Free Agency is tricky. Filling your holes in the roster is essential to lead the way to a Super Bowl and that’s the only goal a contender like the Packers can have.
Brian Gutekunst’s approach to Free Agency is clear: He wants to draft talent and so he needs to fill the biggest holes in the roster via Free Agency. An approach that makes sense, but it also led the Packers to overpay on both Smiths and Amos. At least that is what Michael Cohen of The Athletic is reporting: Za’Darius Smith was expected to sign a contract (and reportedly had offers) in the range of $10-12 Mio per year – he got 16 by the Packers.
Adrian Amos’ and Preston Smith’s expected numbers didn’t show that huge margin to the deals they got at the end, but both of them got more than their respective markets.
So why did Gutekunst do that and was it the right decision?
First, I think Gutekunst overpaid because he wanted to make a statement. The Packers under Ted Thompson have not been known for any activities in the first (or second) wave of Free Agency and so he wanted to show (also maybe to future Free Agents) that Green Bay is a team that agents have to have in their minds.
Second, I think he really liked the players he got. The personality, the will and certainly the things they put on tape must have shown him something.
So when he decided to take them to Green Bay, he wanted to make sure he got them and no one would even try to put some bigger numbers on the board. It’s a tactic that many use in bidding wars: Beginning with a pretty high offer, maybe even your limit, shows other competitors that you are willing to spend big and it leads them to not even try to get the thing (or the player). It could have led other teams with higher budgets to look for other free agents instead of trying to get the ones Gutekunst wanted.
But wouldn’t it have been better to start slow and increase the offer several times, a tactic Russ Ball uses reportedly when he deals with free agents of the Packers that they want to keep?
In case of Za’Darius Smith, I’d say yes. $6 to $4 mio is just too much for a player that has not even been a starter for a whole season. On the other hand, with his passion and his attitude he’s for sure going to help the Packers.
All in all, I would say the Packers spent much money, but not too much on four promising free agents. They need to pay back the trust Brian Gutekunst put in them – and they need to do it now. If they don’t do it, Gutekunst will face pressure both from the fans and the media. If they help the Packers win a Super Bowl in the next years, Gutekunst will be a hero in Green Bay.