It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers have plenty of money to spend this offseason, the question all along has been how much of that nearly $30 million in cap space is general manager Ted Thompson, notoriously stingy when it comes to free agents, actually going to spend.
Well according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Packers are going to be active participants in free agency this year and not just in terms of re-signing their own players but signing actual free agents.
From Total Access: I’m told #Packers plan to spend money on outside free agents this year with nearly $30M in cap space. Could most in years
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 13, 2014
When I first saw this my first thought was yes!! Then I realized this is Ted Thompson we are talking about and even though the Packers have money to spend, I don’t expect him to get crazy, nor should he.
However, I am hopeful that Thompson and the Packers have finally realized that relying on the draft solely to build a roster has its pitfalls — like when the players you draft don’t turn out the way you expected.
Make no mistake, the majority of your impact players should come from the draft. But the fact of the matter is that the draft is a crap shoot and as recent history suggests, the Packers aren’t guaranteed to find an impact player even in the first round.
Looking back on the last four first round picks of the Packers: Bryan Bulaga, Derrick Sherrod, Nick Perry and Datone Jones and you realize it’s not a stellar list.
Bulaga is a pro-bowl caliber offensive tackle when healthy. Yet, his biggest problem is just that, staying healthy. The former Iowa product missed the entire 2013 season and who knows if he will be able to return to form in 2014.
Sherrod has played in a just a few games after being drafted to be the Packers left tackle of the future in 2011. He looked promising in a few starts that season but broke his leg in Week 15 and has barely seen the field since.
2012-first rounder Nick Perry has shown flashes when on the field but he has played in just 17 games, started only 11 in two seasons due to injury. In those 17 games, Perry has made plays with six sacks and three forced fumbles, while also being strong against the run but it doesn’t help much if he can’t be counted on to.
Jones had a somewhat disappointing rookie season but still posted three and a half sacks and will hopefully take the big leap young players often do during their second seasons.
Looking back on that track record doesn’t make one feel good that whoever the Packers select in early May will come in right away and make a difference, that’s why its encouraging to hear that the organization is finally getting serious about free agency.
Surely, the Packers have noticed that their two biggest hurdles in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, have been active in free agency over the past few seasons and looks where it’s taken them.
The 49ers certainly accelerated their rebuilding process when they signed Justin Smith, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner as unrestricted free agents. Each one of those players became a key starter on the one of the league’s best defenses.
And just ask the Seahawks if they thought spending the money on pass-rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett last offseason was worth it — the answer is an resounding yes.
Obviously, the focus of any free agent pursuits should be on defense, where the Packers are in desperate need of impact players to overhaul a unit that ranked 25th in the NFL last season.
Yet, Green Bay also has plenty of work to do with its own free agents as Jermichael Finley, Sam Shields, B.J. Raji, James Jones, Ryan Pickett and Evan Dierich-Smith, all starters in 2013 are set to hit the open market.
So at the end of the day do I believe the report that the Packers are going to be active in free agency?
Yes, I believe they are going to spend money on keeping some of their own players — in terms of them going on a free agent spending spree, I’ll believe it when I see it. At the very least, it seems the Packers have begun to realize than tweaks are needed to their roster-building model and that’s a positive sign regardless of what happens this offseason.