Remember when the most exciting part of free agency was hoping no NFC contenders signed anyone good?
Well, it looks like those days are gone!
The Packers have a GM that proved last year that he will pursue players from other teams. In an offseason where the Packers don’t look likely to garner a lot of compensatory picks (if any), now may be the time to go for some pricier options in free agency.
Now, I don’t believe that you can build a winner by signing big name free agents – that’s nonsense – but I do believe that a team like the Packers can benefit with some nice second and third tier signings (like Muhammad Wilkerson and Jared Cook in previous years).
Looking at the position the Packers find themselves in as the league year begins, Gutey should have a lot wiggle room, primarily because he doesn’t have a lot of critical guys to re-sign. Here’s a list of the biggest names on the Packers roster coming up for free agency (with their 2018 cap number):
- Clay Matthews ($13.2M)
- Randall Cobb ($10M)
- Muhammad Wilkerson ($5M)
- Marcedes Lewis ($2M)
- Lance Kendricks ($2M)
- Byron Bell ($1.6M)
Really, is there a name on that list that is gonna be re-signed for more? It’s not a stretch to think they’ll clear up at least $20M (if not $20M) on those guys alone.
Then you have some role players like Geronimo Allison, Bashaud Breeland, Jake Ryan, Kentrell Brice, and Reggie Gilbert all making less than $1M. Some of these guys may get another contract, but none of them will break the bank.
When I look at that list, I could live with re-signing none of them. I’d like to see Breeland re-signed and I wouldn’t mind seeing MoWil come back at a similar deal, but that’s about it. If the team wants the veteran presence of CM3 (who I don’t think will be back) or Cobb, but it would need to be in a rotational role at a huge discount (which probably won’t happen – some team will give them way too much on name recognition).
So what will Gutey do this year?
Will he take another spin on the wheel of tight ends and go after Tyler Eifert or even Jared Cook (that would prove that Gute isn’t Ted) since the team clearly needs bodies at the position?
Will he look for a veteran guard like Roger Saffold or Quinton Spain – who LaFleur worked with in Tennessee – to fix the guard position that was below mediocre last year?
Try to steal a division rival like Ziggy Ansah?
Go all out and make a play for a stud edge like DeMarcus Lawrence or Jadeveon Clowney? Go lower down the list for Dee Ford or Dante Fowler?
Maybe even go on the cheap and try for someone like Cameron Wake in a rotational pass rush role?
What about the back-end of the defense where they could go after guys they passed on this year like Eric Reid, or Tyrann Matheiu? Maybe even Earl Thomas, now that he won’t require draft pick compensation?
Let’s not forget that there’s a lot of veteran kickers coming up, too with guys like Stephen Gostkowski are looking for new homes.
Spotrac puts the Packers 2019 salary cap at right around $43M. Take out around $8M for the rookie pool and the Packers have around $34M.
Add to that the fact that they have three of the first 44 picks and six of the first 118 in a draft that is thick in the middle, and there’s a lot of opportunity and reason for optimism.
They need starters at Edge, Guard, and Safety, and could use depth and upgrades in a few other places, but they have all the resources they need if they play their cards right.
Either way, it should be fun to watch.