The 2012 draft has been "mocked" to death and NFL free agency is slowly coming to an end as the focus turns to said draft in a couple weeks.
Sure, there will be more transactions once the draft comes and goes, but for the most part you can close the books on free agency—and I believe the Green Bay Packers quietly did a nice job.
Ted Thompson has a history of avoiding free agency like the plague. But with the departure of veteran C Scott Wells and oft-injured DE Mike Neal's suspension, Thompson really had no choice but to supplement his pre-draft roster via free agency.
I think he did a pretty nice job, despite the Packers remaining under the radar amid the bounty scandal in New Orleans dominating the headlines.
Certainly there was no "big splash" free agent, but Thompson really didn't need one. The 2011 Packers were 15-1, remember? The ugly playoff loss to the Giants seems to cloud the fact that this roster was the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl at the new year.
I believe signing veteran C Jeff Saturday is a modest upgrade at center following the departure of Wells. As long as Saturday continues to be a reliable starter, I think he may offer a little more girth at the center position, where Wells was an undersized overachiever. But Wells was prone to getting pushed back by bigger lineman from time to time, and wasn't exactly an excavator in the run game.
More importantly, the Packer defense needed some help. There weren't any departures to prompt this need, either—they could've used help halfway through the season. Counting on second year pro Neal to contribute at DE proved to be a costly mistake following the departure of solid veteran Cullen Jenkins to the Eagles.
The Packer front seven, and more specifically the defensive line, offered very little push and/or pressure to compliment OLB Clay Matthews. While the Packers didn't add any star power to the lineup, adding veterans Anthony Hargrove and Daniel Muir seemed to be good value moves for Thompson on the open market.
Both lineman can add some push to the line, and both have a solid history of being on the field (unlike Neal, who will miss at least four games of his third season due to suspension). And fitting with Thompson's strategy of "fiscal responsibility," both came at a reasonable price and are under the age of 30.
The Packer defense didn't need an answer, it just needed a few compliments. Clay Matthews was like a man on an island when it came to rushing the passer. Hopefully adding a couple vets like Muir and Hargrove will make a notable difference when paired with holdovers B.J. Raji & Ryan Pickett.
The Packers still have plenty of work to do in the draft. The OLBs on the roster not named Matthews can be considered average at best. The uncertain future of Nick Collins' career at safety may lead the Packers to look for insurance on the back end of the defense, as well.
Regardless of Collins' status, I believe Thompson would be wise to add a safety to compete with veteran Charlie Peprah. He has been a decent backup, but looked like a definite liability in pass coverage at times in 2011 as the Packers set records in passing yards allowed.
But at least the defensive line isn't screaming for help, and the loss of Wells appears to be mitigated by the signing of Saturday. I believe those are some nice, quiet, important additions to the Packers' 15-1 roster from 2011.
This will allow Thompson to free up his draft picks on other needs—while he continues to "take the best player available," of course.
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