flight free agents and players by trying to acquire players at positions of need. While the offense has holes that can be addressed before the draft, by bringing in at least one defensive stud, the team can be move selective in the draft.

Ford, who was recently given the franchise tag by the Chiefs, will be earning $15.4 million under the tag as an outside linebacker. Along with the tag comes a deadline to sign Ford to an extension, as July 15 is the last day for any team that acquires Ford’s talents to extend him before he officially becomes a free agent.

In a supposed bidding war with the San Francisco 49ers, Brian Gutekunst and his front office needs to gauge the team’s interest with how important it is to enter into serious talks with the Chiefs. Easy to see Ford’s role in a Mike Pettine-led defense as an edge rusher, Green Bay should absolutely go into discussions and come out with Ford in tow.

While he will be looking for a new deal, the topic of guaranteed money will become a potential issue, as Ford will be looking for a good chunk of guaranteed money, which is not common in the vast majority of NFL contracts. Trying to set a standard for player rights, the likes of Todd Gurley, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ford are trying to change the structure of contracts from incentive-based to guaranteed money, with performance excellerators.

Looking at what the Oakland Raiders had to give up to acquire Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers (3rd and 5th round selections), the fact of acquiring a star player does not require giving up the kitchen sink anymore. Providing a team with salary relief, especially a team like the Chiefs who will be needing to extend both Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes very soon, seemingly comes at much less than a premium.

Pass rushers don’t grow on trees, and Ford is a rare edge rusher who has all of the tools to be very successful in this league for many years to come. Being able to not only acquire him but to also lock him up for a few years would be quite beneficial for the Packers, which would help their draft lists out immensely.

The team also is rumored to be interested in Justin Houston, another edge rusher tied to Kansas City who was just released for cap-cutting measures. While Houston is older compared to Ford, he would come cheaper and potentially on a shorter deal, which could provide the team with more financial flexibility one or two years down the road.

Acquiring someone like Ford or Houston would give Gutekunst more flexibility in the draft, starting at 12th overall. Linked to prospects like Brian Burns, Jachai Polite, Montez Sweat and others, the Packers could still take an edge prospect, or address other needs early on with edge not being as big of a need.

If looking to add an edge rusher through the early stages of the first round, the team would be more than happy with coming away with some combination of Ford/Houston and Polite/Sweat/Burns/etc., providing the team an instant plug-and-play guy while giving their rookie rusher a perfect compliment for a mentor to help them get used to game speed and its intricacies.

If there is a run on quarterbacks to open the draft (as some are predicting there to be, starting with Kyler Murray at no. 1 to Arizona), then the value of their pick exponentially grows, both in trade value and in what prospects may slip down the draft that should have gone much earlier. If Gutekunst can pull yet another heist of the year in the draft like he did last season with the New Orleans Saints and acquiring the extra first rounder, then moving back a few selections to gain more draft capital is a great idea.

The draft is one of those things that is super unpredictable, but that is what makes it such a great event to be a part of. Even though the league is not even practicing in April, the month of April is one of the most exciting times of the league year.

For Green Bay, the draft will be based upon any of their transactions that occur in the free agency and trade markets, areas that they have been foreign to exploring under Ted Thompson but have shown a willingness to partake in under Gutekunst. Bringing in a Ford-level player who is proven can only help the team this season, and hopefully for more seasons down the road.

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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

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21 thoughts on “Interest in Edge Free Agents Could Open up Draft

  1. I’m trying to think of a dumber idea than sacrificing high draft picks for the right to overpay Dee Ford.

    Nope, nothing comes to mind.

    1. You mean the right to obtain the highest rated pass rusher last year, who also sat behind Tamba Hali and Justin Houston for a couple of years and who’s position coach works for green bay and knows him best? Yeah, if he comes to Green Bay for a second, it’s for all the right reasons.

      1. Sorry Chris, we disagree here. The guy had one big year and you want us to sacrifice draft capital to buy him at the height of his market.

