Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.
Could free agent safety Louis Delmas join Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb in Green Bay? Never say never.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Feb. 12 that the Packers, armed with $30 million in cap space, are prepared to spend on outside free agents this offseason to remake the defense in Dom Capers’ image.

Capers has been in Green Bay for five seasons, so the wording is a bit confusing. Surely, the Packers haven’t given Capers a team of bobsledders and asked him to mold them into an attacking 3-4 defense. But regardless, Rapoport’s report ignited a spark of hope among Packers fans that the team would make a rare dip into free agency.

With all due respect to Matthew Mulligan and Duke Preston, the Packers haven’t made any “splash” moves in free agency since 2006 — when they signed both cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett.

The Packers’ offseason spending spree got off to a roaring start with Thursday’s addition of fourth-year undrafted free agent tight end Raymond Webber. That was sarcasm. But it’s rather comical that a portion of the fan base almost seems upset that Webber’s name isn’t Jimmy Graham.

Of course, the Packers’ $30 million in cap space won’t be $30 million for long, as they’ll be forced to spend about $5 million on this year’s rookie class. And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.

But should the Packers let B.J. Raji walk — which seems more likely than not, given Raji’s production, or lack thereof, the past two seasons and his reported rejection of a contract extension that would have paid him $8 million per year — then they’ll have some financial flexibility to perhaps spend on veterans. Take into account Jermichael Finley’s cloudy future coming off major neck surgery, and the Packers could, really, become players in free agency.

As far as positions of need, the Packers could use help at every level of the defense. The opposite can be said about the offense, with the exception of tight end, at which they could still bring back Finley or opt for a cheaper option in Andrew Quarless.

Here are a few bigger-name free agents the Packers could — probably won’t — but could target once free agency hits.

DE Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders (6-3, 300)

While this may be unlikely, Houston certainly fits the bill as an athletic defensive end that would fit the Packers’ desired mold at the position. Rapoport suggested the Packers are looking to get a little leaner and more athletic on the front line, opting for more of a Datone Jones-type, rather than the 330-pound Raji and Ryan Pickett-type player.

Houston just played out the final year of his rookie contract, so he’ll be in line for the biggest payday of his young career. There aren’t many 300-pound guys as athletic as Houston, as he has spent his four-year career as an edge rusher in Oakland’s 4-3 defensive front.

Playing with the Raiders, who haven’t had a winning season since 2002, Houston has flown under the radar, but he’ll surely garner plenty of interest on the open market.

DE Tyson Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs (6-4, 296)

Like Houston, Jackson fits the Packers’ mold for an athletic 3-4 defensive end. He isn’t much more than a slightly better than average player, but as the third overall pick in 2009, he fits the bill as a “big-name” free agent. And from a schematic standpoint, Jackson make some sense for the Packers, who are reportedly trying to remake their defense.

Last offseason, Jackson took a $10 million pay cut — yes, $10 million — to reduce his cap number to about $4 million. Assuming he’d carry a similar price tag this offseason, he could catch the Packers’ eye, as he’s still only 27 years old.

S Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions (5-11, 202)

Depending on who you consider to be “big-name” free agents, Delmas may be the most realistic for the Packers.

Delmas was also an unrestricted free agent last offseason and visited the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers before ultimately returning to Detroit. Coming off perhaps the best season of his career in 2013, he may command a price tag slightly north of the two-year, $7.175 million contract he signed last offseason.

Either way, Delmas would make some sense for the Packers, who struggled mightily at the safety position this past season. Should his contract stay below $5 million annually, he could draw some interest from Green Bay, considering the Packers currently lack a “thumper” in the secondary and the draft is relatively thin at the position after Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and Alabama’s HaHa Clinton-Dix.

Delmas missed 15 games over his first four seasons but played in all 16 last season.

Too expensive: FS Jairus Byrd – Bills, DE Greg Hardy – Panthers, DT Henry Melton – Bears, OLB Brian Orakpo – Redskins, ILB Donald Butler – Chargers

Byrd made the Pro Bowl in 2013 despite missing the first five games of the season and is undoubtedly the best safety on the free-agent market. While he would certainly help fill the void left by Nick Collins, Byrd’s price tag will almost surely be too high for the Packers.

Hardy, a defensive end, and Melton, a defensive tackle, have spent their entire careers in a 4-3 defense. Both could perhaps fit in a 3-4 defense as ends, but they’re the top players at their respective positions and seem to be in line for big contracts.

Orakpo, there’s just no way. As great as an Orakpo-Matthews duo would be, he’s simply not getting out of Washington. And Butler, still 25 years old, is an ascending player who should remain alongside Manti Te’o in the middle of the Chargers’ defense for years to come.

