I have my phone set up to receive instant alerts on anything and everything free agency – including those that come in about the Green Bay Packers. As you can imagine, I set the ringer to silent a couple hours in.
In the first day of free agency alone, there were over 20 big signings. Movement has steadied in day two. Is it possible that this madness continues on into day three?
I don’t know whether I am just paying closer attention this year — but I can’t remember a free agency period marked with such whirlwind qualities. Players are being cut, traded and signed faster than one can read about the last guy being cut, traded or signed.
Teams with the cash flow to do so — are making their presence felt. Teams that lack impact players, like the Jacksonville Jaguars (who happen to be my hometown team) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are getting serious.
Teams that have already financially mortgaged their future to race a closing window — are digging deeper holes. The Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints made big splashes in the first couple days of free agency; the Broncos attempting to toughen a defense that was its Achilles heel in last year’s Super Bowl run.
For those that don green and gold — all has been (relatively) quiet on the home front. There were rumors that, with nearly $34 million in excess cap space, Ted Thompson and Co. would throw caution to the wind and be an active player in free agency.
Those rumors, we now know, were … well, they were actually semi-true.
While Thompson hasn’t booked a whole lot of incoming flights for potential big name free agents, he has been busy.
While the Saints were locking Jairus Byrd up to a 6-year mighty lucrative contract with cash they don’t have, Thompson was inking a 4-year $39 million deal with Packers’ own, Sam Shields. As the 2013 season came to a close and the offseason decisions loomed, fans pined after a long-term contract for Shields. As the March 8 deadline approached, it seemed less and less likely that Shields would come to terms with the Packers. It was a relief to hear that he had signed a new contract on the Saturday prior to the start of free agency. If he had hit the open market, he’d have taken his talents elsewhere.
While Shields was said to be the Packers’ number one free agent priority this offseason, Mike Neal would have arguably been at the top of the list. With the litany of injuries on the defensive line last year, Neal was a steady force. He raised his level of play to the challenge ahead; he showed his toughness by playing with and through injuries that would have sidelined others. In Clay Matthews‘ absence, Neal filled a void and was a disruptive force when we needed him to be.
There was much speculation that Neal would not be back; he was rumored to have been heavily pursued by a few other NFL teams, including the New York Giants. In the end, Thompson came through with his second big move in free agency 2014 — packaging Mike Neal into a cost-effective 2-year deal that gives the Packers an opportunity to see what Neal can do when completely healthy and working with a “locked and loaded” defensive unit.
Inside linebacker, Jamari Lattimore, played very well in the stead of Brad Jones last year. I have repeatedly praised his efforts and raw talent at the position. The Packers obviously liked what they saw and wanted to give it a second glance. They tendered Lattimore today, who could possibly compete for the starting ILB job opposite A.J. Hawk in training camp.
There was a Packers’ loss, however; the Chicago Bears stole away ex-Packers safety M.D Jennings. True to form, our NFC North rivals went shopping in the Green Bay discard bin … well, the joke is on da Bears. They obviously missed week 3 of 2012 and … the entirety of the 2013 season. One of their first drills in training camp this year should be, The Simultaneous Catch: It Never Should Happen.
While other names like James Jones, Andrew Quarless, Jermichael Finley and Evan Dietrich-Smith are still floating about in the free agent frenzy, it is nice to know that priorities are being checked off the list. Though we may mourn the loss of some and bid a grateful adieu to others, I’d rather let upper management make the real decisions.
I, for one, am happy to see familiar faces signing contracts in Green Bay; guys who have fought and bled here for the Packers, the fans, the city.
It isn’t exactly the splurge we were all hoping for, but it is just what we have grown to expect. Thompson, cultivating his own. If he doesn’t believe in his own men, why should we? It’s a chance to prove that we are all we need — with a good crop of complementary youth in the draft — the Packers could be unstoppable.
If this same trend continues into day three, four, five … I will call this free agency period a success.