        We might as well take a sledgehammer to this team’s cap going forward. Just burn it all down.

        Remember, we already put in a horrific 2018 offseason by wasting over $50 million on a “win now” philosophy. This year, somehow, some way, we must TRY to not be completely foolish.

        We must at least TRY. Just a little. Please Gute, I’m begging you: Don’t do anything like last year’s madness. At least TRY to be smart…even if just a little. After last year, I’ll take any hint of intelligence. Anything.

        1. It’s a risk for sure, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s more than one year. Last year was fantastic, year prior injured, year before 10 sacks, year before he sat behind two pro bowlers as I mentioned. I mean we are not giving up two 1sts like the Mack trade and we are in a win now environment with Rodgers. How long will it take for Burns or Polite to make an impact? At least we have a productive, veteran presence.

          We can’t assume we are getting Houston or Z’Darius or Preston because the Packers are not going to throw out team breaking deals, just like they did not do last year. What contracts really hurt the team?

          Answer, none of them. Graham was the largest and I contend he was not used right, but we are not hamstrung as we have $34M in cap space.

          So if we don’t get Ford or any of the other Edge players mentioned, we are going to rely on Fackrell and Rookies??? Puke. I’m not saying go all Dan Snyder on this team, but a little risk is needed and a 2nd for a probowler in his prime is ridiculous.

          At the very least look at it like, oh we get Jaire and Ford for Davenport (and then some) or that we could not force the pick at 12, trade back and pick up an additional 2nd.

          Also, if they do trade, you would have to feel comfortable as the LB coach knows him and wouldn’t bring someone in just to have him, I’d hope he’d have a lot of faith in him as his job is on the line too

          1. Last year was a horror show. The ONLY good moves we made were releasing Jordy Nelson and a great draft. The rest was like watching a car crash in slow motion.

            1. We kept McCarthy. I was horrified.

            2. We kept Matthews, when we could have released him with zero cap hit. That one had me waking up every morning at 2am screaming, “No Gutey, NO!”

            3. We kept Randall Cobb. My jaw hit the floor.

            4. We blew money on Graham, Williams, and Lewis. I was a regular caller to Suicide Hotline. Cops were talking me off ledges.

            All in all, we burned up more than $50 million in cap space which we could have moved forward. All for a team that I insisted from the start was light years from contention. All for a 6-win team. All that gorgeous, beautiful cap money TORCHED by complete imbeciles.

            Now, thanks to that insanity, we have a long road back. We could have higher draft picks, over $90 million in cap space, and a young coaching staff entering its 2nd season. We could be so set, and it was all so easy that even a child could see it.

            The nightmare has to end sometime, Chris. I agree with you that Ford’s production was held back by a rookie season behind studs and another season injured. But we aren’t one player away, and we desperately need to remake our cap with cheap young talent.

            We’ve got a long road back from last year’s disastrous moves. A long road back.

            1. Lol, I’m sorry you went through that, but I didn’t think the off-season was that bad.

              I’m in agreement, it is a long road back and we are not one or two players away from a Superbowl. If we assume the report is correct, Packers are holding off on Ford until they gauge FA, either from availability or contracts, before moving forward with Dee. As much as I hate to give up draft capital for a player you could via FA, it should remain an option.

              The nice thing is that Wilkerson, Clay, Cobb, Kendricks, Mercedes are all FAs this year, so no need to fret about them on the team. We still have plenty of cap to do some good damage and go after key positions at Safety and Edge. I think we need to come out of FA with one starter at each one of those positions and then hit them again in the draft. Z’Darius and Thomas/Mathieau would be my choices. Even someone like Shane Ray could provide a spark on the edge.

              After that, hit my favorite mock draft to date:
              1st Ed Oliver
              1st TJ Hockenson
              2nd Jachai Polite
              3rd Taylor Rapp

              No chance in hell that it happens, but one can dream. This is my favorite time of the year with FA, March Madness and the Draft. I already know the Badgers are going to let me down in the tournament, so here’s hoping for a great FA and draft!

