Monday, March 28, 2016

Recapping The Packers 2016 Free Agent Period

The NFL free agent period is rarely an exciting time for GM Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers, and 2016 has been no exception. Extending DT Mike Daniels was the most important task they could have accomplished, and they did it back in 2015, but I'm still left more disappointed than usual. There were some notable free agent departures and they'll be looking to find replacements, and depth, at those positions in April's draft.
WR James Jones. Maybe Jones's agent was talking about a $4 million per season Jermaine Kearse type contract, which I would never expect them (nor should they) agree to. But Jones signed for under $1 million twice last season (first with the Giants and then the Packers) so he's probably not looking for a big deal. He finished 2015 as the 20th best receiver in the NFL according to Football Outsiders and he was the team's best receiver by a mile, so asking him to return in 2016 as a $1 million insurance policy looked like a no-brainer, even if he loses the battle in camp this summer to WR Jeff Janis and/or Jared Abbrederis. Yes, WR Jordy Nelson will be back, Janis and Abbrederis should continue to improve, and Jones might not have been necessary. But he was absolutely necessary in 2015 and he wouldn't have broken the bank. I'm also not mentioning WR Davante Adams, who the team appears to have faith in, though I don't. I'd have made re-signing Jones a priority if he's still available in the $1 million range.

DTs B.J. Raji, Letroy Guion, and Mike Pennel. Pennel wasn't a free agent but his upcoming four game suspension should factor into their 2016 plans. But I don't think they expected Raji to walk away from football. Mike McCarthy thinks Raji will return some day but I'm less sure about it because football doesn't seem to be the most important thing in his life. Good for him, but that won't help the Packers much in 2016. That leaves the middle of their line anchored by Guion and Daniels, and a couple other guys who've never played meaningful NFL snaps. DT Josh Boyd will also return, but he was never very good and he's now coming off a season ending injury. I'm worried that some teams will be able to run right over the defense next season.

LB Mike Neal. The Packers want to move LB Clay Matthews back outside next season and they did re-sign LB Nick Perry, so this seems like a good time to let Neal find another NFL home. I've never been his biggest fan so I'm glad they're looking to find someone better than him. But he was 5th on the team with 734 defensive snaps last season so they have to replace him with somebody, and I have no idea who that somebody will be. LB Sam Barrington will return but you never know what a player is like after a season ending injury. LBs Jake Ryan and Joe Thomas should continue to improve while platooning as a run stuffing and pass covering inside linebacker combo. Also, former disappointments LB Nate Palmer and Carl Bradford remain on the roster. The Packers have a lot of draft choices in the upcoming draft and they're sure to draft at least one linebacker, but they haven't had the best track record of developing inside linebackers. The loss of Raji and Pennel up front, along with Matthews moving back outside from inside, has left the middle of their defense looking like a giant question mark heading into 2016.

CB Casey Hayward. The Packers really didn't need Hayward anymore. The Chargers are paying him $5 million per season starting in 2016 and he might have been challenged for playing time with the Packers by CB Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter. Also, former 5th round pick CB Demetri Goodson is in the mix. But letting a solid player like Hayward go for only a future 3rd or 4th round compensatory pick seems like a poor value. Hayward is a good player now, and that future draft choice is only maybe a good player someday. They've given up something without getting enough back, while at the same time the defense is taking a step back at tackle and inside linebacker.

I'm just not feeling the power of young players when a few of them disappointed last season at key positions like receiver and linebacker. That's the way the Packers work and free agency isn't the answer for most teams, but it's still left me underwhelmed with their offseason plans while I wait for them to re-load in the upcoming draft.

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