The Green Bay Packers are generally a very smart team when it comes to free agency. They are usually very careful with their money and take only calculated risks. This often means avoiding free agency and getting better value from the draft.
With the Packers, it's hard to see them not avoiding these pitfalls, but despite their recent success, teams can always make poor decisions. The following would be bad business for the team that prides itself on how it operates.
The Packers' issues running the ball have been well documented over the last couple seasons. Without a balanced attack again in 2012, the front office will be tempted to bring in a battle-tested veteran who can have an immediate impact. The Packers would be better suited looking to the draft to bring in another running back.
Down the stretch last year, the Packers got some strong play from DuJuan Harris. The former practice squad player rushed for 257 yards and four touchdowns in the six games he played, including the playoffs. It would seem he will be a big part of the Packers' rushing attack next season.
The Packers would be smart to bring in a rookie running back to complement Harris instead of signing a free-agent back. The two big-name free-agent running backs, Reggie Bush and Steven Jackson, are each pushing 30 years old and would certainly command a significant contract. With the pass-happy Packers offense, it'd be better to save the money and spend it elsewhere.
The Packers haven't been the biggest spenders in free agency, with general manager Ted Thompson preferring the draft to build his team. Despite that, the Packers have benefited from some free-agent signings during his tenure. Cedric Benson, Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett all came in via free agency and contributed.
The Packers need to be smart about how they approach free agency. Despite needing to pay big money to Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji in the near future, it could be worth it to take a risk and bring in a veteran player.
Thompson's résumé of handling free agency is great, but at times feels almost too conservative. With a Super Bowl window open, it could be worth breaking the pattern and bringing in a difference maker via free agency.
With free agency rapidly approaching, Greg Jennings seems highly unlikely to return to the Packers. As a 29-year-old receiver, Jennings is probably looking for his last big payday in the league. With Mike Wallace as the coveted receiver of the free agents, Jennings could see the market for him shrink drastically.
If that's the case and Jennings doesn't get the large amount of money he's looking for, the Packers could be back in play. It would make sense for Jennings to take slightly less money and return to the Packers for a chance at a couple more Super Bowl rings.
James Jones is entering the final year of his contract with Jordy Nelson having two more seasons. Outside of Randall Cobb, the Packers don't have security at the position. While it's likely the Packers and Jennings part ways, the Packers should be paying close attention to Jennings' situation.
The Packers have five restricted free agents heading into the offseason, including starters Evan Dietrich-Smith and Sam Shields. The other players, Tom Crabtree, Rob Francois and Frank Zombo, all contributed in some way during the 2012 season.
The Packers need to handle these free agents well to keep the costs low and make sure they don't lose their players.
Restricted free agency have rarely switched teams in recent years, but if a team isn't careful, it could happen with the right deal. It probably makes sense to place second-round tenders on Dietrich-Smith and Shields, while hoping to re-sign at least Crabtree and Francois for the veteran-minimum. Zombo's future with the team seems the most murky of the five players.
While the Packers may place tenders on Dietrich-Smith and Shields, it would be wise to work on long-term deals that would ensure the players stay in Green Bay. Both players seem to have future with the Packers, so it makes sense for both sides.
The Packers signing Dashon Goldson is highly unlikely, no matter how much fans hope it happens. It almost seems ridiculous to mention, but the Packers absolutely shouldn't bring in the veteran safety, despite his recent performance with the San Francisco 49ers. It would be shocking for the Packers front office to pull off the move.
Goldson's flashy hits make him seem like more of a complete player than he actually is on the field. He too often let receivers get behind him and got beaten over the top. That doesn't fit in with a Packers defense that just last season showed improvement against big plays down the field.
With Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings, the Packers have some young players at safety who should be given an opportunity to succeed. It seems much more likely that the Packers bring in a safety at some point during the draft.