Free agency has pretty much wound down and everyone has given their opinion on the moves.
Next year, we’ll do it all again. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s document how everyone is feeling now so that we can learn from it next year and don’t accidentally mis-remember anything (we did the same thing this year when we reviewed how last year’s moves worked out).
Going into 2020 free agency, inside linebacker was a sore spot for the Packers and became the hottest topic in free agency.
No one shed a tear when Blake Martinez left via free agency. Some fans openly rejoiced. Martinez never seemed like an elite talent, but he was productive racking up tackles even if he was light on impact plays. He was very smart and his calls kept the defense in line.
The overwhelming fan favorite in free agency was Rams linebacker Corey Littleton. Hes a fast guy who is great in coverage. He has good range, but didn’t score great in run defense, which is what the Packers need. Still, fans wanted him more than anyone this year. I thought his skillset was a bad fit for the Packers, especially at the cost (3 years, $36M).
Nick Kwiatkowski was another guy a lot of fans wanted to man the inside linebacker spot. He was a backup with the Bears but played well when thrust into a starting role. He eventually signed with the Raiders.
The Packers eventually picked up Christain Kirksey from the Browns (based in part on his relationship with Mike Pettine). Kirksey showed a lot of skill in his first few years, but had been injured the last two. The sentiment was that if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a great pickup.
Of all the free agency pass catchers, Falcons tight end Austin Hooper was the biggest name people were clamoring for. The more I watched him, the less I wanted him. He became the highest-paid tight end in the league, a title he had no business getting, which shoes how ridiculous free agency can be at time. Still, fans were overwhelmingly in support of signing him.
The wide receiver pool was deep, but lacked proven top-end talent. Since the draft class was historically deep at wide receiver, not all the free agents even signed. Robby Anderson was probably the guy fans wanted the most, especially as the market began to dry up, but his deal proved too rich. AJ Green had been a big name for fans going back to the previous offseason, but he was franchised by the Bengals. Many fans still felt it would be worth trading a 1st round pick and paying a huge contract for a 32 year old receiver who missed the entire season with injuries.
The Packers eventually signed Devin Funchess, but it seemed to make Packers fans even more upset than if they’d just not signed anyone at all. His deal was heavily incentive-laden – he actually had the opportunity to make more in performance bonuses that his base salary and signing bonus. Even with his team-friendly, low-risk deal, most fans felt he was injury prone and untalented – no one felt like he was the answer to the Packers wide receiver problems.
On the offensive line, fans were split on the exit of Bryan Bulaga. Everyone felt he was good, but there was a divide on how to value him. A small minority that insisted he was injury prone (despite playing in all the games in 2019 and only missing two games in 2018), but the consensus was that it was time for him to go.
The Packers signed Rick Wagner from the Lions to replace Bulaga. Wagner is a former Badger who has been a steady player as a pro. Most fans looked at him as a swing player, but not the long-term answer. The general hope is that he can man down right tackle until a drafted prospect is ready to take over.
Javon Hargrave didn’t get a lot of attention from Packers fans, but he was the guy I was hoping they would target. He signed with the Eagles.
Everyone was unanimously happy with the re-signing of Tyler Ervin.
Around the Division
Everyone laughed when the Vikings past cap mismanagment came back to bite them and they had to cut a bunch of starters, and lost their top 3 cornerbacks.
Everyone also laughed at the Bears for signing every defensive player they could and trading for Nick Foles (which I actually thought was a solid move). Of course, they laughed the loudest for the decision to give Jimmy Graham a 2 year, $16M deal with a no trade clause.
And everyone laughed at the Lions because, well, they’re the Lions.
Want to learn more about free agency, compensatory picks, and how contract structure impacts the salary cap?
Want to see why Darrelle Revis and Dwayne Bowe were such fascinating cases? Or why the Reggie White situation will never be replicated, even if there ever was someone as talented as him available again?
Well, just in time for free agency, we have the book for you!
A Fan’s Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits and Misses: Case Studies and Lessons From Landmark Signings Throughout History was an Amazon #1 New Release and is available in paperback and e-book. It’s also free on Kindle Unlimited. If you don’t want to pay for the books and you don’t have Kindle Unlimited, you can still read them both for free by getting a free trial of Kindle Unlimited here!
Check out Packers Draft Central 2020 for all our 2020 NFL Draft and Free Agency coverage!