The Packers finally signed LB Ben Taylor. There was so little interest in Taylor that the Packers spoke with him right at the start of free agency, and no one else did since, except his ex-team Cleveland. No one appeared interested in this guy, but he might actually start with the Packers at strong side linebacker. Bonus trivia: Taylor was one of the last players left in Cleveland from the disasterous drafts of Butch Davis in 2001-2004. GM Ted Thompson said Taylor is "a football guy" who "played a lot of football in Cleveland." Sounds great.
Then the Packers signed K Billy Cundiff. K Ryan Longwell's greatest strength during his good seasons (aka pre-2005) was that he was remarkably consistant. Cundiff is the opposite. In a 2003 Loser League Recap at Football Outsiders, they pointed out how Cundiff had an awful week 1 for Dallas, missing a field goal and an extra point, but then rebounded in week 2 to hit 7 field goals. One coach said Cundiff has a strong leg for kickoffs, which is an area the Packers really need to improve on. Dallas let him go because of injury, so if he is healthy he may be as good or even a slight improvement over Longwell. Bob McGinn said that Cundiff won't be the last kicker the Packers sign.
The Packers need to move on from the injury filled seasons with RB Najeh Davenport. Instead they resign the veteran backup. I have nothing against Davenport (despite his bizarre dorm room incident as a rookie) because he has great talent and seemed to enjoy playing in Green Bay. But he can't stay healthy, and it is likely that he never will stay healthy. It would have been best for both parties to move on, but instead they will try try again.
Wow. C Mike Flanagan was given a $3 million signing bonus by Houston. Flanagan didn't play well last season. At least 1 or 2 plays a game, Flanagan would be overpowered and the play would collapse because of the defensive pressure. Adding the major injuries he has faced with his declining play in 2005, it seemed reasonable to let him go or bring him back on a small contract. However, Houston had the worst offensive line in the NFL last season and had to do something. Flanagan is a lighter offensive lineman with solid foot work who could have benefitted the most from a switch to a zone blocking scheme, but the Packers reasonably didn't want to match Houston's big offer.
The Packers also lost RB Tony Fisher to St. Louis. Fisher doesn't have enough speed to start in the NFL, but he is a good receiver and a good pass blocker. He has value as a 3rd down specialist, but RB Ahman Green might be that same running back in 2006. Green is a good pass receiver and blocker, and he might be just as slow as Fisher after his knee injury. It is possible RB Samkon Gado takes over as starter, while Green is a 3rd down back next season. Why couldn't the Packers have pursued RB Edgerrin James in free agency?
Don't panic. Thompson says "I think we helped ourselves a little bit in free agency." Mike McCarthy went deep into his catch phrases and pulled out "our approach has been consistent" and "we're not taking big chances. We're staying true to our plan." You know, Baldrick had a cunning plan too, and it always seemed to make the situation Blackadder found himself in a lot worse. If you think of them Coach Baldrick and GM Blackadder, then it all makes a lot more sense.