Is Gutekunst’s Free Agent Strategy to Find Value?
As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, I’m assuming the Packers will indeed officially sign up the four players discussed below.
Leading up to the free agent sweepstakes, USA Today’s “For the Win” feature ranked the NFL’s 2019 free agents according to who provides the best value to the club that gets him. Now, they did this based on projected salaries or worth, not the actual salaries set forth in the signed contracts. Even so, let’s assume that it’s a fairly accurate appraisal of players’ values.
Number 1 on the list is Earl Thomas the All Pro Seahawks safety.
Right behind him at number 2 is OLB Za’Darius Smith – the about-to-be property of the Packers. While allowing that he doesn’t have a long track record of success, writer Steven Ruiz says “Smith’s 2018 season was legit, and, at 26, he’s only going to get better.”
Coming in at number 13 is Preston Smith, the Packers’ pending acquisition who was with the Redskins for his first four years in the league. According to the writer, “Trey Flowers figures to be the edge rusher who gets the biggest contract in free agency but imagine if Smith had a chance to work with Bill Belichick over the last few years. (Smith) has more talent and will cost teams far less.”
Number 36 on the list is Adrian Amos, a safety for the Chicago Bears from 2015-18. Though Amos was only a fifth round pick in 2015, Pro Football Focus just rated him the eighth best safety in 2018. Of the three presumptive new Packers, he probably has the most potential.
Ian Rapoport, usually a reliable source, is saying Za’Darius Smith will make over $16 million annually for four years. The Preston Smith 4-year deal is supposedly for $12M per year on average. Amos is also said to be about to sign a 4-year deal, at slightly over $9M per year.
With two experienced and proven OLB’s coming on board, and with Kyler Fackrell coming off a breakout season, the Packers are set at edge rusher. This simplifies things – they can now use their four picks in the top 100 of the upcoming draft to fill other needs.
Adam Schefter of ESPN is also reporting the Packers are going to sign up Denver guard Billy Turner, to the tune of $28 million for four years. If so, I’d say that’s it, the money well has dried up, and free agent acquisitions are pretty much concluded for this season.
Not only does the money appear to be largely spent, I think these deals suggest that a whole bunch of the Packers’ highly-paid but aging guys who become free agents soon won’t be pursued. Not only that, I’d guess that the math also dictates that several highly-paid guys currently under contract will have to be released.
While the USA Today article talks of value, from what I’m reading these players have not come at all cheap. I don’t have confirmed contract details yet, but if we were to put annual salaries in four tiers, under $1 million, $1-4 million, $5-9 million, and $9 million and over, all three of them appear to be getting top-tier pay.
I’d say that all four of the players mentioned above are second-tier ability players. They are starter quality, and they are just coming into their prime. All four appear to still be getting better. I don’t see any future All Pros, though one or the other could get selected to a Pro Bowl or two.
I’m pleased with the acquisitions and their ability, which will help the team immensely. I’d take issue, though, with describing these three defenders as “value” additions.
It looks like the bulk of the free agent funds went to Mike Pettine and the defense. Therefore, I suspect that Nathaniel Hackett and the offense will get the bulk of the love on draft days.
Final thought. The timing of these announcements tells us that Gutey and his team had a plan, had decided some time ago who they wanted, and weren’t interested in playing games or finessing their way to a deal. They didn’t mess around or haggle over money. You saw Murphy, Gutekunst, and Ball were unleashed on Tuesday – hopefully they weren’t unhinged.