Packers: GM Brian Gutekunst needs a signature signing

Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

In his second year as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, Brian Gutekunst needs to find a signature free agent the way his predecessors have.

In 1993, free agency was entering a new era. Gone were the days where the gaining team would have to give something to the losing team in order to sign their player or “Plan B” free agency.

A players lawsuit led by Reggie White would usher in a new way of doing business in free agency and allow players to enter into unrestricted free agency. At the time, anyone with over five accrued seasons (later lowered to four) was allowed to become a free agent.

Of that first class, the lead name on the lawsuit would also become the biggest fish in the new free agent pond. At that time no on would have thought the tiny team from Green Bay would have a shot at landing Reggie White.

But that’s just what Ron Wolf, legendary GM of the Packers, did. The Packers signed Reggie White to a four-year, $17 million deal. Some say he got an assist from God, but the voice on an answering machine sounded an awful lot like coach Mike Holmgren.

From there the rest was history. White would go on to play six seasons in Green Bay, helping the team reach two Super Bowls, winning one. White also brought home defensive player of the year honors in 1998 his last year with the Packers.

Not only did White help the team return to glory, he also showed other free agents that Green Bay was no longer the Siberia of the NFL. Green Bay was now a spot players wanted to go.

Fast forward 13 years to 2006. Ron Wolf is no longer the general manager of the Packers but one of his pupils, Ted Thompson, is now in charge and looking to make his mark. Despite Thompson’s disdain for free agency in his later years as GM, Thompson did use it early to help build the Packers.

In his second season as GM, Thompson found the “Reggie” he was looking for. Instead of a high profile free agent everyone was pinning to sign, the Packers found Charles Woodson.

Woodson was a first-round pick at cornerback for the Oakland Raiders in 1998, taking home defensive rookie of the year honors as well as being named All-Pro three times. But by the time Woodson hit free agency in 2006, injuries had taken a toll on him and many believed his best days were behind him.

The market wasn’t booming for Woodson the way he thought it would be. Most teams that showed interest in Woodson wanted him to move to safety. In the days before the 2006 draft, it came down to Tampa Bay or Green Bay. Signing with Tampa would have reunited Woodson with the coach that drafted him in Jon Gruden, but Tampa was believed to be offering much less than Green Bay.

So Woodson signed a seven-year contract worth up to $52 million.

Things didn’t start out as rosy for Woodson and the Packers as they did with Reggie White. But they eventually did find equal ground and in 2009; Woodson played perhaps his best season as a pro earning defensive player of the year honors. And the next season Woodson and the team brought home the ultimate goal, winning Super Bowl 45.

There is no telling if that player is in this free agent class. Gutekunst already showed he’s not afraid to go out there and see if that player is out there though. He made a promise to be involved in every conversation and he has held true to it.

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This doesn’t mean that Gutekunst should try and sign every player to a contract or suggest he should max out the Packers for the one guy he thinks might be the next Reggie or Woodson, but if he can find that guy who helps this team catch magic the way they did, the Packers and Gutekunst could have their destiny set.