The Biggest Free-Agency Busts in Green Bay Packers History

Bob FoxContributor IMarch 13, 2013

The Biggest Free-Agency Busts in Green Bay Packers History

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    The modern version of free agency started in 1993, when the Green Bay Packers hauled in the biggest fish in the ocean for the NFL. That would be the free-agent signing of defensive end Reggie White.

    Before 1993, the NFL had something called Plan B free agency for four years, starting in 1989. Plan B allowed all NFL teams to preserve limited rights of no more than 37 players on each roster.

    Before that, the only way a player could become a free agent was by playing out his option. That meant playing to the end of your contract with a given team. Former Packer greats Ron Kramer and Jim Taylor did just that. The Packers received a first-round draft pick in both cases when Kramer (Detroit Lions) and Taylor (New Orleans Saints) left Green Bay.

    In the modern era of free agency, however, the Packers have definitely hit gold—twice. Once with White, and then again with defensive back Charles Woodson, who the Packers signed in 2006. Both players ended up as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and both helped the Packers win a Super Bowl, too.

    But the Packers have also had their share of busts in free agency.

    Here are some of the more high-profile free-agent missteps in Packers history.

Joe Johnson

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    The biggest free-agent bust in Green Bay history has to be defensive end Joe Johnson, who formerly played with the New Orleans Saints.

    The Packers and Mike Sherman gambled on the aging veteran in 2002 to help improve the pass rush of the Packers.

    Certainly, the resume of Johnson was solid. He had 50.5 sacks for the Saints in eight seasons. Johnson was also named as an All-Pro once, plus was named to four Pro Bowl teams.

    But that all changed in Green Bay. Johnson was often injured in the two years he played for the Packers and had only two sacks in just 11 games.

    Besides hurting the Packers with his lack of production, Johnson also took a big bite out of the Green Bay salary cap, as he got a $6 million signing bonus as part of his $36 million contract.

Adrian Klemm

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    Ted Thompson's first year (2005) as general manager in Green Bay was certainly not the high point of his front-office career. The Packers finished 4-12, quarterback Brett Favre had his worst year ever up to that point of his career and head coach Mike Sherman ended up getting fired.

    The issues with the team started in free agency, as Thompson allowed the two prolific starting guards (Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle) to leave. Both players were very steady in Green Bay, but the cost to keep them was too rich for Thompson's liking.

    Thompson used free agency to help lessen the losses of Rivera and Wahle. He signed Adrian Klemm (New England Patriots) and Matt O'Dwyer (Tampa Bay Bucs) to help fill the void. However, O'Dwyer didn't even make the team, while Klemm was mediocre at best at left guard.

    The 2005 season was the first and last season Klemm played with the Packers, as he ineffective and inconsistent.

    From 2002-2004, the Packers had one of the very best rushing attacks in the NFL. In 2005, the Packers finished 30th in the NFL in rushing. Favre also threw a career-high 29 interceptions in the passing game.

    Thompson knew that the Packers needed to shore up the offensive line after that dismal year, and he drafted three offensive linemen in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Mark Roman

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    Safety Mark Roman (Cincinnati Bengals) was another free agent Mike Sherman signed in his very last year as general manager in 2004.

    Like the Joe Johnson signing, this relationship only lasted two years.

    Roman did not exactly put himself in a good light in 2004. He had no interceptions and didn't force a fumble. He also looked lost in coverage and missed way too many tackles.

    The Packers finished 25th in the NFL in pass defense in 2004.

    That all led to the embarrassing 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the 2004 NFC Wild Card Game at Lambeau Field. The Green Bay secondary was shredded by quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who threw four touchdown passes that day, including two to Randy Moss.

    Roman played with the Packers again in 2005, and although he did play better, it was his last season in Green Bay.

Pat Terrell

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    When one remembers safety Pat Terrell's time with the Packers, it's hard not to recall his last play on the field.

    It was the 1998 NFC Wild Card Game in San Francisco, with only 25 seconds left on the clock. The Packers had stormed back to take a 27-23 lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game. But now the game came down to one last play.

    Quarterback Steve Young of the 49ers threw a strike to Terrell Owens on a deep post pattern, culminating in a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass.

    Owens caught the pass just in front of Terrell, who closed too late to break up the pass, as the Packers lost 30-27.

    Terrell was signed by general manager Ron Wolf form the Carolina Panthers to help provide some leadership at safety, as Eugene Robinson had left the Packers to join the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

    All-Pro safety LeRoy Butler was still around, but the Packers wanted more experience, as second-year safety Darren Sharper was still learning the ropes.

    Terrell started only three games in that year for the Packers at free safety, as the Packers had to move Sharper to cornerback for three games due to an injury to Craig Newsome.

    The infamous pass from Young to Owens was the last play of Terrell's short Green Bay career.

Any Free Agent Who Didn't Even Make the Team

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    The Packers have signed a number of free agents over the years who didn't even make the team when the final squad was assembled for that particular year.

    I already mentioned Matt O'Dwyer in a previous slide, but there are a few more. Last year alone, the Packers signed players like defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (Seattle Seahawks) and defensive lineman Daniel Muir (Indianapolis Colts), who also didn't make the team.

    Defensive lineman Phillip Merling (Miami Dolphins) was also signed last year, and though he did make the 53-man roster, he played in only three games before getting cut.

    Then there was the signing of offensive lineman Duke Preston (Buffalo Bills) in 2009. He was the only free agent who Ted Thompson signed that particular year. It was obvious to anyone who went to training camp in the summer of 2009 that Preston was outmatched by his competition. Preston was soon released.

    In 2006, Thompson signed a number of free agents, including Charles Woodson (Oakland Raiders) and Ryan Pickett (St.Louis Rams), who obviously worked out very well for the team. But Thompson also signed wide receiver Marc Boerigter (Kansas City Chiefs), who he didn't make the team, along with O'Dwyer.

    Safety Marquand Manuel was another member of that 2006 free-agent class, and he certainly didn't distinguish himself in the secondary with his play on the field.  The 2006 season was Manuel's only year in Green Bay.

    At least he made the roster.