**Author’s note: This post was written before the Green Bay Packers re-signed Randall Cobb on Saturday night.**
The Green Bay Packers left roughly $7.5 million in salary cap space unused last offseason. That’s cap space that carries over and can now be used to re-sign Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga, or another one of the Packers handful of free agents. It can also be used to sign a free agent from another team.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson always fields a Super Bowl contending team without putting his team in salary cap hell. Every offseason, the Packers have enough cap space to offer their own free agents fair deals to return and enough wriggle room to bring in a few outside free agents if they so choose.
But back to that $7.5 million of cap space that went unused last offseason. Should Thompson have used it? If Thompson would have brought in another free agent, could he have plugged the hole at inside linebacker and shored up the special teams? Would spending all or a portion of that $7 million have prevented the collapse in Seattle? Might it have resulted in one more regular season victor and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs?
Using the power of hindsight, let’s look back at last offseason’s free agent group and see if there’s a player or two Thompson could have realistically signed that may have propelled the Packers to the Super Bowl.
ILB Daryl Smith
Smith ended up re-signing with the Baltimore Ravens for 4 years/$16.1 million and finished as the seventh highest rated inside linebacker in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Before joining Baltimore on a one-year deal in 2013, Smith was an underrated and oft-injured mainstay in Jacksonville. Smith’s injury history, age and the fact that he was coming off an excellent season that inflated his market value probably scared Thompson away. But Smith would’ve bee a whole lot better than A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones or Sam Barrington inside.
ILB Karlos Dansby
Dansby signed with the Browns for 4 years/$24 million ($14 million guaranteed) and finished one slot behind Smith in PFF’s rankings. The 33 year old also missed four games with a knee injury. Sure, Dansby would’ve been an upgrade inside — especially in pass coverage — but at $14 million guaranteed, I don’t blame Thompson for saying no.
ILB D’Qwell Jackson
Jackson — another linebacker in his 30s — signed with Indianapolis for 4 years/$22 million. He ended up not being very good for the Colts, then he beat up a pizza delivery guy in early February. At least Hawk and Jones would never assault an innocent pizza delivery dude. Jones because he wouldn’t be able to tackle the driver as he raced back to his car and Hawk because his helmet would fall off while in pursuit. Good thing Thompson stayed away from Jackson.
ILB Brandon Spikes
According to MMQB.com, Spikes was one of the top 1st and 2nd down run defenders in the league last season. And he totally would have fit the Ted Thompson mold of signing a free agents: Spikes was only 27 last offseason and signed with the Bills for 1 year/$3.25 million. Would he have fit in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme? We had the same question about Julius Peppers and he worked out just fine. Spikes seems like the type of player who will be effective against the run in any scheme.
CB/Special teams Corey Graham
The Buffalo Bills’ special teams unit went from 31st in 2013 to second best in the NFL in 2014 according to famed special teams evaluator Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News. A big reason for the jump was signing Graham for 4 years/$16 million. That’s a steep price to pay for special teams help, but Graham also started nine games at cornerback and had two interceptions. If Graham is helping out the special teams unit, does it allow a fake field goal touchdown in Seattle? Perhaps there is no punt return TD for Buffalo late in the season. We’ll never know…..
I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Could Thompson have used some of that extra cap space last season to improve the team? Probably? If he did, would the ripple effects have made it much more difficult retain Cobb, Bulaga and other players like Mike Daniels down the road? Probably.
Would the Packers have won the Super Bowl if Thompson inked one of the players I listed above? Who knows.
Packers News, Notes and Links
- I’m not sure what else I can add to the Randall Cobb discussion that hasn’t already been said, but I want to get my 2 cents in anyway. So, here are my thoughts: Anyone who labels Cobb strictly a slot receiver doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Cobb is the game’s best slot receiver. He’s also really good out of the backfield. Even though McCarthy doesn’t use Cobb that much out of the backfield, the threat is always there and teams have to plan for it. The Packers don’t beat New England last season without Cobb creating all sorts of mismatches out of the backfield. Speaking of New England, see what Shane Vereen did out of the backfied in the Super Bowl? Cobb can do all of that, and be a stud out of the slot.If Julian Edleman and Vereen had a baby, it’d be Cobb. He’s a hybrid of both players. If the Packers lose Cobb, it will be a dirty blow. Not throw-in-the-towel-the-2015-season-is-over dirty, but pretty damn dirty. On one hand, I don’t get the point of accumulating all this cap space and eschewing free agency only to let Cobb — a shining star of the Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy — walk away. On the other hand, I totally get why the Packers won’t want to give a player who’s under 6 feet tall, weighs less than 200 pounds and has only been healthy for a full season one time more than $9 or $10 million per year.
- Sounds like the Seattle Seahawks have their eyes on Tramon Williams. I thought Williams might end up where most Packers end up during the twilight of their careers: Minnesota. But the fact that the Seahawks have interest in Williams makes me think he still has a couple good years left in him.
- Bringing back A.J. Hawk could be an option if the Packers aren’t satisfied with their inside linebackers after the draft and free agency. Can you imagine how depressing it will be if Cobb and Tramon are playing elsewhere and Hawk is still on the team?
Non Packers links and other Nonsense
- This piece from Jeff Pearlman about Jerry Sandusky’s adopted son is fascinating.
- WWE trainer Bill DeMott resigned after accusations started flying about his racist, homophobic and abusive (allegedly, he slapped a guy who had a concussion in the head) ways. Wrestling is a sleazy business, and Demott seems about as sleazy as they come.
- The chairman of a House science subcommittee doesn’t vaccinate his kids. This guy shouldn’t be allowed near anything to do with science.
- A guy sued Applebees because he burned himself praying over fajitas.
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .