2014 NFL Free Agency: The Story So Far

Mike Neal of the Green Bay PackersWell, it started out with a bang. According to The Boston Globe, NFL teams spent a whopping $324 million in guaranteed money in the first two days of free agency in 2014. This is compared to only $107 million at the same point the previous year. Now that a few weeks have past and the dust has settled, we can start to reflect on the moves that the Packers have made so far.

It wasn’t very exciting to start out, same old Packers, same old Ted Thompson. There were no big names coming to the Packers, just familiar ones. Free agency isn’t a sprint though, it’s a marathon.

Ted Thompson started out with all the right moves by resigning his own players and restraining from the big name/big money players. I gave this strategy a thumbs up, and thanks to it, the Packers resigned key free agents such as Sam Shields, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless, B.J. Raji, and James Starks. However, I was disappointed in watching key contributors in James Jones and Evan Dietrich-Smith leave for other teams. It makes sense that the Packers decided not to resign an aging Jones with plenty of young receivers coming up in the draft, but the loss of Dietrich-Smith hurts, especially since he was a player that Rodgers was vocal about keeping on the roster. With the loss of Dietrich-Smith, Rodgers will be on his fourth center in four seasons.

The Packers did manage to break their mold eventually, and just when Packer nation began to lose their patience, Ted Thompson made a bold move and signed former Bears DE Julius Peppers. This surprised me at first, because it is unclear how effective Peppers can be at age 34. However, the Packers do have a plan for him and it will be something that we haven’t seen before in what is called the “Elephant” position. Just the name sounds great and I couldn’t be more excited for what next season has to offer.

Lastly, the Packers did manage to add more depth on the D-Line with the signing of former Viking Letroy Guion. Although he hasn’t been very effective in his 6 years with Minnesota, he is only 26 years old and has a 6-foot-4 315 pound frame. I, and most likely the Packers, am hoping a change of system will compliment his physical assets and prove effective for the Packers next season.

The grade that I would give the Packers for free agency so far is a B+, but it can be moved up to an A if they are able to resign Matt Flynn and eventually restructure the deals of Randal Cobb and Jordy Nelson. What grade would you give the Packers? Do you think they missed out on any players this offseason? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Packers Sack the Bears: Peppers Headed to the Frozen Tundra

“Bears DE Julius Peppers and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers embrace after learning that they will be teammates in 2014.”“Bears DE Julius Peppers and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers embrace after learning that they will be teammates in 2014.”

Well that was unexpected! It’s hard to believe that the Packers started talking to Peppers, shipped him to Green Bay, and got him signed before anyone even spoke a word about it! I woke up this morning to a photo of Julius Peppers standing in Lambeau field, and honestly, I believe this is a great move.

Although Peppers is coming off of a “down” year compared to his usual standards, he can still be a highly productive player and at the price the Packers paid, it is a win-win situation. According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Peppers contract contains 7.5 million in guarantees and will only count 3.5 million against the cap in 2014. Do fans still want DeMarcus Ware? Peppers numbers and impact were better than his last year and his 7.5 in guarantees can’t compare to Ware’s 20 million guaranteed.

Peppers will also bring something that the Packers were glaringly missing on defense last year in their first season without Charles Woodson, veteran leadership. Not only will he help the defense with his ability to rush the QB, but with young players on the D-Line like Mike Daniels, Datone Jones, and the recently resigned Mike Neal, Peppers presence almost certainly will make them better, followed by the rest of the defense.

What is probably the greatest part of this deal, at least to me anyway, is the shocked state of most Bears fans as they watch their beloved player sign off to their most hated NFC North rival. The Bears most certainly cut him due to his 18 million cap hit, and at age 34, it’s hard to blame them. That being said, Peppers still accounted for 29 ½ sacks over the last 3 seasons, and this move will obviously help the Pack and hurt the Bears moving forward. I’m pretty sure Jay Cutler will probably be losing some sleep over the next few months and is regretting that contract extension. Also, does anyone else think that it looks like the Packers basically traded M.D. Jennings for Julius Peppers?

