The Green Bay Packers are currently housing nearly 20 of their own free agents, at the onset of the offseason shuffle.
An unusually large number of contracts expiring?
It isn’t the mismanagement of money or a lapse in judgment on the part of Ted Thompson and Company. No, it’s just the opposite. It’s good business strategy. It’s putting contracts in place that get the most out of players for the longest duration of time, with a strong emphasis on re-evaluation.
The Packers are known to be a – for lack of a better term – stingy group. Just take a look at the cap surplus for 2014: $28 million. In fact, recent numbers released the past day indicate that number will increase to around $30 million.
So, with that said … we need to look at these 20 free agents and ask ourselves, what does this calm before the storm really mean?
Ian Rappaport has gone on record as saying that Ted Thompson and the Green Bay Packers plan to go against the “Packer Way” this offseason; sitting around that $30 million in cap space mark, Thompson has his eye on some big fish free agents to help immediately upgrade his contending team.
This news goes against everything we know to be true of Ted Thompson, our ever steady draft-and-develop man behind the curtain. Could it possibly be that the Packers are on the verge of recovering some discarded talent in free agency that could right our course toward the Super Bowl in 2014?
ALL SIGNS POINT TO … YES.
For those fans that are so diligent in their quest for big name free agents — you’re time is likely now. Why? It’s just a little thing called reading the signs. Thompson is the kind of GM that gets deals done before they’re due. If I had to speculate, I’d say pretty confidently that Ted was an overachiever in his grade school days. He probably turned in all of his assignments a week early, just to avoid the distraction as the deadline drew near.
That kind of thinking has traveled with him into his professional career. Look at Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews. He didn’t want them “playing for keeps” in their final contact season. Joe Flacco was playing for a new contract from the Ravens (or anybody …) when he won the Super Bowl last year. After you win the Super Bowl, you kind of have to make big boy money. The Ravens could have probably locked him up at a discount had they not been too late to the committal party.
Not to say that Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews wouldn’t have gotten mad money anyway. They absolutely would have, based on overall previous performance. But, playing through a contract negotiation is a distraction to all involved.
Shields got a second-round draft pick tender last year. The Packers wanted to keep him but also wanted to really see what he was capable of by allowing him to play out his rookie deal. What we saw was a guy capable of being a shut-down corner. We want to keep that guy. But now the whole league sees what he’s capable of, too, so his presence will come at a price.
As for the other guys – Raji was already offered a deal that he decided to pass on. It was a good one, reportedly. Finley was a wild card coming into the 2013 season. Packers Nation wasn’t sure if he would be back. He has injury issues and (though he finished strong in 2012) has had problems catching the ball. The Packers brought him back to finish his contract and his injury plagues continued. He is most likely packing his bags. James Jones has already had a stint of free agency testing with the Packers. With the emergence of Jarrett Boykin and with Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson‘s extensions looming, it’s likely the Packers let him go.
Other free agents like C.J Wilson, Ryan Pickett and Matt Flynn will likely come at a discounted price. Pickett is aging and will not likely get an offer anywhere else. Flynn has already tested the waters outside of Green Bay, WI, and three different organizations have sent him back.
Ted knows what he is doing. He will use his abundance of cap space to keep the difference-makers like Shields, shore up the backup QB position with Flynn and still have the pocket change to go out into the free agent market and take care of some of the deeper needs. Is it technically patching holes? Well, of course. Free agents have served a tenure elsewhere, they aren’t bouncing, doe-eyed babies. Most already have an expiration date; but (much like Charles Woodson when he left Oakland) a change of scenery, scheme and environment can dig out the most they have to offer.
It’s a risky endeavor, but it can be invigorating if it works …
… and for those yearning for that kind of invigoration, March 11 cannot come soon enough.