If you are a fan of the Green Bay Packers, you expect that Packers general manager Ted Thompson would make it a priority to sign his own free agents over signing another team’s cast offs. With Thompson’s mindset, the start of free agency has become a ritual for Packers fans to be upset with their favorite team’s general manager and his lack of movements during this period. But this year’s first week of free agency, which sees most NFL teams throw around money like it is Monopoly money, the wily veteran Packers general manager made two surprising moves, which should quiet some critics down.
First Week of Green Bay Packers Free Agency
Backup offensive lineman JC Tretter signed a three-year, $16.75 million contract with the Cleveland Browns this past week. This shouldn’t take too many people by surprise. Although Tretter started seven games at center this past season for the Packers, the Packers are set at that position with 25-year-old Corey Linsley as the starter. Tretter, who the Packers drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL draft, started ten games for the Packers during his Packers career. Arguably the most important start for Tretter came at left tackle, not his standard center position, in the Packers playoff victory over the Washington Redskins in the 2015-2016 playoffs. In that game, Tretter did a magnificent job protecting Aaron Rodgers blindside. Although the Packers loved Tretter’s intelligence (he played his college football at Cornell University) and his athletic ability, they weren’t going to pay him that type of money to be a backup.
Another 2013 Packers draft pick departing is defensive back/punt returner Micah Hyde who signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills. Hyde leaving doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but what was surprising is that it was reported that Hyde was never even offered a contract by the Packers. It has been well publicized that the Packers secondary was miserable this past season, so not offering one of their defensive backs that actually made plays for them last season is a bit of a head scratcher. Still, there was no way that Thompson and the Packers were going to come close to the deal he got. The Packers will now need to replace a player who filled in as the backup safety, nickel back, and punt returner.
Also departing the frozen tundra is veteran outside linebacker Julius Peppers. When Peppers’ agent announced that he would be returning to the field next season, most felt that the Packers would move on without him. Peppers played three seasons in Green Bay, totaling 25 sacks, with 8.5 of them coming last season. Although he isn’t the player he once was against the run, Peppers still can get to the quarterback. The Packers will need to look for another player who can get to the quarterback with Peppers departing.
Not Going Anywhere
When outside linebacker Nick Perry was a free agent last season he bet on himself by signing a one-year, $5 million “prove it” deal hoping that he could put up big numbers this past season which would lead to a big contract. Perry’s wager worked out in his favor and when fellow 3-4 outside linebackers Chandler Jones and Melvin Ingram were given the franchise tags by their respective teams, Perry became the number one pass rushing outside linebacker on the market. Thompson and his staff made Perry their number one priority and that was shown when they locked him up on day one of free agency. It has been reported that Perry’s contract is worth 5 years $60 million.
The Packers also kept backup offensive lineman Don Barclay who they signed to a one-year $1.3 million deal. Barclay has drawn the ire of many Packers fans because of his suspect play. But most of his poor performances have come when he is forced into action at tackle, a position he has proven he can’t play at. This past season, Barclay saw time at guard and center, performing better than he did playing on the outside at tackle. With starting center Linsley having offseason ankle surgery and the departure of T.J. Lang to the Detroit Lions, Thompson felt the need to bring back Barclay who is accustomed to the Packers system.
Thompson Surprises Packers Fans
When it was reported that contract talks with free agent tight end Jared Cook and the Packers had broken off, the Ted Thompson haters were irate, believing that once again Thompson would do nothing this offseason and leave it up to the Packers rookie class to improve the Packers. But then came news on Friday night that the Packers had signed free agent tight end Martellus Bennett to a three year contract. Bennett helped the New England Patriots this past season win a Super Bowl by catching 73 passes for 701 yards and 7 touchdowns. Bennett will be entering his tenth season as a professional and he actually looks to be an upgrade over Cook, who had a solid post season with the Packers this past season. Bennett is the first pure free agent Ted Thompson has signed since 2012. Let that one sink in for a moment.
It appears Thompson was listening to his head coach Mike McCarthy when he talked at this year’s NFL combine when McCarthy talked about it being essential to have the players to attack the middle deep part of the field on offense. Thompson once again dipped into the free agent market to shore up the tight end position when he signed former Los Angeles Rams tight end Lance Kendricks on Saturday. The former Wisconsin Badger and Milwaukee native caught 50 passes for 499 yards and two touchdowns last season for the Rams. Kendricks will tag up with Bennett to give the Packers a tight end tandem they haven’t seen since former tight ends Keith Jackson and Mark Chmura played for the Packers in the 90’s.