“At Least He Didn’t Make BAD Free Agent Deals”. That might someday be the epitaph on Ted Thompson’s tombstone.
Ted’s replacement, GM Brian Gutekunst, is champing at the bit to lay out gobs of money when the free agent market opens on March 13 (negotiations can begin on March 11). Green Bay is projected to have upwards of $30 million available in cap space available when Gute starts wheeling and dealing.
In an interview with Ian Rapoport at the NFL Combine, Gutekunst spoke expansively:
I think we’ll be really active – I’d like to be really active.. . .We’d like to be a part of a lot of the conversations, and when the opportunities present themselves. . .we’ll be ready to pull the trigger.. . .our team is ready to move into free agency a little bit more that we have (in the past). . .when the opportunities present themselves, we’ll be ready to go.
Depending on how much confidence you have in the Packers reconstituted front office, Gute’s comments might make you wildly excited or leave you paralyzed with fear.
Gutekunst’s Brief Track Record
In his first year at the helm, Gutekunst made two major free agent deals: he got tight end Jimmy Graham for three years for $30 million, and he signed up defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson for one year for $5 million.
The Graham deal made him the highest paid tight end in the league. In the early part of the season, he was hindered by a knee injury, and he played the final six games despite having shattered his thumb against the Seahawks. Even when healthy, however, Graham was not providing a solid return on the team’s investment in him.
Wilkerson lasted fewer than three weeks, when an ankle injury against the Redskins required surgery and ended his season.
Gutekunst recently commented that he’s had to convince player agents that Green Bay will now be a serious contender in the free agency market.
The new GM also picked up cornerback Tramon Williams, tight end Marcedes Lewis, and offensive lineman Byron Bell; Williams wound up starting all 16 games, while Bell started nine before going on IR in mid-December.
Gutekunst also demonstrated he was willing to go after high end players besides Jimmy Graham. He was one of the suitors for OLB Kahlil Macks’s services, and he actually made an offer of $56 million for four years for cornerback Kyle Fuller. In each instance, however, the Bears scuttled Gute’s attempts.
Packers’ Free Agent List
Packers players who are about to become unrestricted free agents are: OLB Clay Matthews, WR Randall Cobb, TE Lance Kendricks, TE Marcedes Lewis, OL Byron Bell; CB Bashaud Breeland, S Eddie Pleasant, DL Muhammad Wilkerson, CB Davon House, and LB Jake Ryan,
Soon-to-be restricted free agents are: WR Geronimo Allison, S Kentrell Brice, and S Ibraheim Campbell. Exclusive rights free agents will be: OL Lucas Patrick, OL Justin McCray, TE Robert Tonyan, WR Jake Kumerow, OLB Reggie Gilbert, OL Adam Pankey, DL Fadol Brown, and RB Lavon Coleman.
For Green Bay to have the money to be a serious player in the free agent market, they will likely have to forego re-signing some high-contract players – most notably Matthews and Cobb.
Key Rumored Prospects
Lombardi Ave: S Landon Collins (Giants), OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Texans), WR Golden Tate (Lions), G Rodger Saffold (Rams), and TE Maxx Williams (Ravens).
Dairyland Express: Collins, Clowney, and OLB Dee Ford (Chiefs)
The Draft Network: S Earl Thomas (Seahawks)
Cheesehead TV: OLBs DeMarcus Lawrence (Cowboys), DE Ezekiel Ansah (Lions) and Clowney; Safeties Tyrann Mathieu (Texans), Collins, and Thomas; Guard Saffold; and WR DeSean Jackson (Bucs)
Pro Football Focus: Thomas
Clutch Points: Ford, Lawrence, or Clowney
ESPN/Rob Demovsky: WR Devin Smith (Cowboys)
Peter Bukowski: Anthony Barr (Vikings)
TP’s Ed Rooney: Lawrence, Thomas, and DE Brandon Graham (Eagles)
Laugh for the Day
This is from Joe Kipp of NFL Spin Zone:
Free Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Washington Redskins: That’s right, after trading him away in the middle of last season for a 2019 fourth-rounder, the Packers may have the opportunity to bring back Clinton-Dix this offseason. That said, the former first-round pick has had an up-and-down career and may not be worth bringing back at any price point.