Lastly the scheme difference does slightly concern me. Peppers has been playing in a 4-3 defense all of his career and it will be interesting to watch as he transitions to the Packers 3-4. However, I know that neither the Packers nor Peppers would have made this move if they didn’t believe that it would work. Peppers agent Carl Carey has stated that Peppers has always preferred a 3-4 system and feels like he can excel and thrive in it. But seriously, Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers rushing from the same side!? Next season can’t come soon enough!   

And with that, this is how I feel about the Packers signing of Julius Peppers and I want to know what you think! Do you agree or disagree? Do you think that he will have an impact for Packers next season, or do you think his best years are behind him? Leave a comment and let me know!

Free Agency Frenzy: Is No Move the Right Move?

Sam Shields of the Green Bay PackersWhat a surprise! After a few days into the NFL’s 2014 free agency period, all the Packers have done is resign three of their own players and had a meeting with an aging tight end. It’s no wonder why a majority of Packer fans are voicing their frustration as Ted Thompson continues to sit on his hands while every big name free agent signs off to another team.

But here’s the question, is this bad or actually good for the Packers?

A week ago I would have been leading that mob of frustrated fans raising torches and pitchforks, but after going back and forth and weighing both sides, I’ve had a change of heart. Maybe Ted Thompson isn’t as stubborn as I thought he was, and actually knows what he is doing. Not that unbelievable right?

Unlike Green Bay, it seems that most teams in the NFL don’t get the point of free agency, and every year different teams rush to sign the big name players. They end up being way overpriced and in many situations don’t end up being a great fit, or can’t live up to the money they are paid. Remember Darrelle Revis’s big contract with the Bucs? How long did he last? What did the Buccaneers get out of it? They basically paid him 16 million to rehab his knee. If you want another example, maybe ask Washington if they’re still sour about Albert Haynesworth’s 100 million dollar contract.

Of course Darrelle Revis was traded, but the key still rings true for both traded players and free agents. The key is value, and that most likely isn’t found in the first day of free agency. It’s best to wait for the market to settle down and get players for what you think they are worth rather than what they think they are worth, and lucky for us, the Packers get that.

Now let’s look at some of the teams that have been very active so far in free agency, Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Not exactly model franchises.

But what about Denver? They’re fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and doing everything they can to get in position for another Super Bowl push. This however will come at a great price. Denver is basically mortgaging their future with all the money they are spending right now.According to the Packers own Vic Ketchman, “Their plan is all or nothing.” They know they have a small window with Manning and want to win now. These huge contracts they are giving are most likely back loaded, meaning they’ll have to pay out later, and once that happens they’ll be in a situation like the Cowboys are in this year called salary cap hell. They’ll have to restructure deals and/or cut players. Not really a quality plan for the Packers to follow.

I’m not saying that the Packers shouldn’t sign anyone, in fact, if Ted Thompson doesn’t make a move in the next couple weeks, I’ll be right back leading that mob. The defense has holes to fill and definitely needs more depth which was proven last season, but they don’t have to be filled by the most expensive players. There are still valuable players out there that have something left in the tank.

So relax Packer fans, this year’s draft will be plentiful and filled with players who aren’t past their prime. Would you rather have Stephen Jackson or Eddie Lacy?  ESPN’s Bill Polian couldn’t have said it better. “The real difference-makers will come from the draft. What you look for in free agency, are players who can contribute.”

And with that, this is what I feel about the current free agent situation regarding the Packers. Do you agree or disagree? Are you part of the mob of frustrated fans, or do you trust Ted Thompson? What do you think the Packers should do or should have done? Leave a comment below and let me know!

NFL Free Agents: Five Players That Should be on the Packer’s Radar

NFL free agency is just around the corner and starting next week could signify which teams make a case to be a Super Bowl contender in 2014. Normally this time of year is a snooze fest for Packers fans due to GM Ted Thompson’s draft and develop philosophy, but according to NFL Networks Ian Rapport, this might be the year where the Packers make a splash in free agency.

