Packers’ Free Agent Frenzy – It’s All Relative
New Green Bay Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst hasn’t gone hog-wild with free agent signings – it only seems that way after 13 years of Ted Thompson.
To date, Gutekunst and his front office team have brought in QB DeShone Kizer (via trade), tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, and cornerback Tramon Williams. That’s a good haul, and it would undoubtedly be greater if the team had more money available under the salary cap.
About half of the more than 500 eligible free agents are signed up in the first 10 days or so, which began on March 14 – most of these players are among the higher-rated prospects.
The Packers are remaining active in what is termed the second wave of free agency. In the last few days, the Packers have taken a look at receiver Jordan Matthews and cornerback Delvin Breaux. By the time you read this, they might have invited another player or two for a visit to Lambeau. They are appear to be trying to re-sign Davon House.
Other Teams’ Free Agency Moves
While Green Bay has been far more active than usual during this free agency period, they still are less busy than are most NFL teams.
Seventeen teams have to date brought in up to seven new players, counting re-signing of their own free agent players. The most cautious teams have been the Ravens, Falcons, Steelers, and Packers with four acquisitions each.
Four teams have made five moves, six teams have made six, and three teams have made seven moves.
Moving up the ladder, Carolina has made eight moves, Jacksonville nine, Detroit 10, and Cleveland, Kansas City, and Buffalo 11. Four teams have made 12 moves: the Dolphins, the Giants, the Seahawks, and the Buccaneers.
That leaves three teams who have gone wild over the past two weeks. Chicago has had the third most active spring, with 14 players signed up. We’re talking some big contracts: CB Kyle Fuller, $56 million, four years; WR Allen Robinson, $42 million, three years; TE Trey Burton, $32 million, four years; CB Prince Amukamara, $27 million, three years; and WR Taylor Gabriel, $26 million, four years. For these five players alone, Chicago has a potential payout of $183 million.
Those New York Jets have already made 16 offseason deals. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson got a massive five-year deal for $72.5 million. They also have inked new deals for two quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater ($5 million, one year), and 38-year old Josh McCown signed a second one-year deal with the team, this time for $10 million instead of $6 million. It’s clear that few people think Bridgewater will ever be the same after a gruesome knee injury in 2016.
The biggest wheeler-dealers? Befitting a team about to move to Las Vegas, it’s none other than the Oakland Raiders – a team with multiple Green Bay connections. GM Reggie McKenzie was a Green Bay front office executive from 1994 through 2011; this is his seventh year with the Raiders. New Raiders’ head coach Jon Gruden – the $100 million man – was with the Packers from 1992 through 1994, mostly as a wide receivers coach. Interesting: a former receivers coach jumped at the chance to acquire former Packers’ receiver Jordy Nelson.
The Raiders have signed up three linebackers and two quarterbacks, tight ends, cornerbacks, safeties, and running backs. Though quarterback Derek Carr was already under contract for $25 million on average through 2022, McKenzie acquired both E.J. Manuel and Josh Johnson as backups. Almost all of Oakland’s signing have been modest ones. The exceptions include linebacker Tahir Whitehead at $18 million-plus for three years, and Jordy’s two-year deal for $15 million. Running back Doug Martin’s price tag has yet to be announced.
So, relatively speaking, Gutekunst has made a cautious and deliberative entry into his first NFL free agency sweepstakes.
The Biggest Gamble of the Year in the NFL
Did you hear about the trade that the Jets made with the Colts? The Jets had the sixth overall draft choice, but they wanted to move up. The Jets pretty obviously have one of the top three most highly-rated quarterbacks in mind. I’m not sure who that is, but many feel they are after UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
In moving up the Jets handed over to the Colts their No. 6, No. 37, and No. 49 overall picks, and they even threw in their second-round pick in 2019.
Earlier in the month, I did a post about trading up for draft choices that referenced the Interactive Trade Chart (or Interactive Draft Value Chart) used by NFL teams when negotiating such trades. According to the chart, the Jets have lost their senses.
The chart values a No. 3 overall pick at 2,200 points. The point values of what the Jets gave up are: No. 6, 1,600; No. 37, 530; No. 49, 410; and No. 37 (in 2019), as much as 500. The total is just over 3,000 points. To approximately even things out, chart-wise, the Colts would also have had to give the Jets the 21st overall pick. The Colts can’t lose on this deal, whereas the Jets are betting everything on the quarterback they want.
The quarterback class in this draft might pay some dividends to the Packers. The most coveted guys are: Sam Darnold, USC; Josh Rosen, UCLA; Josh Allen, Wyoming; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; and Lamar Jackson, Louisville. Four of the five are likely to be chosen prior to Green Bay making the 14th overall selection.
Because teams are so greedily seeking the next great NFL QB and because a quarterback isn’t on the Packers’ shopping list, the Packers might actually be in line to choose the 10th or 11th best overall player in this draft, which is almost as good as a three- or four-position trade-up.
The Packers truly have a great opportunity to turn their fortunes around two or three years from now. It’s all up to Gutekunst and his scouting team.