            2. Glad you enjoyed that 🙂

              However, on the merits of what I recounted, everything was purely factual. In other words, last off-season was precisely that bad. We really did destroy that much cap space for a team that really had no chance to contend and really still finished with 6 wins–really.

              No exaggerations there.

              And while it’s nice that Wilkerson, Clay, Cobb, etc. are gone now, that’s meaningless to the hole we’ve dug by paying them all the money I mentioned. That money is gone, gone, gone, and their departures won’t bring a penny back.

              You say we have plenty of cap space. Do we? We are in the bottom 3 or 4 teams in the entire league at several positions (OLB, RG, TE, Safety), and have little to no depth at several other positions (LT, LG, C, QB, ILB). On top of that, we have large extensions looming next year.

              Our $40 million in cap space is, therefore, a pittance. Are you really arguing that $90 million wouldn’t be better? Really?

              I like Ford. A lot. But we’ve got a whole Titanic going under here, not one position, and getting Ford would require a huge cut from our pitiful cap space as well as sacrificing precious draft picks we need for plugging more holes cheaply.

              It just doesn’t make sense.

              But knowing this team and the horrifying way it’s been run of late, we’ll do it. This team will destroy every bit of its cap and foundation in order to placate a moronic fanbase demanding we “win now.”

              We need adults running this team. Instead, we have children running it aground.

            3. My biggest question is where do you get $90m? I think that’s a bit exaggerated and don’t forget who got a large extension. Graham was $10m, Wilkerson was $5m, Kendricks/Lewis $5m total at best and we did not incur any dead money with releasing Cobb.

              We get rid of CMIII last year and who fills his role at $10m or less? Keep in mind there wasn’t a ton to play with after the extension of AR…

            4. Okay, I see the disconnect here. I’m looking at the total commitment of contracts for 2018-19, since I wanted the money pushed forward to 2019. Thus, Graham was given $20 million for those 2 years, Williams $10 million, etc.

              Releasing Matthews and Cobb would have netted another $20 million, more or less. That’s $50 million lost, just on those four guys, without even mentioning Lewis–$50 million we couldn’t apply to contracts now.

              As for CMIII, we have yet another disconnect. You’re missing the fact that I gave us no chance of contending last season, meaning 2018 should have been a rebuilding year. Thus, I wouldn’t have spent ANYTHING replacing CMIII’s production (not that 3.5 sacks and average-at-best run defense is a lot to replace). I would have developed a young player and moved that money forward, targeting 2019.

              Personally, I would have gone to a 4-3 last year, and I wrote as much on many occasions. Not that I prefer one defense over the other, but our manpower better suited a 4-3. I would have started Daniels, Clark, Wilkerson, and Lowry up front (rotating Adams and Perry in on passing downs), with Fackrell, Martinez, and Josh Jones at LB (finally, Jones would be where he belongs). This would have given us far more speed and pressure from our front 7, while saving us Clay’s money.

              But here’s the biggest upshot: We’d now have over $50 million more to spend on wonderful toys like Ford, and a little higher draft position for filling in holes. In other words, our rebuild would be QUICK.

              I’m not against Free Agent spending at all, Chris–not at all! I just feel it’s what you do when you’ve first rebuilt a sustainable roster and cap that is talent-rich and money-stable. Then you’re only a couple players away, and you’ve got the cash to responsibly make big moves.

              But we’re not in that place now, and it’s because of how we handled last Spring. 2019 should have been our year to go all in, but now if we do it, we could find ourselves all out going forward.

            5. I hear you and I get your position, I’m just wondering how all of that looks to #12 when you cut Jordy, presumably Cobb and CMIII, and not sign players to put around him….does AR resign at that point? I’d guess no. I think there was a long game in mind and to let the contracts run its course with Cobb and CMIII while giving Aaron someone he wanted in Graham. Hard to sell a rebuild to your MVP QB who you want to resign before the year even begins, doesn’t make any sense.

