Best and Worst Moves of the Green Bay Packers' Free Agency so Far
While other teams desperately try to sign that big-name player, the Packers in the past have sat idly by and 2013 has been no exception. Sure, they did offer contracts to Greg Jennings and Steven Jackson, but other than that, they have not been very active and that's par for the course.
Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson views free agency as a foolish spending spree, and judging by his team's recent performances, his approach works.
That said, the Packers have not been completely silent. Here are the best and worst moves the Packers have made so far in this free-agency period.
Best: Restructing A.J. Hawk's Contract
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Something was going to be done with Hawk this offseason, whether it was reworking his contract, trading him or releasing him outright. His salary of $4.5 million per year was far too inflated for someone who isn't a true "difference maker" on defense.
Green Bay chose the restructuring route. By doing so, the Packers freed up around $2 million in cap space and will save $7 million over a period of three years. This allows Green Bay more flexibility when it comes to the extensions of Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews, as well as keeps Hawk on the team.
While Hawk never lived up to his top-10 draft selection, he has been a serviceable linebacker and has been the "quarterback" of the defense in calling signals. The Packers were also decimated by injuries at the linebacker position and Hawk was the consistent player in the unit.
Fans may never truly appreciate Hawk, but he has settled nicely into his role on defense and is more important than many fans think.
Worst: Losing Tom Crabtree
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The tight end position was not exactly the strongest position on the Green Bay roster, and it got weaker when Tom Crabtree signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
While Crabtree wasn't the starter, he was consistent. He was a solid blocker and played well on special teams. Crabtree also was improving as a pass-catcher and showed a knack for the big play. He was a nice secret weapon for the Packers to have. Crabtree may have become the starter if Jermichael Finley decided to leave the team after 2013.
As for the remaining Green Bay tight ends, it's Finley and then there's everyone else. There is really no one else on the roster, except maybe Andrew Quarless—if healthy—who could fill in should Finley go down with injury.
Thompson values depth and that's why letting Crabtree go was a bit of a surprise. It also represents a strong endorsement of Finley for 2013.
The question is if that endorsement is a smart one.
Best: Retaining Jermichael Finley
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The money here says, yes, it's the proper endorsement.
Finley is one of the most polarizing figures amongst Packers fans because of his drops, his mouth or a combination of both. Finley is entering the final year of his contract in Green Bay, but many thought he wouldn't be on the roster come 2013.
Had Finley not had that strong finish to 2012, that very likely would have been the case. He set a team record for receptions by a tight end and improved on his pass-catching. Finley displayed enormous potential in 2009 and has yet to truly capitalize on it.
Could 2013 FINALLY be the year we see him evolve into the All-Pro tight end everyone thought he could be? Mike McCarthy seems willing to give him one last chance, and Finley knows it's do or die for him in Green Bay this season.
If he can limit his drops and keep quiet, this might be the year for Finley.
Worst: Not Fixing the Defense
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After the Packers were humiliated by the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional playoffs, it was clear the Green Bay defense had problems that needed to be fixed quickly.
So what did the Packers do about it?
Fire the defensive coordinator? Nope.
Release any underperformers? No, but the loss of Erik Walden to the Colts helped.
Sign anyone who can immediately contribute? Negative.
Standing pretty much pat with the current defense is a little surprising. Yes, the unit improved over its atrocious 2011 performance, but holes remain and the unit's play is inconsistent. While the Packers can improve defensively through the draft, a free agent could have helped.
Green Bay did bring in Chris Canty, but he wasn't cleared by the Packers doctors and thus wasn't offered a contract.
The Packers defensively can't afford to let a pick develop. They need someone to contribute NOW. Will they be able to find someone like that at the 26th overall pick?
Time will tell.
Best: Letting Greg Jennings Go
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When Jennings signed his contract with the Minnesota Vikings last week, it was one of the best decisions Thompson has made since he arrived in Green Bay.
The Packers offered Jennings a contract averaging about $8 million per year and he rejected it. Instead, he took a deal with the Vikings that offered him $9.5 million per year. That was a sum of money Thompson just wouldn't pay a player who is turning 30 and missed far too many games the past two seasons.
Without Jennings, the Packers are still in fine shape at wide receiver. James Jones and Randall Cobb both had breakout seasons in 2012 and basically negated the loss of Jennings to injury. Jordy Nelson is still there, and don't forget about the rarely seen Jarrett Boykin.
Green Bay stands a much better chance of surviving without Jennings than he does of surviving without them. He'll be in an offense that features Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder. Apparently going from Aaron Rodgers to Ponder is worth the extra $1.5 million per year to Jennings.
Packers-Vikings games are going to be real interesting this fall.