We’ve long talked about the fact that the Green Bay Packers low-ball free agents. Not only (and especially) outside players, but also their own. That is, when they even offer a contract at all.
It was a tenet of the Ted Thompson era. Apparently, little has changed under new general manager Brian Gutekunst.
Pete Dougherty explains that, despite the Packers being interested in more free agents under Gutekunst, the modus operandi hasn’t really changed when it comes to making competitive offers.
I talked with two agents this week who said the Packers’ recruiting pitch is still pushing for discounts because of (Aaron) Rodgers and the team’s rich history, only — unlike under Thompson — more agents are hearing it this year. All that’s done is create a lot more smoke without more fire, at least so far.
The pitch is pretty simple. Aaron Rodgers gives you a chance at winning a Super Bowl every year. Plus, we’re the Green Bay Packers — home of 13 championships — not, say, the Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars.
And as we all know at this point, that pitch is bullshit. Rodgers’ greatness and ability to lift the Packers is surely attractive. However, money is typically more attractive. The Packers’ recent history with free agents tells us exactly that.
As Dougherty points out, the Packers are essentially taking the New England Patriots’ approach. Come play with a great quarterback in Tom Brady and have a shot at winning a Super Bowl every year. The difference is, the Patriots actually have a legit shot at winning the Super Bowl every year. They’ve won five and been to eight with Brady. They’ve been in eight consecutive AFC Championship games. The AFC is much easier to navigate than the NFC.
The Packers can’t lay claim to a record anything like that.
In fact, in recent years, they have continued to ignore roster holes for their draft-and-develop philosophy.
We will give Gutekunst credit for being aggressive and outbidding other suitors for free agent tight end Jimmy Graham this offseason. Gutekunst was on Graham as soon as free agency began and did more to sign him than his former team, the New Orleans Saints. Most thought Graham to the Saints was a done deal. So it isn’t as if nothing has changed.
However, the only other free agent Gutekunst has signed is defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, on an incentive-laden one-year deal. And the main reason for that signing was because Wilkerson wants to try to revive his career with his former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
Meanwhile, the Packers sit with a gaping hole (or holes) at cornerback. Despite being connected to any number of guys and signing Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller to an ill-advised offer sheet, the Packers have yet to shore up that position.
Perhaps they still will be able to with a stop-gap veteran signing that might work out for one year. Or perhaps they’ll just have to go to the draft for that position again.
This isn’t all on Gutekunst, either. Now vice president of football operations Russ Ball holds the purse strings. And instead of reporting to the general manger, brilliant team president Mark Murphy now has Ball, Gutekunst and coach Mike McCarthy all reporting directly to him. It’s an idiotic power structure that will fail, if it isn’t already.
This isn’t to say the Packers should start spending like drunken sailors on shore leave. However, there are reasonable things they could have done to fix their weakest positions. There still are, but now you’re looking at the second- and third-tier guys to do so.
Is that going to make you a legitimate Super Bowl contender? Probably not.
The Packers aren’t flush with salary cap space, with around $20 million available. That said, if you can sign Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet that was going to pay him $14 million in 2018, you can surely go out and get some other guys you need without low-balling them.
Do I believe Brian Gutekunst had a plan coming into this offseason?
But either he didn’t execute it very well or someone else stopped him from executing as he really wanted. And that latter scenario is what you probably get when you have four guys — one with no experience — meddling in the management of football operations.