Other possibilities: FS Malcolm Jenkins – Saints, FS Antoine Bethea – Colts, SS Bernard Pollard – Titans, OLB Anthony Spencer – Cowboys, FS Chris Clemons – Dolphins

Oh, and before we get carried away — let’s be honest. The Packers are not going to sign five outside free agents, as has been suggested. At least not five “big-name” free agents that will make the fans happy. Of course, if I’m wrong, feel free to celebrate and make fun of me.


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Marques is a Journalism student, serving as the Sports Editor of UW-Green Bay\'s campus newspaper The Fourth Estate and a Packers writer at Jersey Al\'s Follow Marques on Twitter @MJEversoll.


37 thoughts on “Big-name free agent targets for the “big-spending” Packers

  1. these names sound great. but who says we can’t sign bigger names? think back when God told Reggie he belongs in Green Bay. could happen again. have faith and hope.

    1. The roll of “god” was played by Mike Holmgren. I know we treat him like God, along with Ron Wolf. That was back in the day when the league was trying to figure out Plan B FA, and RW already knew it and went running.

  2. I just read a comment on some other site in reference to TT’s signing of our newest FA, Raymond Webber. Apparently, Ted’s gone dumpster diving again. Made me laugh.

    I like your FA musings, particularly the Lamarr Houston and Delmas suggestion. I won’t hold my breath, but it is nice to dream.

    1. The Steelers found James Harrison in the dumpster… The Packers also found Tramon Williams in the dumpster.

      Never know when those small, insignificant moves will pay off.

      1. Unfortunately Weber has been and is injury prone, something the packers don’t need. He also has not made the last two teams he resided on so are they that dumb or were they that smart?

    1. I agree, and I don’t think he’s necessarily off the table. I’d much rather spend $8M on Byrd than Shields, due to scarcity. Big-time safeties are far more rare than high-quality CBs.

  3. I think that Chris Clemons is a realistic Safety option. Big, fast and is a decent cover safety. I also think they sign 1 DE in FA. Maybe an Everson Griffen or Matt Shaughnessy type.

  4. So, we have roughly $25M in cap after rookies. TT likes to keep some around for season injury buffer. So let’s assume $20M. Shields, EDS, and who else will perhaps take up $15M this season? That leaves $10 to make a splash to get maybe 2-3 guys. I can see Delmas taking a pay if you play contract with an average GB could live with.

    1. “And with Sam Shields, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and others (perhaps Jordy Nelson and/or Randall Cobb) likely to receive contract extensions, that number will continue to shrink.”

      TT will keep a chunk of that cap in his back pocket for those he needs to extend/resign after 2014. He’s not going to spend all of that $30M between now and June. We forget that Bulaga is in the mix for an extension, but his injury history and some potential depth at OT might make him someone the Packers let test the market.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to see TT go WR (where the pool is deep this year and he has a track record of finding players that work well in the system) and maybe TE in the upcoming draft with a plan of letting Nelson/Cobb test the waters. There’s been talk that the Packers have already approached Nelson, which would argue WR won’t be priority in this year’s draft.

      1. I would think TT drafts a receiver in 3rd round. The WR position is deep this season and Thompson will grab one on day two I’d guess. Maybe with the comp pick from Jennings, assuming its a 3rd rounder.

  5. If the Packers decide to dig into the FA market, I just don’t see TT jumping in early. My suspicion is that he’ll let others overpay for the bigger names early on and then he’ll weed through what’s left looking for (wait for it)…value. I don’t see him letting the market dictate what he would spend.

    That being said, if Shields walks, there will be playable corners to be had after the frenzy dies down, and it wouldn’t take much to upgrade the safety position.

  6. TT will wait til the very end and seek out the Marshall Newhouse type players. The man is a genius…???

  7. It’s all premature until we see who gets franchise tagged on March 3, and who get signed by their own teams before March 11.

    Not even TT can go after free agents who never actually become free agents.

    And as far as ‘making a splash’ in 2013 TT signed the best Qb in the league and the best pass rusher on the market to big money deals. I know people don’t ever think about signing our own as ‘getting’ free agents, but the money all comes from the same cap.

  8. You’re missing the best name out there, which is Linval Joseph of the Giants. A much more athletic NT than anyone we had last year. Still a big guy, but 6’4″ and 320 is much differently proportioned than 6’1″ and 340. He is IMO absolutely convinced he is perfect for us.

  9. The Packers need a safety who can come in and make an impact immediately. Drafting a guy and hoping he turns out to be a great player in the next couple years isn’t good enough.

    As much as I’d love Jairus Byrd, I just don’t see that happening.

    Stevie Brown feels more like a TT type of signing. Last season he was hurt all year, which should keep his price low. But, in 2012 he was a turnover machine and he’s still relatively young at 26. Could be the type of free agent steal that TT usually looks for.

