The silly week of Free Agency is over, and much of the crazy spending is finished. Now is the time for Ted Thompson to evaluate what has happened and get some value for the FA bucks. This is the time that he historically has gone shopping, kind of like looking for Boxing Day specials after the rich kids grabbed the flashy toys for Christmas.
Of the remaining Free Agents in the unrestricted category, only four remain that are true fits for the Packers in terms of talent, age, and financially being able to sign responsibly. DE Igor Olshansky from San Diego becomes an instant starter. He is an incredibly hard worker and a fit in terms of temperament, all things the Packers seem to value.
As of today I would think he is the number one priority on the list, and with Colin Cole leaving, I expect a deal worth about $4-5 million per year over three-plus years to get done. This was just cap shuffle from Cole and should have little effect on the rest of free agency money for the Pack.
There are 12 others in four groups of three who the Packers should be looking at.
The first of those groups is the three remaining NTs. I call these the "Price is Right" group. Tank Johnson, formerly of Dallas, is incredibly talented and would have much higher value if not for college-era personal issues. Surviving in the mess that is Dallas without any character issues bodes well for his having matured nicely. He's the first choice of this group of three.
C.J. Mosley of the Jets is maybe the least talented of this group of three, but incredibly steady against the run, is a tireless worker, and has a knack for knocking down passes.
The third is Shaun Cody from Detroit. He had huge upside when he came out of USC—strong against the run, with bursts of pass rushing talent. Cody has not taken to losing in Detroit and has taken plays off. The greatest risk and reward of the three.
One of these guys would be great to see in Green Bay with a deal near the Ryan Pickett/Cullen Jenkins level of $3 to 3.5 million per year. All are solid rotational guys. None are jump off the page instant answers, but we really need one of them...if "The Price is Right."
The second group of three is in the “greatest cost and impact” category. I'll call them the "Fan Dream" group. This includes three RFAs from other teams. All would be $5-plus million per year, plus a draft choice submission, but would be instant starters and improve the D-line dramatically.
This group includes DE Stephen Bowen of Dallas. Probably more talented then Chris Canty, and I expect a million-plus a year cheaper. This would be a fixture, would damage Dallas a lot, and would fit very nicely beside Johnson (above) should they sign both. $6 million and a second rounder would be worth it, but may be too high for team philosophy (I love this as Dallas would have only one of their top five DLs return).
The next is Gabe Watson from Arizona. He is a minutes-eating, run-stuffing NT. Probably not quite the impact or cost of Bowen, but an instant impact that would change draft strategy and make our LBs better, very likely in the $5 million per year range.
The third in this group is DT Fred Evans from Minnesota. He is their depth and replacement for the Williamses, would be an instant starter and improvement on anyone here except Jenkins, and most likely make the rotation at NT with Pickett, although if one in the first group is signed, he could move to DE. I like this almost as much for the damage it does a division rival.
These three are very high cost/high impact players and will likely only come into play should Olshansky or one of the first group not be able to be signed.
The third group contains almost givens. Should at least two of the above groups not happen, a low cost, low impact, rotational time-sharing player will be signed. I suggest the most likely three are Jimmy Kennedy from Minnesota, Mike Wright from NE, or Corey Mace from Buffalo.
This is the most likely and cheapest scenario, but little improvement on what is here, other than adding depth and maturity if drafting is the only option for first line players.
The fourth option is by far the most interesting, would raise the most questions, and require the biggest sacrifice for reward. This involves a very viable trade option and would not happen if the above scenarios happen. The NY Giants have gone crazy in FA and are now in Cap jail. They have 13 defensive linemen, including their two new FAs. They have DLs with excess of 150 games STARTED in the last two seasons.
Among those three are DTs Barry Cofield, Jeremy Clark, and Jay Alford. All are prototypical-sized 3-4 DLs, very young with significant playing time, and all have big upside. (I really do not understand Giants management's thinking in FA, with this group on the roster, and would be screaming if I were in that fanbase.)
Giants are in huge need of a WR. Greg Jennings would bring two of those guys and their first round pick. James Jones probably brings one and a second or third rounder. One way or another, the Giants will need to move one of these three young DLs, and Thompson should try to find the trade that gets it done to our benefit.
The final option for Turner is not to acquire any of Olshansky, group one, two, or four players above, and invest at least three of the four picks in the first three rounds of the draft to address the team’s biggest need. That option certainly curbs the “best available player” draft philosophy and is even further out of character than spending money in free agency.
One way or another, I feel strongly at least two and hopefully three of the 13 listed above end up in Green Bay this summer. (Three of the 13 are referenced in Zach Kruse's article of FAs already planning visits to Green Bay.)
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