Thursday, February 13, 2014

Not A Joke: The Packers Plan To Spend In Free Agency

I hope you're sitting down for this surprising news:
And where might they want to spend their hard earned salary cap dollars?
They'd be looking for faster lineman in the 290 lb. range, with a similar body type to DE Datone Jones. Maybe the ideal player would be similar to DE Mike Daniels.

And now might be the perfect time to make a change. DE B.J. Raji did nothing in the final year of his rookie contract, and NT Ryan Pickett had one of his worst seasons (he received a negative grade from Pro Football Focus and his run defense rating fell hard). Both of them are free agents, and their absence will free up a lot of salary cap space; they combined for almost 10% of the 2013 cap charge.

I don't know if the Packers are thinking of making one or two big signings. Or maybe they want to sign multiple players at mid-level contracts, similar to what the Seahawks did last season when they signed LB Cliff Avril and DE Michael Bennett for about $10 million combined in 2013. Either way can work, but I'm going to throw a couple names out there if the Packers want to go big:

DE Greg Hardy. He should be the first name to leap to everyone's mind. He's 25 years old, weighs 290 lbs. and he's coming off back-to-back double digit sack seasons. He'll be looking for a monster Mario Williams like contract, and I can't say that I blame him. His price could be too high, but he does belong at the top of the list and he immediately changes the defense.

DT Jason Hatcher. He's an inside rusher versus the lighter Hardy, but he's still under 300 lbs. and he'll get after the quarterback. His 11 sacks and gaudy 26.9 rating as a pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus in 2013 are screaming "career year" but he's been good for the past few seasons. He'll turn 32 before the start of next season, which isn't as appealing as the much younger Hardy, but he's more likely to be available. Jerry Jones is so bad that the Cowboys have to shed $25 million just to get under the 2014 salary cap.

DT Randy Starks. He's even less like Hardy; over 300 lbs. and turning 31 before the end of the 2014 season. But he's also a very good interior pass rusher who's only gotten better in that regard over the past two seasons. The Dolphins actually have even more salary cap space than the Packers, which would seem to indicate that Starks is a lock to re-sign, however, the Dolphins' front office is a mess and it wouldn't be a shock to see them bungle it. Their new GM was something like their seventh choice, who knows what he'll do this offseason, and a likely playoff berth in 2014 with the Packers might have a lot more appeal to Starks than another 7-9 finish in Miami.

The Packers were so bad on the defensive line last season, the only defensive lineman to earn a positive grade from Pro Football Focus was Mike Daniels, that the Packers could settle on some lesser names, and they'd still provide a huge upgrade. They can't mess this up if they're serious about spending.

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