Before NFL free agency even began, Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told the media that people might be surprised by what the Packers do this off-season.
Well so far, surprised isn’t the word I would use. It has been business as usual for the Packers and honestly, with all the insane money flying around last week, it was the smart thing to do.
Green Bay did bring back Nick Perry, which I thought was a solid move. They also made a smart under-the-radar signing in Lane Taylor. However, if we are all going to be as surprised as McCarthy suggested we would be, the Packers will need to do something a little more unexpected.
Like signing former Rams defensive end Chris Long.
I am sure I am going to get ripped and told that Ted Thompson doesn’t sign free agents. The truth, is that for the most part, that’s correct. But every once in a while, Thompson will surprise and I think one player he would possibly go after, as long as the price was right, is Long.
Let me explain.
Thompson gets criticized all the time for his work, or lack of it in free agency, but actually, if you look at his record, you’d see he’s actually stupendous. The notable free agents he has signed are Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Brandon Chillar and Julius Peppers. Three of those four players got another contract with Green Bay and Peppers played all three years of his deal.
Those things don’t happen. I mean look at all the big money guys that are cut each and every day leading up to the start of the new league year and beyond. Yet, you never see the Packers doing that and not with some big-money free agent that didn’t pan out, cause under Thompson’s watch, it’s never happened.
Thompson is also smart enough to go after players, who have been waived so it doesn’t hurt the Packers chances of getting a compensatory draft pick, which is another reason why I think Long makes sense.
Another reason he makes sense is that when healthy and close to 100 percent, he’s a Pro-Bowl caliber player. He can make an impact and I think he would thrive in Green Bay under Dom Capers.
Long, who has played as a defensive end in a 4-3 for most of his career, could join Peppers as a stand-up outside linebacker in the 3-4. The man has 54.5 career sacks and even though he had just 4.5 in 18 games over the past two seasons, he’s not that far removed from being a double-digit sack guy.
I am not saying he needs to be or can be that guy in Green Bay. But, I do think he could be an outstanding pass-rusher both on the edge and inside. He’s long and athletic and if he were only asked to play 40-50 percent of the snaps, like he would be in Green Bay, he could flourish.
With Mike Neal a free agent, the Packers could sign Long, who is still just 30 years old and fit him into that role. Green Bay is already lacking depth at the outside linebacker spot, so why not take a shot on a guy, who could not only help you this year, but maybe would even replace Peppers as the starter next season, if all goes according to plan.
It may be pie-in-the-sky thinking — but I think the Packers should seriously consider it. Long is a lot like Peppers and Woodson were when they came to Green Bay. People believe he’s past his prime and injury-prone.
Signing in Green Bay, with the Packers, could give him the perfect chance to prove everyone wrong. Just as Woodson and Peppers did.
If he does, we will finally all know what the hell McCarthy was talking about.