The announcement by the NFL late this week that the team salary cap would rise even more than expected – to $133 million per team – was welcomed news around the league … especially in Green Bay where the Packers are now looking at nearly $35 million in cap room.
That should make a lot of free agents, especially one Sam Shields, very happy.
Clearly, Shields is and has been the team’s top target in the re-signing room, but there are other players and other factors that are going to play into this offseason for Packers GM Ted Thompson and the rest of the team.
For instance, what about the need to lock down receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb? What about the need to solidify the offensive line by addressing the fact that center Evan Dietrich-Smith is about ready to test the market? And just what are the Packers going to do with free agent defensive linemen B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly? Don’t forget about James Jones and John Kuhn- surely they would also like to be part of the discussion.
Just because the Packers sit on a wad of cash – the sixth highest salary cap space in the entire league – it doesn’t mean that Thompson is sitting at 1265 Lombardi Ave with his checkbook wide open. In fact, I would bet my bottom dollar on the fact that he has it squirreled away in the same bottom drawer where it’s been for years.
It will be first things first with Thompson as the team inches toward the start of Free Agency March 11 (actually March 8, if you count the day when discussions can actually begin). You’ve got to believe that Thompson is ready to re-sign Shields, come to an understanding – if not offer real extensions to Nelson and Cobb – re-sign Dietrich-Smith, and then let his defensive linemen test the market. Heck, he will also probably re-sign Kuhn on the cheap. And Jones? Thompson has got to let him make a few calls and visit a few people. Jones is much better than to throw him a bone – that would be disrespectful. We would love to have him back, but we all also understand that Nelson and Cobb come first and there’s only so many dollars to throw around.
Exactly how and whom the Packers target in the draft will have to rely completely on what the team does in free agency. If Thompson brings any of his defensive linemen back, he will most likely target a defensive backfield player in the draft. If he doesn’t bring his wall of weight back, then a defensive lineman may be in his crosshairs. Much might also depend on whether Thompson can get a player or two (calling Tramon Williams here) to restructure their contracts to make more room for another player re-signing or two.
So many questions are floating out there and we all know there’s just one guy – Ted Thompson – with all the answers.
Exactly where this team ends up when all is said and done is a mystery at this point in time – and the reason why we enjoy this game so much.
Let the drama continue …