With nearly $28 million in projected salary cap space, the Green Bay Packers and General Manager Ted Thompson head into the thick of the NFL offseason with what you may consider “good” problems – and with about $10 million more in cap money than they had at this time last year, the Packers have the advantage to do pretty much whatever they want.
Because we all know that Thompson loves to draft and develop and avoids spending big dollars in free agency, the Packers at least have some choices this time around. In other words, Thompson has to make some decisions on how best to manage that $28 million.
Three of the top issues TT faces are the likes of B.J. Raji, Sam Shields and Jermichael Finley. Given that Finley suffered an injury similar to former Packers cornerback Nick Collins, it’s unlikely J-Mike will be back. Many were surprised when the Packers committed to him in the final year of his contract, but had it not been for his injury, Finley most likely wouldn’t be talking about getting on the first plane out of town – he’d have already booked his window seat. And while Finley and his agent have been talking about Finley being a Packer for life, we all know it’s a smokescreen. When free agency kicks off in a few weeks, Finley will be on more than one team’s short list.
The real issue comes down to Raji and Shields. Does Thompson sign one and franchise the other? Does he let them both test the market and let the chips fall where they may? Personally, I think they need to re-sign Shields and let Raji walk. Shields has proven his value the past couple of seasons; Raji has been nothing better than average. I feel the Packers can draft some fresh defensive line legs to make up for the loss of Raji. However, it’s important for the team to keep Shields … he’s one of, if not the best defensive players on the team.
With all those names, one might consider them as a “problem.” However, looking long-term Thompson has his usual tool with which to work – the draft. If he doesn’t sign the majority of those free agents, he will most likely replenish the team with very good talent in this year’s draft – one that’s considered deep at many positions.
So, what’s the bottom line?
Well, if I were the GM, here is what I would do: Let Finley and Raji walk, re-sign Shields and bring back these guys with bargain deals – Jones, Kuhn, Dietrich-Smith, Neal and Pickett.
Using the draft, Thompson then can find some talent in the early to mid rounds. Heck, he might even be able to pick up a couple of decent safeties this time around.
With a gob of money in hand, a deep draft, and the option to bring some important players back on the cheap, Thompson has some good problems this offseason.
Let’s hope he makes hay when the sun is shining.