Packers Free Agency (Updated: 3/31)

The Green Bay Packers

As a Packer fan, I go into each off-season hoping that the Packers will make at least a small splash in the free agency market.  How can you not think that?  The Packers’ last two Super Bowl victories have been propelled by great free-agency moves.  Reggie White, Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, & John Kuhn have all played varying roles in winning.  My dad says it is best to avoid free agency, which I agree with, but not to the degree he does.  I think it’s best to avoid that first day frenzy, but a veteran here and there wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  Free agency is the reason that many Packers fans have a love/hate relationship with GM Ted Thompson.  I personally love the guy.  The Packers have been at least relevant since he took over in 2005, and that’s all that you can really ask for.

Here is how free-agency has shaken up so far for the Packers as of Monday, March 31st @ 7:30pm

DEPARTURES

  • Safety M.D. Jennings to Chicago Bears

After starting every game last season and the previous 26 games overall, the Packers allowed their starting FS M.D. Jennings to walk out the door to the division rival Chicago Bears.  Jennings, 25, may have started every game in 2013, but failed to create a single turnover for the green and gold.  The Packers never even made a qualifying offer to the young safety, showing the organization’s goal of upgrading at the position.  Jennings’ deal is for one year only.

  • Center Evan Dietrich-Smith to Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Another player who started every game for the Packers last season will now be playing elsewhere.  Dietrich-Smith who took over for Jeff Saturday during the 2012 season signed a 4-year, 14.25million deal with the Buccaneers on Friday.  Aaron Rodgers will have a new center for the fourth time in four years with Scott Wells (signed with Rams), Jeff Saturday (retired), & Dietrich-Smith gone.  Whether this will set the respectable Packers’ offensive line back will remain to be seen.

 

RE-SIGNEES

  • Cornerback Sam Shields

Probably the biggest re-signing for the defense was CB Sam Shields.  Shields is an underrated defensive back who has come into his own in man-to-man coverage.  In 2013 he held top-tier WRs AJ Green & Josh Gordon to a combined six receptions for 67 yds and one touchdowns.  Shields is still young and proved he can be a serviceable #1 corner.  His deal was for 4-years & $39million.

  • DE / OLB Mike Neal

Neal played most of his snaps at outside linebacker in 2013 due to the myriad of injuries the Packers suffered, and he didn’t disappoint.  Neal finished the season with five sacks (four in the last seven games) and 47 tackles.  He will provide the Packers with some depth on both the defensive line & linebacking corps.

  • Defensive Tackle B.J. Raji

Raji, best known for intercepting Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in the 2010 NFC Championship game, signed a one-year deal with the green & gold for the 2014 season.  Raji was a first round selection in 2009 had a good sophomore season (39 tackles & 6.5 sacks) but has decreased in productivity ever since with his most recent campaign which included just 17 tackles and zero sacks (his second season without one).  If Raji wants to earn a big contract in the NFL, he’ll need to have a bounce back year in a big way.

  • Running Back James Starks

Starks was one of the key reasons that the Packers won Super Bowl XLV.  Since then, he’s proven that he can’t stay healthy when he’s the #1 back.  The Packers drafted Eddie Lacy in 2013, and didn’t look back.  Starks quietly had a fantastic year for a #2 running back.  He finished the season with 493 yards (5.5ypc) & 5 touchdowns.  I think he’s a good compliment to Lacy, and will continue to be a big part of the Packers back-field after signing his most recent two-year, $3.1million deal.

  • Tight End Andrew Quarless

Quarless has spent most of his career behind teammate Jermichael Finley who the Packers will not be resigning due to a severe neck injury.  Quarless was serviceable for the Packers in 2013 to the tune of 32 receptions, 312 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Whether or not that the Packers will sign or draft another tight end will definitely be on Ted Thompson’s mind.

 

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

  • As most of you’ve heard, the Packers have made a medium-sized splash and picked up former Chicago Bear DE Julius Peppers.  Peppers signed a 3-year $30million ($7.5million guaranteed) deal to play in Green Bay.  Coach McCarthy says that Peppers will most likely be featured in the Packers “Elephant Formation” which will probably be in to stop the run.  Peppers gives the Packers another wily veteran pass rusher that will be able to add another dimension to Dom Capers defense.

 

PLAYERS STILL OUT THERE

  • Fullback John Khun

The guy is a hero on the Frozen Tundra.  He’s a great blocker and is good to gain that one tough yard now and then.  Get him back.

  • Offensive Tackle Marshall Newhouse

BUH-BYE!

  • DL Ryan Pickett

Picket was one of the few free-agent signings that the Packers have used in the Thompson era.  He was a staple on the 2010 championship team, but has tapered off ever since.  At 34 years old, he’s definitely past his prime.  At best, the Packers can sign him to provide some depth on the defensive line.

  • DL Johnny Jolly

Jolly was having a very good comeback season in 2013, but it was cut short by a severe neck injury.  The Packers have never been an organization that messes with neck injuries.  They cut star WR Sterling Sharpe, All-Pro TE Mark Chumura, All-Pro FS Nick Collins, and veteran TE Jermichael Finley most recently.  However, Jolly’s injury was a bit lower on the neck and with his good performance last season, he has a chance to play for the Green & Gold again.

 

I’ll update this article sporadically.  GO PACK GO!

-Carl Leander Johnson

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