    1. Holy shit… I wouldn’t have ever thought Stevie Brown created 10 turnovers in ’12. That’s outstanding… Don’t know much about him to be honest,

      1. This is where I expect TT to try to find some diamonds…players who are/were developing prior to injury or players who were buried behind quality starters and showed flashes in limited opportunities. Sign to short contracts (2 yr?) and see if there’s anything to be had.

  10. The one thing to remember is that rookie safeties typically (but not always) struggle in their first year or two. Remember how terrible Darren Sharper was before he turned it around? And that Nick Collins was mediocre for almost three years before he ascended. It’s a really difficult position to play, and while we all think it’s important to get a new one, I think it’s ever more important than that!

  11. real coaches develop players not so good coaches like capers relies on players to make him look good . want proof look at all these younger guys coming in and look how our defense is at the bottom. anybody can coach a team of pro bowlers but a real coach takes the talent he has and molds them into the best defense he can . show me once where capers has done that . capers has always come in after the previous dc has gotten the team up to speed

  12. Nice to see a dose of realism before that vague NFL network report drives everyone into a frenzy. I don’t remember it specifying that GB would sign up to 5 “outside” guys. Just that they might sign outside free agents and that they might sign up to 5 guys, which could mean the “5” is a combination of our own FA’s and outside FA’s. If they bring in anyone, I expect it will be at Safety and/or Dline (specifically NT). They might make smaller moves for a pass rush LB and TE if Neal and Finley aren’t brought back, but I highly doubt it will be a big name guy since those aren’t high needs.

  13. Lots of speculation but lets look at reality. scoring against the packers has been automatic in 3 to 6 plays most of last season. In the Red zone Packer Offensive has had problems making touch downs and wind up settling for field goals. Special teams have been poor to bad. The Packers have been terrible on rushing the Quarter back and stopping the run so how many “Free” agents do they need? Take your pick. If the embedded player want to go as free agents let them. If someone want to pay them let them go, none of them are outstanding. You can get average players almost anywhere.

  14. The fact that what’s-his-name took a 10 million dollar pay cut isn’t that impressive. If it was a true pay cut then his play warranted it.

    It’s my understanding that pushing money back in a player’s contract benefits the player because he gets cash NOW in the form of a signing bonus (which is amortized in the salary cap throughout the years of the contract) rather than having to successfully contribute for the length of his contract.

    Am I understanding this correctly?

    1. You are correct that re-doing a contrsact with a signing bonus upfront benefits the player.

      Whether that constitutes a ‘pay cut’ depends on the exact numbers and terms of the new contract, which we don’t know.

      The team usually gets a break in the cap number for the cu year, but that doesn’t mean the team gets a break in the loong term — eventually any money (bonus or salary) that was actually paid must be accounted for against the cap.

  15. Byrds gonna cost more than 8mil a year… That being said I would rather spend 10-11mil on Byrd than 8mil on shields… He’s a proven comodity… Shields wanting that kind of payday based on his”potential” is ridiculous to me… He’s averaged 3.5 picks a year which is average and not worth 8mil a year. People bash my concept of an incentive based contract but I don’t see why… Woodson signed a contract like that his base salary was like 6 or 7mil and he got serious bonuses based on his performance he got a few mil more for getting dpoy… By the end he was getting like 10mil(roundabout numbers). And when Woodson signed he was a perenial probowler. Why not do the same with shields but make the base salary lower and the bonuses higher? That type of contract recognizes his “potential” and still protects the team in case he underperforms or gets hurt. 5m a year with bonuses based on ints and passes defended… Also gives him the motivation to perform yr in and yr out and gives him “financial security” because 5m a yr is nothing to sneeze at. Give him bonuses that give him the possibility of maiking up to 5m a yr extra and everyone walks away happy.

  16. Delmas is not a very good player. My main concerns is he plays aggressive, i.e.: dumb and has an injury history.

    Wise man say cheap player that way for a reason.

    1. Playing on one of the more undisciplined defenses over the last several years, also. Cause or effect?

        1. Need a veteran strong safety PERIOD. Don’t care who. Pepprah was never a world beater, but looked like a pro-bowler next to the McJenson experiment this year.

        2. Need a veteran strong safety PERIOD. Don’t care who. Pepprah was never a world beater, but looked like a pro-bowler next to the McJenson experiment this year.

  17. It will be a shame to see Shields go, but the contract wouldn’t make sense. He has unique speed, but has long struggled with instincts and lacks the size and tackling ability necessary to contribute in read option defense. Additionally, a top flight safety makes the corners better. Take Richard Sherman. He’s an incredible talent in his own right, but considering him for DPOY seemed odd since he’s not even the best defensive player in his own secondary. Earl Thomas is the unsung hero that allows his teammates to thrive. Byrd isn’t Thomas, but he could help put young players like Hyde and Hayward in positions to succeed.

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