So Ted’s not done – he signed utility defensive lineman (and Dunkin Donuts baron) Ricky Jean-Francois to a one-year deal for $3 million.
In terms of impact, I’m looking for contributions somewhere between Letroy Guion and Howard Green (hopefully not another Phillip Merling or Anthony Hargrove). This isn’t franchise-changing, but it is important for a number of reasons.
First, the Packers defensive line needs depth and more veteran presence. A 3-4 line typically needs to rotate 6 guys in order to be effective. With Guion suspended, that only leaves five-year vet (and total bad#ss) Mike Daniels with more than two years of experience. RJF has the versatility to play any spot on the line and, at 6-3, is effective plugging the run lanes. Highlights show good awareness and quick instincts, but they clearly weren’t consistent enough to make him a full-time starter.
Second, the guy is a winner. In college, he was on the 2007 LSU National Championship team (quarterbacked by Matt Flynn) that beat the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. With the score tied in the second quarter, RFJ blocked a field goal that shifted the momentum. That’s a big play in a big game and it helped earn him Defensive Player of the Game honors. He also has 11 career NFL playoff games on his resume, including an AFCC appearance with the Colts and a Super Bowl appearance with the 49ers. When you’re looking for veteran leadership and a winning presence in the locker room, this is the kind of stuff you look for.
Finally, he doesn’t count towards compensatory picks since he was cut. This is one of the reasons why the Packers don’t bring in a lot of veterans – they would rather just get comp picks and draft guys like Josh Sitton and Mike Daniels with them (they’re way younger, so they get hurt less, and they’re cheaper). Bringing veterans in to fight for snaps raises the competitive intensity – this can help the young guys grow up quicker. The Patriots have done this better than anyone – with Chris Long being the latest example – and they seem to have done alright.
Maybe this is what people meant when they said the Packers would surprise us in free agency this year. He didn’t mean signing AJ Bouye, he meant bringing in proven veteran role players like Davon House, Lance Kendricks, and RJF. These aren’t the top-flight over-priced guys and they aren’t the unproven young projects that you take a flier on and hope for the best. These are vets who have hit their ceiling, not superstars, but valuable contributors to a team, guys who will give you quality snaps in secondary roles. They’re the glue of the roster.
Last year our defense needed more glue. Now we have some.
But I think the biggest impact of this move is just the fact that Ted Thompson signed someone, which should makes a lot of whiners shut up for like a day and a half.