Packers free agency review: Loss of Micah Hyde, Julius Peppers hurt defense

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 8: Micah Hyde /

The Green Bay Packers’ decision to let Micah Hyde and Julius Peppers walk in free agency a year ago proved to be a mistake.

Looking into the NFL crystal ball is never easy.

A classic example of this is Casey Hayward. Few complained when the Green Bay Packers let him walk away two years ago, myself included. The Packers looked set with the trio of Sam Shields, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.

Randall and Rollins had solid rookie seasons, and the position looked deep.

Fast forward to the present day, and it has proved to be one of Ted Thompson‘s biggest mistakes as general manager.

Hayward has since made two trips to the Pro Bowl, landed a pair of second-team All-Pro honors and also led the league in interceptions in 2016.

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Thompson made two more big mistakes in 2017, allowing both Micah Hyde and Julius Peppers to walk.

Again, looking into the crystal ball is never easy.

Prior to free agency last offseason, I wrote two articles. One was why the Packers needed to make re-signing Hyde a priority. That one turned out pretty well. The other? Not so much.

The second article was about why the team needed to replace Peppers, despite the fact he had continued to play well in 2016. Yeah, I got that one horribly wrong.

Let’s first look at Hyde.

The hybrid defensive back wore a number of hats in Dom Capers’ defense, and he was a rare bright spot in an otherwise awful 2016 season for the Packers’ secondary.

The Packers viewed him as replaceable, but Hyde made sure to prove otherwise, recording five interceptions in his first season with the Bills. He was named a second-team All-Pro and is heading to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Peppers, meanwhile, recorded 11 sacks with the Panthers, tied for No. 11 in the NFL. Know a team that struggled to rush the passer in 2017? Oh yeah, that would be the same one that let Peppers walk out the building just months earlier.

But that’s the NFL. Sometimes teams make moves they live to regret. I wonder if 23 teams are satisfied with their decision to pass up on Aaron Rodgers in 2005?

Thompson made some good calls last year, particularly at running back.

He decided to get younger at the position, replacing Eddie Lacy, James Starks and Christine Michael with Ty Montgomery and rookies Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones and Devante Mays.

Next: Packers: 12 players that need to go this offseason

Unfortunately for the Packers, last year’s free agency mistakes outweigh the positives. The decision to replace Jared Cook with Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks quickly backfired.

Letting Hyde and Peppers walk turned out to be another bad call, and the Packers paid the price on defense.