              I’m not familiar with the rollover cap and how all of that works, but given we just resigned Aaron, we could be in a much worse position. Until AR is no longer on this team, we will never truly be in a true rebuild. Draft capital and FA have to be used wisely which is why no big contracts were given out last year. With that said, what big contracts could be given this year without including draft picms? Earl Thomas? Still in play. Collins? Still in play. Everyone is in play that’s available.

              We are a good, not great team. Same with New England. Their GM wasn’t an all-star, their coach (play calling) and QB were. Pack can be in that position, hopefully this year, but they’ll need to hit FA right and the draft. Damn I’m excited, but i don’t think this team is in as dire straights this year. Love the banter by the way.

            6. 1. I couldn’t care less what Rodgers thinks. He’s the QB, not the GM. If he felt the moves were bad, then I would have offered him to Cleveland for the 1st and 4th picks in last year’s draft, and we wouldn’t be worried about a shrinking window.

              2. However, I first would have explained the situation honestly to Aaron. Fact is, we WERE in a rebuild, and having a great QB doesn’t change that one bit. But I would have told Aaron, “You’re with us another 6 years, and we must look at what creates the best team overall for that time frame. Ted Thompson left a very poor roster, and some short-term hard decisions are needed for a quick rebuild that should have us well set to surround you with much better talent for the final 5 years you’re here.” If Aaron rejected that, then he would be a fool.

              3. If you think this is a good team, I don’t know what to tell you. This team is improving, thanks to Gute’s incredible first draft, but we need much more.

              4. There is one MASSIVE difference between the Packers and Patriots: Aaron’s salary. Tom Brady purposefully takes well below his market value–about $15-18 million below last season–thus allowing the Patriots to get 5 or 6 players at key positions that are about $3 million/year better than what we must accept in Green Bay. That is an IMMENSE difference in talent throughout the roster. Last season, Brady’s pay ranked 21st among NFL QB’s, while Aaron was as usual in the top 3. Not surprisingly, the Patriots have won about half the Super Bowls while Brady has been there.

              We don’t have a team-first, win-first guy like the Patriots have at QB. That obstacle to our cap is all the more reason we must handle our cap EXTREMELY WELL, not horribly like last offseason.

            7. 1. C’mon, you have to care a little. It’s a relationship for sure. As far as Brady is concerned, I’m not convinced he’s not getting something under the table or future promises from Mr. Spa

              2. Nobody with a MVP QB is ever in a rebuild and should always have a shot. McCarthy sank this ship with poor utilization of Aaron Jones and Graham.

              3. They are a good team, just had a down year and like usual, plagued with injuries yet again. If anything, this team needs new strength and conditioning coach and team doctor.

              4. See #1

              If I’ve learned anything over the last few years, there are a couple of undeniable truths to be yearly playoff and Superbowl contenders.

              1. Win in the trenches – You need a good offensive line and defensive line.

              2. You need to have balance and run the ball. Something we’ve been lacking since Ahman Green.

              3. You need a couple of impact players on rookie deals for at least 2+ years.

              We’ve got a really good defensive line and a couple of key pieces on the offensive line and a RB who could get it done if given the chance. I like what I think MLF is going to bring to this team and if Gute can give him 5 new starters from FA and draft, we’ll be in a great spot.

            8. I can only speak to facts, not alleged under-the-table payments. And the facts state that Tom Brady frees up enormous cap dollars versus his market value. This affects everything. Rodgers doesn’t do it. That’s just fact.

              As for your insistence that nobody with a great QB can be in rebuild, you’re missing another factor: We had a terrible GM for the last several years of Thompson’s reign. That resulted in a severely depleted roster, which really did necessitate a rebuild–especially to benefit Rodgers.

              But if we had handled last offseason by my recommendations, that rebuild would already be nearly over. Instead, it will drag on, and we may never recover.

            9. You’re correct. Ted made very few good moves and kept the Packers at mediocrity, but they were never a dumpster fire either.

