It's a well known fact. The Packers are turned off by free agency, and do 98 percent of their team building through the NFL draft. And while that strategy has served general manager Ted Thompson well, it doesn't mean that there aren't some free agents out there worth looking at.
Although there have been a few chinks in Thompson's proverbial armor when that special kind of player hits the open market.
Where would the Packers be today without superstar and play making cornerback Charles Woodson? Ryan Pickett has been a solid contributor since signing with the Packers as well. Although, on second thought, Green Bay is probably better off not remembering the epic signings of Brandon Chillar and Frank Walker.
Let's take a look at a few big names that could hit the free-agent market this offseason and potentially be wearing the green and gold in 2012.
Probably the most talked about possibility on the list is the return of Cullen Jenkins. It's also maybe the least likely. Jenkins is still officially under contract with the Eagles but does have a large roster bonus coming up. Rumor has it that the Eagles will release Jenkins, but anything can happen at this point.
With him, the Packers had one of the most feared defenses in the league, went on a run and brought the Lombardi back home.
Without him, Green Bay was able to cruise to a 15-1 regular season record but failed to win a single playoff game. Not only did they see less success in the post season, but the defense itself had went from elite to barely functioning.
Without Jenkins, the Packers had no pass rush at all. BJ Raji was demanding more attention in the middle, as was Clay Matthews on the outside.
There was nobody on the other side of the defense who could take on defenders like Cullen Jenkins could. And with the absence of Jenkins, Walden didn't look nearly as impressive as he did during the Packers playoff run. So unimpressive, in fact, he lost his starting position on the defense and might not be back with the team.
It's rare to find a player of Jenkins' caliber. Someone who stuff the run, rush the QB, and take on blockers to free up other pass rushers as a 3-4 defensive end.
The Packers would be wise to bring him back, but will Ted Thompson be able to swallow his ego and make him an offer?
The Packers need to address their lack of pass rush more than anything this offseason, and Mario Williams would definitely solve that issue.
While he is better at DE in a 43, his learning curve will be a lot shorter coming to Green Bay because of Wade Phillips' transition to the 34 in Houston in 2011.
Williams has an elite pass rushing skill set and would draw the attention away from other potential pass rushers like Matthews, Raji, and Woodson from day one.
As a former No. 1 overall draft pick, Williams will hit the open market this off season if nothing else changes. The Texans were figured to re-sign Williams before his injury but they still were able to play great defense without him and may command too much money.
Which is exactly what will potentially keep him away from the Packers. Money. Will Ted Thompson want to shell out the big dollars for a near guaranteed impact player?
The biggest question in the secondary could be the availability or the lack of availability of Nick Collins.
Nick Collins is a perennial Pro Bowler and one of the league's finest safeties. I'd put him just behind Ed Reed of Baltimore and Troy Polamalu of Pittsburgh. Collins is also entering the absolute prime of his career. With him, the best has yet to be seen.
He has great coverage ability, sees the field with superb vision and is one of the league's premier ball hawks. With that said, there are a lot of question about him. Neck injuries are very serious, as all Packer fans know first hand. And while I wish nothing more than for Collins to return, you can just never be sure.
While it is more likely that the Packers take a safety in the draft, it wouldn't hurt to take a look at free-agent safety Michael Griffin.
Griffin is a step or two below Collins in most categories, although he is an exceptional run stuffer when asked to do so. Griffin would be an upgrade at FS over a potential Charles Woodson position swap but the Packers could also look at a SS if Morgan Burnett is moved to FS permanently.
Definitely worth a look in free agency, especially if the Packers get word that Collins will not be able to return.
The Packers secondary really began to crumble last year.
I do, however, account most of that to a non-existent pass rush. Even the most elite of corners can't lock down a wide receiver when the opposing quarterback has eight, 10, 12 seconds to throw the football every single down.
After a stellar 2010, Tramon Williams came back to reality last season. While he was far from terrible, there was only so much he could. His passer rating against rose nearly 30 points, from under 50 in 2010 to just under 80 in 2011. His catch rate allowed jumped 10 points, from 46 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2011.
Sam Shields also struggled mightily after a promising rookie campaign, surrendering six touchdown passes. Tied for fifth most in the league.
Thirty-five-year-old Charles Woodson was the best corner for the Packers last season—and that is a problem. Woodson allowed opposing QBs to only accumulate a rating of 63 when throwing into his coverage and hauled in an impressive league leading seven interceptions.
Lardarius Webb would bring stability to the Packers secondary as a great cover corner who is still very young (26) and just entering the prime of his career. Adding another capable cover corner would allow for Woodson to really roam the backfield and play more of that safety or extra linebacker role, exactly where he is when he is at his absolute best.
According to ProFootballFocus, quarterbacks sustained a 55.6 rating when throwing into his coverage and he did not yield a single touchdown through the air.
An impressive feat for an impressive and generally unheralded corner.
And now, I culminate my list of free agents the Packers should be giving at least a look at with my most desirable player of the 2012 free agent class.
Calais Campbell, the explosive and dominant defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals.
To put it in the absolute simplest terms, and into words that fellow Packer fans would most be able to relate with...Calais Campbell is a much younger and more dominant version of Cullen Jenkins.
Everything I mentioned with Jenkins and what he could bring back to the Packers, is exactly what Campbell could bring to except times 10.
Campbell is an elite pass rushing defensive end with an unstoppable motor and great vision for run defending. He can shed blocks like very few in the league can, is one of the surest and most explosive tacklers, and is a complete game changer.
He has only been in the league for four seasons and is 25 years old. The Cardinals will also, more than likely, pull out all of the stops to retain his services.
But if by a stroke of luck that he does find himself on the open market. He is going to demand A LOT of money.
The twist in this plot though...is that he will be worth every single penny.