What We've Learned About the Green Bay Packers After the Start of Free Agency

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIMarch 13, 2014

What We've Learned About the Green Bay Packers After the Start of Free Agency

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    Free agency has certainly started, but it doesn't seem like Ted Thompson knows that.
    Free agency has certainly started, but it doesn't seem like Ted Thompson knows that.Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Free agency has officially begun in the NFL, and it seems like everyone forgot to tell the Green Bay Packers about it.

    The first 24 hours came and went, and the Packers didn't make a move. Big-name players like safety Jairus Byrd, defensive end Lamarr Houston and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware all were signed by teams other than Green Bay.

    There's no doubt that all of the above players could have drastically helped the Packers win for the foreseeable future, but general manager Ted Thompson simply wasn't willing to pay, or overpay in some instances, for players.

    This type of decision-making shouldn't come as a surprise to those that know how Thompson operates. However, there were still plenty of things that we learned about the Packers after the start of free agency.

Nothing Changes with Ted Thompson

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Let's talk about Ted Thompson for just a little bit longer.

    This was supposed to be the year that the Packers finally were players in free agency. They had the cap space, and they certainly had needs to be filled. It was the perfect storm for Green Bay and Thompson.

    However, we shouldn't be too shocked, or disappointed, with the complete silence from Green Bay the first few days of free agency. Thompson has shown for long enough that he knows what he's doing when he builds a team.

    Don't be surprised if next year's start of free agency looks awfully similar to this year, because that's just how Thompson rolls.

Extending Current Players Is More Important

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    Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Spor

    One thing that we learned from the start of free agency is that the Packers feel like extending current players is more important than signing a whole bunch of players. While they haven't officially reworked any contract, you can feel it's coming soon.

    The Packers entered free agency with just around $35 million, according to Tom Silverstein of The Journal Sentinel. There's simply no way that Green Bay is going to sit on that type of money and not do anything with it.

    With important players like wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb becoming free agents next year, the team would be wise to extend contracts now. That way neither player even has a chance of sniffing free agency during the 2015 offseason.

    The Packers know how important it is to keep their core players together, and they know it's way more important than bringing in a bunch of new players via free agency.

The Packers Know How Important Sam Shields Is

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Green Bay has only re-signed three players this offseason. Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he was coming back for two more years via Twitter, and inside linebacker Jamari Lattimore received the low restricted tender from the Packers, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today.

    Meanwhile, the first player the Packers re-signed, and the one they signed to the biggest contract, was cornerback Sam Shields. In fact, the team locked Shields up before free agency even began.

    What we can learn from this is how important the Packers truly feel Shields is to the future of this team. For a moment there, it seemed like Green Bay was ready to let Shields walk. But we all should have known that the Packers aren't that foolish.

    Shields has legitimate No. 1 cornerback potential, and the Packers ultimately realized that and paid him like one.

Neck Injuries Still Scare the Front Office

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    We saw the same thing happen with former safety Nick Collins a few years back. Collins had a serious neck injury, and even though signs pointed to him being healthy, the Packers simply wouldn't sign him.

    In fact, Collins is still trying to get back into the league.

    Now, the Packers are dealing with the same issue again, but this time it's with tight end Jermichael Finley.

    While Finley's neck injury wasn't quite as bad as Collins' was, the Packers are still being extremely cautious. Other teams have brought Finley in for visits, such as the Seattle Seahawks, where he'd be an absolutely perfect fit.

    The Packers certainly have a need at tight end, and Finley proved last year that he's a big-time playmaker when he's healthy. Unfortunately, when it involves a question about a player's neck, the Packers will likely stay away.

Don't Count the Packers Out Just Yet

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    Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    Just because the Packers haven't signed any big-name free agents yet doesn't mean that all hope is lost for them making a splash. Just look back to the 2006 season, the last time the Packers made big moves in free agency.

    In that year, free agency began March 3. Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett wasn't signed until March 15, and defensive back Charles Woodson didn't get a contract until April 26. That's nearly two months after the start of free agency that the Packers signed a future Hall of Fame player.

    The point here is to not freak out and to certainly not count the Packers out just yet. If there's a player that Green Bay wants, the team will go after him.