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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