Green Bay Packers: Reviewing free agency so far

Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) makes a catch against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 13, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) makes a catch against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

Hold on to your hats people, the NFL free agency period has been a whirlwind already this year.  Grab your hanky and wipe your brow.

Believe it or not but the Green Bay Packers have been an active participant this year. Ted Thompson, known for his uncanny ability to not dip his toe in the free agency frenzy, has pulled off a few big signings. After the first few days it seemed like all of the Packers free agents were finding new addresses and not too many players were venturing into Wisconsin.

First let’s revisit the Packers departures.

Gone are JC Tretter (Cleveland), Eddie Lacy (Seattle), Julius Peppers (Carolina), T.J. Lang (Detroit) and Micah Hyde (Buffalo). That is a lot of talented big bodies leaving town.

Tretter was a reliable, multi-positional lineman who spent time starting and backing up guys on the offensive line. He is a sound blocker with strong upper body and great technique. He will be missed.

Lacy and his ever-concerning weight is now the concern of the Seattle Seahawks. He received a one-year, $5.5 million contract to earn the starting RB role for the Hawks.

Eddie started off great last year but then hit injured reserve just six weeks into the season. The Packers were left scurrying to fill the void most of the year but managed with Ty Montgomery, James Starks, Christine Michael and Aaron Ripkowski.

It will be too bad to not chant “Eddie” but his role can be replaced. Gone is the best smile in the NFL. 

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Julius Peppers is heading back to where his NFL career started in Carolina. A future Hall-of-Famer, a strong locker room presence and a great guy. His 7.5 sacks will be missed as well.

That said, Peppers was relegated to a second-and-long and third-down linebacker in his last year with the Packers as he was noticeably a little slower off the edge and didn’t always get the push he has done in the past.

Is he still a freak of nature? Yes, most definitely but he is a shell of his former self. Peppers’ production can be duplicated but not necessarily in his leadership.

T.J. Lang had a phenomenal season last year protecting Aaron Rodgers and paving a path for the running backs. So well that he was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl selection. There is no way of understating this but he is the biggest loss the Packers suffered this offseason.

The Packers pushed out Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton last year, and Ted Thompson has done it again with Lang. Realize that the guard position is not as vital in the overall scheme of things as a right tackle or a center but losing three starting caliber guards (Lang, Tretter and Sitton) in one calendar year is going to be very tough to fill.

Let’s hope Thompson knows what he is doing.

Micah Hyde, quietly, played all four defensive back positions for the Packers without really missing a beat. He had his moments were he may have missed a tackle or just a step slow to pick or knock down a pass. Yet, overall, Hyde knew his assignments and made many plays when they really needed him to. Especially last year. He was sixth on the team with 58 tackles last year.

Hyde is replaceable too but it was nice to have a guy who was so versatile on defense and even spent time returning punts.

On the positive side of the free agency period for the Packers, they retained their 2016 team sack leader Nick Perry and brought in not one but two quality tight ends: Lance Kendricks and recent Super Bowl winner in Martellus Bennett.

There has always been a knock on Perry since the Packers drafted him in the first round with the 28th pick of the 2012 draft. He seemingly spent a lot more time on IR than he did on the field. Perry has had injuries that has kept him from doing the things the Packers thought he could give them when they drafted him.

Perry entered last season in good shape and health which gave him and the coaching staff some hope. In a nutshell, Perry made up for lost time, exploding with 11 sacks to lead the team and added 52 tackles to boot.

Thompson decided to reward Perry’s efforts with a five-year, $60 million offer last week, with $18.5 million guaranteed.

In a home coming of sort the Packers signed former Milwaukee native and Wisconsin Badger Lance Kendricks to a two-year, $4 million contract.

Kendricks is a good blocker and pass catcher. He collected 50 passes last year with just short of 500 yards and brought in two touchdowns. He isn’t flashy, but does his job and does it well.

Kendricks will give the Packers another weapon for Aaron Rodgers. His game is similar to former teammate and seemingly departing Jared Cook.

“Marty” Bennett is not unfamiliar with the Green Bay Packers. Bennett spent three years in the Windy City. Bennett had 210 catches (90 in 2014) while he adorned the navy blue helmet.

Last year, he ventured to the east and decided to catch passes from future Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady. That proved to be a good move. All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski spent a lot of the season injured which gave Bennett more than his share of time on the field. He caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns.

To top it off, he earned a Super Bowl ring. Not too shabby.

Ted Thompson stopped the free agency bleeding the Packers had on Day 2 by giving Bennett a three-year, $21 million contract with $7.2 million guaranteed. Bennett was quick to display his happiness by posting a selfie on his Instagram account with a Packers hat on, and wrote “happy birthday to me!”.

That could have been taken as excitement for his $21 million paycheck but there was another reason too… he agreed to the deal on his 30th birthday.

To top it off, at a conference call this week, when asked what he can do in the Packers offense he responded brilliantly: “I can do a lot of s**t,” Bennett said. Somewhere Aaron Rodgers has a huge smile.

The most recent signing saw cornerback Davon House return from Jacksonville to a one-year contact. This will help the Packers defensive backfield.

They also re-signed pass rusher Jayrone Elliott. Datone Jones moved within the division to put on the purple and yellow uniform next year.

Free agency is not done yet but so far the Packers have had a surprisingly eventful start to the year. Bring on the draft.

Next: Top 30 moments in Green Bay Packers history

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