              I’m a big fan of Gute so far and think they’ll continue to improve and we’ll see what MLF does. I know I’m glad we didn’t sign Collins to that stupid $84m deal or Flowers to his $17m per.

              Anxious to see what happens

            10. Those deals will be regretted by both teams.

              I think, outside of QB, the overall roster left by Ted WAS a dumpster fire. Gute has had one great draft, and if he can just resist the temptation of trading picks, he’ll no doubt have another. I can’t wait!

            11. He didn’t leave it in great shape, but we have key components he left with good deals at every aspect.

              Got a steal in Aaron Jones.Signed Davante to a $10-$12m per year deal which is borderline highway robbery, same Back. Defensive line is super solid with Clark, Lowery, Daniels. Martinez has been a great addition. King has the ability if he stays healthy.

              What we need are pass rushers and Safety plus a more solid complimentary players along the Oline.

              Not great, but certainly not a dumpster fire.

            12. I agree on all those, Chris. But every team has at least that much. Every team has at least one guy like Adams who pays off better than his salary. But teams can’t function with all the massive holes we have, and we’re terribly shallow at several positions.

              Fact is, we’ve been a low-talent team carried by an elite QB. But carrying such a poor team is starting to wear him down. Quickly.

              We need to build a real team, and soon. All this would have been so much easier if the team hadn’t demolished last offseason.

            13. Hey, so what are your thoughts on FA. Overall, I’m happy with the aggressiveness and Amos is my favorite signing. I like the Smiths coming in, they’re a lot bigger contracts than I thought though

            14. I like these players, but the price tags are devastating to future extensions and team maintenance.

              Honestly, Chris, I’m very worried. It just looks like, after grossly mishandling the team (except for a great draft) last offseason with several terrible decisions, Gute is now desperately mortgaging the future to prop up a temporary win total and keep his job.

              For now, I’ve lost all confidence in the man. I literally expect him to do the wrong thing with virtually every decision. I think this team’s future is quite possibly being destroyed.

              I can’t believe he tendered Allison. Yes, it’s zero risk since we can release him in camp, but still…and I now look at the draft and think, “What is the worst decision Gute can make? To overdraft at tight end at #12 in a top-heavy draft loaded with talent elsewhere? Then that’s what he’ll do. He’ll overdraft at tight end at #12.”

              I hate this feeling. I was one of Gute’s biggest supporters, and now I’m his biggest critic. I now expect him to make every worst decision imaginable.

              I really, really hate this feeling.

            15. Well, the one thing the team needed was talent and depth, which all 4 of these moves gives us. What we don’t know yet is if the talent will match the contracts, but I’m hopeful that Gute and Russ Ball structured them in a way that will give us freedom again after 2 years. I know both Z and Preston are getting some rather large signing bonuses, so we’ll see what happens.

              Overall though, I’m optimistic. Each FA will give us more than what we had last year in terms of production, so we should be better for it. Billy Turner was a prime example of that. Between playing guard and RT, I think he only gave up 3 sacks all year and he was generally solid.

              I noticed that Dee went for a 2nd in 2020 which makes me think we could have gotten him for a 3rd or both 4ths this year….that will be one to watch for me. I’m also surprised we didn’t take a run on Houston, coach must know something.

              In terms of the draft, I think this shapes up nicely to put the finishing touches on this team. Yes I said it, I think we are that close now. We both know there were a ton of holes, but now we can focus on the draft for the remaining. I know mocks are off, but fun, but after this FA splurge it’s feasible we go

              1st – Dillard / Jonah
              1st – Hockenson
              2nd – Devin Bush
              3rd – Hooker/Adderly/Thornhill/Gardner-Johnson

              It may take trading back from 12 and up from 30, but high likelihood of landing those players at positions of need.

              Try not to be doom and gloom yet, let it play out and see what happens. Remember, TT left this team in shambles, so he’s doing what he needs to do to make it a contender as quickly as possible

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