In just four short weeks, the free agency frenzy will be unleashed on all 32 teams across the league, including the Green Bay Packers.
It’s a time of frustration, confusion and negotiation. There are hundreds of questions swirling around the brains of fans everywhere, but you know where they aren’t many questions?
The front offices.
Let’s face it, all 32 organizations have been preparing for this period since training camp last year. They’ve been taking notes, preparing for the future by scrutinizing every single player, breaking down every single play. Injuries are always a wild card, but for the most part, they’ve got it under control.
They might have had questions but … those are long gone.
What they don’t provide us with are the answers to those questions. Fans, well … we just have to wait and see what happens.
As Citizen GM of the Green Bay Packers, I’m going to help shed some light on what is mostly speculation right now. I’ve been asked some questions that are intriguing and might give us a clearer picture of the direction the Green Bay Packers are heading in this offseason; I’d like to answer them as the Citizen GM and then follow that up with my best approximation of Ted Thompson‘s moves.
A: Yes, I believe his chance of coming back to the Packers under a long-term contract have come and gone. With an $8 million/year offer on the table earlier in the season, Raji (and agent to the stars, David Dunn) decided that he would play out his current contract to termination and test free agency. Unfortunately for Raji, this wasn’t really the best season to be dabbling in potential offseason affairs. After being replaced at NT by Ryan Pickett, Raji struggled mightily on the defensive line. He registered zero sacks (for the second straight year) and made fewer tackles than he had in any previous season. For a guy trying to up his worth on the market, he may have just accomplished the opposite.
If it were up to me, a cost-effective extension would be offered that, if rejected, would send Raji packing. Anywhere else he won’t garnish half of what the Packers were offering him. There looks to be a lot of potential shakeup on the defensive line, so his veteran presence would be welcomed at the right price. However, Ted doesn’t overpay, that much we know to be certain. I think that Raji spends some time looking for a higher price, won’t find it and then re-signs to the Packers’ benefit near the end of the free agent period.
Q: Will the Packers bring back James Starks, with all the depth at running back?
A: Starks returned to 2010 form last year, maybe even better. He was the perfect complement to Eddie Lacy at running back. Head Coach Mike McCarthy was very concerned in training camp about establishing a vaunted 1-2 punch at the position. Starks wasn’t supposed to be in the equation, but with DuJuan Harris‘s injury early on, Starks won the opportunity to show his worth. What he did prove is that he is a legitimate threat in the running game in the NFL. However, he was best in the role that he was utilized in: a change-of-pace back. So, does he stay or does he go?
If it were up to me, Starks would be back, without a doubt. He did really great things when his number was called this year. McCarthy lamented, and I wholeheartedly agree, that Starks didn’t receive the touches that he deserved. Lacy was bull-rushing all year; it made it difficult to give Starks a chance. But every time he got one, he exploded.
I think he could be the perfect match with Lacy for the future. However, my gut is telling me that Thompson is moving in a different direction. DuJuan Harris has a lot of support in the Packers organization; coming off an inactive year, I believe they will give him another chance to compete.
With Ted’s draft and develop philosophy, it’s hard to believe that Johnathan Franklin will be going anywhere. They will likely keep three backs, leaving Starks to test free agency. If he gets no love from the other 31 teams, he will get a chance to win his job back in Packers’ training camp. But odds are good that he gets a good deal somewhere else, where we will see if he has what it takes to be the lead dog on a RB-needy team.
Q: Will TT utilize free agency and go after an immediate upgrade at an area of need (ex: Jairus Byrd)?
A: Let’s be real for a second – Byrd isn’t going anywhere. The Bills are going to, at the very least, hit him with the franchise tag again. However, even if Byrd cleared the Bills front office and hit free agency, the odds are stacked against the Packers picking him up. Thompson doesn’t have a bulky track record with free agents, as he prefers a home grown approach to patching holes. Byrd is the one name on Packers’ fans lips – as the Pack has a serious need at safety – but he’s a no-go.
Though he is often criticized by fans for shunning free agents, you have to give him some credit for keeping the Packers under a healthy salary cap. Currently, the Packers are carrying over some $28 million in cap excess into this year’s number. With that kind of room to work with, it’s fair to say that the Packers have the ability to hold onto any of the free agents to which they currently have rights. It also gave the organization the ability to sign Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers to long-term deals this past offseason. Is Jairus Byrd or any other free agent out there – worth our offensive and defensive stars?
This is just the beginning. There are 20 free agents that the Packers have to make decisions about. There are countless contracts still on the table. There are holes to fill and draft prospects to examine. The questions are never-ending.
Hopefully, this is a good place to start.
So, what do you think, Packers fans? What are some of your big offseason questions? Where do you see this team heading in 2014?