As we get ready for the 2020 free agency action to start, let’s look back at how Packer fans were feeling about last years moves, which we documented clearly in PFTW’s 2019 Free Agency Time Capsule.
Landon Collins was a must-have since he’s an All Pro safety and we need a safety.
Result: Landon Collins went to the Redskins and had his second straight year with 0 combined interceptions and fumble recoveries. He racked up 117 tackles, but missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in 4 years. I can’t remember one instance of thinking (or hearing anyone else say) “Man, I sure wish we had Landon Collins.” Considering that he signed a 6-year, $84M contract, I would have expected to hear that a lot.
Earl Thomas was the kind of proven vet that would guarantee a Super Bowl (and I only saw a select few fans thought he may possibly get hurt again).
Result: Thomas stayed healthy for 15 games and played well enough to earn a Pro Bowl nod, but it may have been mostly on his name. He had a couple sacks and a couple interceptions, but only 49 tackles (the fewest he’s ever had in at least 15 games). Giving a 4-year $55M contract to a 30 year-old defensive back that will be looking for his first 16-game season in 5 years doesn’t feel like a move that would have made long-term sense given how well the Packers fared at safety this year.
A very large contingent of fans insisted on trading the #30 overall pick for Antonio Brown because there’s “no question he’s a hall of famer” and would lead them to a title (I wasn’t on board).
Result: Um… I think I feel pretty good about my original assessment here. Read more on this topic in Free Agency Review: Wide Receiver Fever 2019.
The media did their darnedest to make a story out of Le’veon Bell to Green Bay.
Result: Bell got a four-year $52.5M deal with the Jets and responded by rushing for 52.6 yards per game and 3 touchdowns – both career lows. Meanwhile Aaron Jones – on a rookie deal – ran for 1,000 yards and led the NFL in touchdowns. Deciding to pay running backs after their rookie deal is a great debate, but the Packers definitely got this one right.
Lots of fans wanted to trade the #30 overall pick for Dee Ford.
Result: Ford played in 11 games, but only started two and finished the year with 6.5 sacks. Given that he received a new five-year contract for $85.5M, it doesn’t seem like it a great value. The Packers did pretty good with using the 30th pick to trade up for Darnell Savage and never lacked for pass rush pressure.
A surprising number of nostalgic fans wanted to bring back TJ Lang and Josh Sitton to solve the problems at guard (even though the two combined to play in – but not finish – a total of 7 games between the two of them in 2018).
Result: Neither of these guys even played last year. Meanwhile Elgton Jenkins looked like a boss and Billy Turner was enough of an upgrade to keep the offense moving. This is another example of why teams move on from players quicker than fans do.
There was a lot of wailing, teeth gnashing, and fans leaving the team after the Packers went 12 hours without signing a free agent. Then they dropped bombs!
Result: Fans need to be a little more patient. This year may not be as exciting.
The team signed Adrian Amos away from the Bears, prompting Chicago fans to universally insist that he’s terrible and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix is way better.
Result: Though Bear fans cling to the silly notion that Dix somehow was a better pickup than Amos, there’s no sensible or logical argument for it. The Packers made out in this one.
The Packers also signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, which got a lot of fans feeling like team’s problems at edge are solved.
Result: The fans were right on this one, the problems at edge were solved by the Smiths, who both started all 16 games and combined for 25.5 sacks. I don’t think anyone realized just how big of an impact these two would have.
Signing Billy Turner seemed like a nice move to get a swing guy on offensive line, but felt a little expensive.
Result: Another one the fans were pretty close on. Yeah, he might be a little expensive, but that’s the nature of free agency. He had his lapses, but he wasn’t terrible. For the 5th best starter, he was actually pretty solid.
On the whole, fans loved it when the Packers signed free agents. This year, they ranged from moderate success to smashing success. However, fans also seemed to lobby for a lot of players that were much better off elsewhere (at least the Packers were better off with them elsewhere).
After looking back at this year’s free agency time capsule, it looks like Gutey knows his stuff.
There’s less cap space to go around this year and more extensions coming due. With a lot of storming out of the way, it will be interesting to see how Gutey moves from cleaning house to housekeeping.
What about other free agents in history?
Reggie White, Drew Brees, and Darrelle Revis all helped their teams win Super Bowls, but stories like Mario Williams, Brock Osweiler, and Dwayne Bowe didn’t have happy endings.
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