The headline says the Packers are not going on a free agent spending spree, but it is misleading. GM Ted Thompson isn't going to throw big money at a free agent or two as quid pro quo for QB Brett Favre's return. Since Thompson's first draft choice was QB Aaron Rodgers, I wondered last season if Thompson wasn't trying to encourage Favre's retirement by blowing up the team and letting Rodgers take over. However, it is unlikely that Thompson could survive long if Favre does retire in a way that makes it seem like Thompson is pushing Favre out.
Thompson will be active in free agency if 2006 is any guide. Last season he made one good signing that worked out as well as was expected with NT Ryan Pickett. One signing that seemed bad and turned out bad with S Marquand Manuel. Finally he made one big signing that looked like a disaster, but turned out to be one of the best free agent signings by any team with CB Charles Woodson. He made a good non-signing by letting K Ryan Longwell go to Minnesota. There aren't as many holes this offseason, but there are still are some free agents that should be targeted.
There is a need for depth at wide receiver. WRs Greg Jennings and Ruvell Martin might be good next season, but for the most part neither was good enough to start last season. Although Tennessee will probably overpay to keep him, WR Drew Bennett could be the most likely target from this list of wide receivers. Not that Bennett is any good, Football Outsiders has him ranked as the 56th best WR last season, but Bennett is 6'5" and Mike McCarthy prefers tall receivers based on reports I read last offseason. Bennett's biggest problem is the awful 47% of intended passes that he caught last season. You can't blame QB Vince Young either, because Bennett caught an awful 53% in 2005. On the 2005 list, you can see WR Robert Ferguson's awful 47% catch percentage in 2005 and understand why I am not considering Ferguson has a legitimate option in 2007. Based on the Football Outsiders list from 2006, the Packers should seriously consider making an offer to restricted free agent WRs D.J. Hackett and Patrick Crayton or unrestricted free agent WRs Kevin Curtis and Keenan McCardell. McCardell is one of the few players left in the NFL that is almost as old as Favre, but McCardell still caught 71% of the passes intended for him.
Maybe the player most likely to be signed is TE Jerramy Stevens. Just like Manuel last season, he has that connection to Seattle from when Thompson was in their front office. It would seem impossible that Stevens will stay in Seattle after becoming a notorious pass dropping machine ever since the Super Bowl. Although Stevens has concerns, he is no Manuel, and he was one of the best TEs in the NFL in 2005. There is a major need to upgrade at tight end to find someone who can catch the ball. Stevens was one of the top 10 worst regular tight ends in 2006 when he managed to stay healthy, but he was still three times better than TE Bubba Franks who is parked dead last on that list. Stevens is still young, needs a change of scenery, and could return to his 2005 form. For a contract that limits the long term cap damage if he doesn't work out, he could be a good signing.