How things have changed.
While Packers General Manager Ted Thompson has dabbled in free agency, striking gold with the signings of Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett, his dabbling has been few and far between. Last year, he went out and got veteran center Jeff Saturday to replace Scott Wells who left for St. Louis, but that was a stopgap measure and a moves that was somewhat surprising.
Whether Thompson tries his luck again this year remains to be seen as the free agency season gets moving this weekend and continues through the middle of the month.
Here’s some of the benchmark dates associated with free agency:
March 4 – Franchise tag deadline
While there has been some talk about the Packers slapping the franchise tag on free agent Greg Jennings, most don’t feel that in the end that would be a very wise move. Jennings is expected to sign elsewhere and no other Packers player will be designated with the tag.
March 9 – Free agent negotiations start
A new rule being applied to free agency this year centers around the early opening. Under this new rule, teams may negotiate with agents of players who will be unrestricted free agents. When the official start of free agency opens March 12, none of these negotiations can become official until free agency opens March 12. The Packers have expressed an interest in Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins – a former Packer – and Chris Canty, another defensive lineman whose last team, the New York Giants, released him. Jenkins has been talking to the Giants, but no visit to Green Bay has been scheduled. Canty is expected to be in Green Bay by mid-week.
March 12 – Qualifying offer deadline
Qualifying offers must be made by teams to their restricted free agents. In addition, minimum salary offers must be tendered to exclusive rights free agents by 4 p.m. Qualifying offers give teams the right of first refusal (opportunity to match another team’s offer) as it provides for compensation in the event the player signs with another club. Packers restricted free agents are Tom Crabtree, Robert Francois, Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and Frank Zombo.
March 12 – Free agency opens
All expiring contracts will be officially over and the free agency period will get under way at 4 p.m. Eastern Time. It is also at this time that all clubs’ top 51 cap hits must fit under the salary cap, which has been set at $123 million for this season.
March 12 – Trading period
As free agency opens, so does the trading period. It’s not expected to be a tool used much by NFL team officials, but it’s available should they want to utilize it.