Based on the $133 million salary cap in 2014, the Packers have $34.7 million available in cap space, which is the sixth most in the league. Although some of this money might go to retaining some key players and extending some contracts, the Packers should be able to pursue some big name free agents this year.

So what can the Packers do with all this money? Here are five free agent possibilities they should explore.

Jarius Byrd of the Buffalo Bills

1. Jarius Byrd, S, Bills: Lucky for the Packers, the best available free agent this offseason is at their greatest need, safety. Arguably one of the top safeties in the NFL, his 22 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles since coming into the league in 2009 speak for themselves in showing his play making ability. The Packer’s defense lacks play makers and Byrd would be a significant upgrade at a position that generated 0 interceptions in 2013. However, a talent like this won’t come cheap. He is looking to become one of the highest paid at the safety position, but with the window getting smaller each season, the Packers can’t afford to be cheap.

Brandon Browner of the Seattle Seahawks

2. Brandon Browner, CB, Seahawks: Although his play declined in 2013 I still believe that Brandon Browner can be an asset in the NFL. A 6’4” 220 pound beast, Browner was the best corner on Seattle not named Richard Sherman. Having won his case to be reinstated to the NFL come free agency, this corner would be a great pickup in a dominant passing league. He is also attractive because there is a good chance he will come cheap. According to Seahawk’s reporter Terry Blount, Browner will be suspended for the first 4 games of the 2014 season. This may make some teams shy away from him, but hopefully not the Packers. Playing in a division with big receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery, a 6’4” Browner can come in and help win key games.

Karlos Dansby of the Arizona Cardinals

3. Karlos Dansby, LB, Cardinals: You may remember this guy from the 51-45 wild-card shootout back in the 2009 playoffs, and his game-winning fumble recovery in overtime. Now we all know that terrible officiating cost the Packers that game, but since they were able to win the Super Bowl the following year, I have gotten over it, and would have no problem accepting this play making linebacker to our team. It’s hard to believe that a defense as dominant as Arizona’s could have been overlooked last year, but when you play in the same division as Seattle and San Francisco, that’s bound to happen. Arizona had the top ranked rush defense in 2013 and Dansby was a big part of it. The Packers were ranked 25th in rush defense in 2013 and adding a play maker like Dansby would be a great piece to add for improvement in the 2014 season.

Lamarr Houston of the Oakland Raiders

4. Lamarr Houston, OLB, DE, DT, Raiders: Coming off a great season with 6 sacks, 69 tackles, and over 1,000 snaps played, Houston was arguably the best player on the Raider’s defense in 2013, and it is a mystery why Oakland hasn’t given him a long term contract. A versatile player, pointed out by MMQB’s Greg Bedard, Houston can play OLB, DE, and DT, which would be great in the Packers 3-4 defense. Combining Houston with Clay Matthews would be lethal, and if Matthews can stay healthy next season, these two players would be able to add consistent pressure to opposing QBs, something the Packers were not able to accomplish last season.

Sidney Rice of the Seattle Seahawks

5. Sidney Rice, WR, Seahawks: After mentioning four defensive players I wanted to finish off this list by adding at least one offensive player, and Sidney Rice would definitely be a good fit for the Packers. If the Packers loose James Jones to free agency, and it looks like they will, they would need to add another receiver to fill his spot. Rice could fill this void and would be a great choice if the Packers can get him cheap. A 6’4” 202 pound receiver, Rice could line up on the outside, and Cobb would be able to continue to play the slot where he is most effective. It would also give Rodgers a taller receiver that could catch some jump balls when he is escaping the pocket.            

And with that, these are the players that I think would be a great help in getting the Packers back to the Super Bowl in 2014. Do you agree or disagree? Who do you think the Packers should pick up in free agency this year? Should they restrain from picking anyone and rebuild in the draft? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!