Hello, Packers fans. And welcome to March Madness. No, not the basketball tournament getting underway. We're talking about Ted Thompson signing free agents, including an unrestricted free agent for the first time in five years. It's been quite a week. Let's get to your questions.
I'll be writing about this more next week, but this idea the Packers have lost a ton is sort of ridiculous. They certainly haven't lost as much as their raw numbers indicate. And most of what the Packers, there's already identifiable replacements. Micah Hyde is gone, but Kentrell Brice showed he can rotate in at safety, and Davon House gives them much-needed veteran experience at the corner position. Jared Cook is gone, but the tight end position is measurably better with Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. The two areas of need that have been created in the past week are right guard and running back, with T.J. Lang and Eddie Lacy leaving. Neither is a primary position. It should be manageable to replace both through the draft, with plenty of picks left over for defense. Bottom line: Thompson has had a solid free agency period, but the spring will come down to what it always comes down to, namely hitting in the draft.
I generally agree. At this point, I think the Packers could take the best player available at these three positions: OLB, CB and RB. Preferably, it would be one of the defensive positions, but if the Packers feel they can find a game-changing running back in the first round, it's a wise investment. Thompson has an extensive history of finding starting offensive linemen in the middle rounds, and will probably have to do that again.
Ted Thompson is the general delivering marching orders in the Packers front office. Everything starts and ends with him.
T.J. Lang is one of the best guards in the NFL, and his market price is what the Lions paid. The Lions certainly didn't overpay for Lang, if you look at the market. But you can argue the market price for guards, approaching $10 million APY, is higher than the position's value on the field. Certainly that's how Ted Thompson looked at it. And running back is in the same light. Neither position is as important to an offense as tight end. The NFL is all about matchups, and tight ends dictate matchups.
The medical reports on T.J. Lang's hip surgery have been good, and he's expected to be fine for training camp. I think you're right, Ted Thompson hasn't drafted as well in recent years as he did at the beginning. But I also think the number of defections is a reflection of having 11 unrestricted free agents hitting the market from your locker room in a league with more than $1 billion in combined salary cap. There's no way you can pay for all of them.
I expect the Packers to exercise Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's fifth-year team option they got from drafting him in the first round. So, no, he won't be walking in a year. Also think the Packers extend him before he ever reaches the open market.
Yeah, and the sky is literally falling too. Look, T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton are good players, but they're guards. Letting any guard walk can't be that major of a mistake, because they're guards. That's the nature of football. Even with the need to draft a running back and guard, the Packers should still have enough picks to draft two OLBs and CBs before the late rounds. It's not like they're running out of picks. In related news, the sky is actually not falling.
Because they could get him for almost the league minimum, at which point he provides worthwhile value on a 90-man offseason roster. He'll have to earn his job on the 53.
Off the top of my head, the Packers are roughly $24M or $25M under the 2017 salary cap. It'll take a shade under $6M (I think it's $5.8M) to sign their draft picks. They rolled $8M over from last season. I know this gets complicated, but if you look at it, they've got about $10M to work with. And the best bet is they're a year away from extending Aaron Rodgers. Certainly enough money left for a mid-level deal (or maybe two), but plenty other teams have more cap space without the need to extend a franchise quarterback in one year.
Don Hutson strenuously objects.
I'm still not convinced the Packers will be sticking by Letroy Guion. Remember, they took a long time before walking away from Mike Pennel. Maybe Guion will be back. Let's see how it plays out.
Another thing we need to see play out. A long way to go until the season, but I think the best bet is next year's starting right guard is currently entering the draft.
Another point on filling right guard: expect it to be a revolving door early. Plenty of guys will get a shot. But Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy are built like tackles, not guards. And you don't move Bryan Bulaga, one of the league's best right tackles, off his spot. All that leads me to believe the Packers will do what they usually do, looking to the middle rounds to draft a starting guard.
I think you're mostly right here. T.J. Lang is the biggest loss, not only because he's a very good player but because there's no immediate replacement on the roster. (Even the RB position has Ty Montgomery.) At the end of the day, it's the guard position. Signing two athletic, pass-catching tight ends is better than letting Lang and Lacy walk is bad, if that makes sense.
Nah. Ideally, you want four tight ends on your 53. Richard Rodgers now becomes a solid No. 3 tight end, a role he should do well in. And he's inexpensive on a rookie deal.
I think this is a trickier transition than moving on from Josh Sitton. Because everyone knew Lane Taylor would be next in line; it's just that nobody knew how he'd do. Without Lang, there's no immediate, clear-cut replacement on the roster. So there's more uncertainty, but Ted Thompson does draft offensive linemen very well. So there's also a track record of making this type of transition work.
Same for the 2012 draft: only Nick Perry and Mike Daniels remain. Same for the 2011 draft: only Randall Cobb, though Davon House has returned. It's been a string of bad drafts for Thompson. Which is to show how difficult it is to hit in the draft every year, and a reason free agency is important.
I actually think there's a good chance the Packers offense is better with Martellus Bennett/Lance Kendricks and without T.J. Lang/Eddie Lacy/Jared Cook than it was the other way around. But I'm someone who really values the tight end position, and especially having two.
They could draft two RBs and a OL, and still have five picks left over for defense. Of which four could be spent on CBs and OLBs. The numbers aren't as dire as you think. Ted Thompson has plenty of picks for defense. It just comes down to him hitting on those picks.
It wouldn't be the worst idea at the right price. But the Packers need to get younger at OLB through the draft, not older through free agency. Connor Barwin doesn't do that. So I hardly see him as a must-sign player.
Haven't been able to hear much on how the Packers view the RB market. Ted Thompson strikes me as a GM who's more likely to fill that position through the draft, valuing youth at a position that's important to have youth.
If by accountable you mean fired, you'll be waiting a long time. If every GM was fired for a string of bad drafts, there'd be no GMs. The draft is guesswork. That's why filling holes through good free-agent deals is important. Even the best draft scouts (and Thompson certainly still qualifies in that group) get it wrong about as often as they get it right.