The NFL’s first official day of free agency brought about a few signings and also a few big trades. We rarely see any trades in the NFL, let alone blockbusters and there have been three in the past week. Last week, the Buffalo Bills sent linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy. Yesterday, the New Orleans Saints sent star tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks for center Max Unger and draft picks. The Detroit Lions made a big move to replace departed defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh by acquiring former Baltimore Ravens D-lineman Haloti Ngata. The Green Bay Packers got into the action as well, reportedly locking up offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga on a multi-year deal to keep him in Green Bay. Bulaga and receiver Randall Cobb were widely thought to be Green Bay’s top two priorities to keep in free agency and with both set to return, the Packers now face other questions.
The Packers now focus on the cornerback position, which up until now had been one of the team’s deepest. Free agent Davon House has agreed to a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tramon Williams is reportedly visiting the Saints later this week. The Packers offered Williams a two-year contract worth $8 million and that was rejected. It’s still possible that Williams returns to Green Bay, but he appears to want to get a better idea of what his market value is. If Williams departs, the Packers are left with Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde and Demetri Goodson at the corner position. While Hayward and Hyde have flashed ability at times, neither is a true outside corner. They’re both smaller players as well.
Possibly preparing for the loss of both Williams and House, the Packers were said to be among the teams that were in contact with Darrelle Revis, who signed with the New York Jets yesterday. That was a long shot to begin with, based on the type of money that Revis reportedly received (five years, $70 million with $39 guaranteed). While most signings tend to set a bar and fair market value at that player’s position, Revis is on an island (see what I did there?) when it comes to cornerbacks. He’s still elite and at the top of the curve. Williams may see more than the $4 million the Packers initially offered, but he won’t be breaking anyone’s bank. Aside from the Saints, the Seahawks are reportedly interested in Williams as well.
Another name that has been floated around that the Packers could look at is Brandon Browner. Browner spent last season with the New England Patriots after spending several seasons with the Seahawks. Browner missed some games in 2012 and wasn’t able to play in Super Bowl XLVIII due to a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. While Browner is a bigger corner, he’s entering his 11th season in football (both the NFL and CFL) and he’s not a long-term solution to the position. The Packers would likely only entertain this option if they’re not able to re-sign Williams nor get a quality corner in the upcoming draft. I’d rather see the Packers bring Williams back and it will most likely have to be at least a two-year deal. The 32-year old cornerback has kept himself in good playing shape and likely has at least two more good years in him. He knows the Packers’ defense and would help maintain the veteran presence on the team.
Defensive line is another position that needs to be addressed by the Packers. Both defensive tackles from last season, B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion, are free agents with question marks. Raji missed all of last season with a torn bicep and it’s unknown if the injury will have any long-term effect on his play. Guion was arrested in his hometown last month and has the legalities of that situation ahead of him. The Packers are rumored to be interested in bringing both players back, at the right price and barring any potential suspension. If Raji is able to return to the form he showed in training camp last year before he was hurt, the Packers could get by on another one-year “prove it again” deal. They had signed him to just such a deal last year at one year and $4 million. Guion stepped in and played well after a slow start. Given his recent off-field issues and assuming he’s cleared to return next season, Guion can probably be had for a short-term deal and very reasonable salary.
For those who want to dream a bit and look outside of Green Bay for help in the middle of the defense, consider Terrance Knighton, (aka Pot Roast) and Vince Wilfork. The Packers reportedly have had some preliminary discussions with Knighton’s agent, but no progress has been made on any type of deal. Knighton has already eliminated the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos, who reportedly didn’t come close to offering him anywhere near what he is seeking. Based on that alone, the Packers’ chances of landing Knighton are slim unless his market flatlines and his price comes down considerably. Green Bay doesn’t have a long history of paying top dollar for free agents outside of Green Bay (consider that Julius Peppers is an inside guy now after spending a year with the team and he may still be asked to restructure his deal before the season starts). As far as Wilfork goes, the Houston Texans are reportedly trying to get a deal done to bring him in. Wilfork is 33 years old, but has played in a 3-4 scheme and could be well-suited to what the Packers need. My thought is that Green Bay’s looking in that direction would likely be if he were still available and if they decided against Raji, Guion or both.
Lastly and to squash the talk about former Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson possibly joining the Packers, it’s not happening. Johnson is reportedly close to a deal with the Indianapolis Colts and is going to want to go to a team where he’s at least the second option in the passing game. A report emerged that Johnson’s brother supposedly put out a list of teams that Andre would consider playing for and the Packers were one of those listed. With the return of Cobb, any interest in Johnson is surely gone. Bringing him in would stifle the growth of and take snaps away from Davante Adams. It just doesn’t make sense.
We’ll continue to bring you any updated news related to the Packers, but it’s safe to say that Day One of this year’s free agency period did not disappoint.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: