When you talk about free agency with the Green Bay Packers, the first place you have to start is with the players who are currently on the team and will be free agents on March 13. Who will the team re-sign and who will the team allow to walk and test free agency?
The Packers can get a good gauge on all that in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine. Ted Thompson will be there to take a good look at the players, while Russ Ball, who is the Vice President of Administration/Player Finance for the Packers, will be there to talk to the various agents for the players who are free agents.
Right now the key players that the Packers have as free agents are TE Jermichael Finley, C Scott Wells, QB Matt Flynn and DB Jarrett Bush.
Ball will also want to talk to the agents of WR Donald Driver and LT Chad Clifton to discuss re-doing their contracts to cut their salaries and gain more cap space. Driver has already gone on record to say that he would be willing to do that.
In terms of the prospective free agents currently on the team, the immediate issue with the team is to trying to re-sign Finley at a cap-friendly price so the team does not have to use the franchise tag on him. The latest the team can use the franchise tag is March 5. That will be easier said than done, based on the way negotiations have gone so far.
That is why this week will be key in terms of making some headway in terms of the future of the team, not only in 2012, but in the near future as well, as players like Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews will need new deals.
The Packers know for sure that they will be losing Flynn in 2012. The only question is whether he will simply just walk via free agency in 2012, with the Packers getting compensation in the 2013 NFL Draft, or if he could be franchised and then traded.
Right now, it appears that Flynn will find a team via free agency in 2012, unless the Packers can re-sign Finley without using the franchise tag and then apply it to Flynn if the team was able to clear the cap space needed to do that.
Right now I'm guessing that it will be the former scenario with Flynn.
Another player who may be leaving is C Scott Wells—at least based on a recent story by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Wells is a proud individual. He is also the fiery leader of the offensive line of the Packers, plus he is coming off his first Pro Bowl berth.
I agree with much of what McGinn has written, but I also think that Rodgers will make a plea on the behalf of Wells to the front office, much like he did last year for WR James Jones. Rodgers, more than anybody, knows how important Wells has been to the overall success of the team offensively.
Bottom line, I believe a deal with Wells will get done.
I also think the Packers will be able to re-sign Bush as well, as he plays a vital role on special teams and he also has improved his secondary play the last couple of years.
In terms of looking at other players in the NFL who the Packers might be interested in via free agency, one name has been taken out of the running. About a month ago, I wrote that former Packer Cullen Jenkins would be an interesting possibility if he was allowed to become a free agent.
Based on what happened on Tuesday, that possibility will not take place. Jenkins will stay a Philadelphia Eagle in 2012.
Here is the bottom line: the Packers need to take care of their own in-house situation before they can explore other free agents in the NFL.
That being said, I had a conversation with Chris Landry of FOX Sports on the Steve Dueming show on 620 WDAE in Tampa last Friday. I started the conversation with Chris, asking him his assessments of Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus and Vinny Curry regarding the 2012 NFL draft.
After Landry gave me his takes on the three college prospects, all of whom he likes, he talked about a free agent possibility for the Packers without prompting from me. Landry said that Mario Williams of the Houston Texans would be a perfect fit for the Packers defensively—not as an OLB though, but as a DE.
I know fans of the Packers would love to see that situation come to fruition. However, based on the modus operandi of the Thompson tenure in Green Bay, and also with the current cap situation with the Packers, it would seem like that scenario would be a pipe dream.
Still, Thompson did sign Charles Woodson to a fairly high free-agent deal in 2006, when Woodson made $10.5 million in the first year of that contract, which was originally a seven-year deal. Woodson later signed an extension through the 2014 season in 2010.
Speaking of Woodson, the Packers might also see if they can restructure his deal to help the team's cap situation in 2012.
Woodson has already been well worth the money, with 37 interceptions, nine of which were returned for TDs, in just six years in Green Bay. The signing of Reggie White and Woodson were not only the best free-agent signings in the history of the Packers, but also perhaps the history of the NFL as a whole.
The addition of someone like Williams would be akin to those signings. Williams has 53 sacks in his six-year career in Houston, plus has forced 11 fumbles. Williams missed 11 games in 2011 due to a torn pectoral muscle.
I know the odds of signing someone like Williams are slim, but the fact that someone as well connected as Landry would mention that scenario made me think about the possibility.
Time will tell. The clock starts running in Indianapolis today.