Nearly two weeks into NFL free agency it is time to take stock as to how the Packers are faring and how they might still be able to improve with the signing of a select few of the available players left on the open market.
For comparison sake, let’s examine the web site NFL.com for an insight as to their appraisal of free agent talent.
To their credit the Green Bay Packers secured two of the early prizes in #14 Bryan Bulaga and Randall Cobb. Interestingly enough Cobb was not ranked in their top 100 – a glaring error – although Around The NFL has Cobb ranked 8th overall and ESPN rates the Cobb signing as a solid ‘A’.
In addition the team also inked back-up QB Scott Tolzien and made tender offers to restricted FA’s Don Barkley and Sean Richardson.
A solid start.
Ex-Packers Have Been Popular During This Free Agent Frenzy
The Packers lost out on signing two their own ranked players in #37 Devon House (Jaguars) and #38 Tramon Williams (Browns). Also leaving for greener pastures was DuJuan Harris (Vikings) who the Packers showed little interest in retaining. Jamari Lattimore (visiting Jets), and Jarrett Boykin (visiting Panthers) are also expected to exit shortly. A.J. Hawk (Bengals) and fellow inside LB Brad Jones (Eagles) along with Kevin Dorsey (Patriots) were released but quickly found new homes. Brandon Bostick was also cut and signed with the Vikings.
None of those loses will hurt the Packers. Roster depth however will suffer.
Still available from last year’s roster are NT’s BJ Raji, who I covered in a previous article, and Letroy Guion who has had well-publicized legal issues.
Veteran FB John Kuhn and CB Jarrett Bush are also awaiting offers and I expect that they will return at veteran’s minimums and compete for roster spots this coming fall. It would not be surprising to see both of these situational players not make the 53 man Packers roster however.
Available Free Agents Who Could help the Packers
According to NFL.com’s top 100 free agents for 2015, the top 19 are already signed, sealed and delivered to their current team. Here are three available top-ranked players from the list who I believe would be good fits in Green Bay:
1. BJ Raji, NT – Green Bay Packers. After #20 Michael Crabtree, Raji is the next highest ranked player on the list. The Packers obviously know him well. He stuck around the team facilities and his team mates this past season while rehabbing from a torn biceps tendon. Reportedly he wants to return. Interior D-line alternatives include last year’s third round draft pick Kyrie Thornton who is coming off IR himself and was not impressive in camp last year and Josh Boyd who is limited. With unsigned incumbent Latroy Guion working through the legal process in Florida and with at best a disciplinary suspension coming his way, there is precious little proven talent at the NT position right now. At the right price and hopefully with the incentive to prove that he belongs, Raji can help this team.
2. Mason Foster, MLB – Tampa Bay Bucs. Ranked #62 overall on the NFL.com list and a former 2011 third round pick. To be candid, Foster’s numbers were not great last year and I would not have ranked him this high. He recorded only 62 tackles and had 0 forced fumbles, 0 interceptions and 0 sacks, however he averaged 85 tackles per year in his four-year Bucs career. Look beyond the numbers and you see a young (26 y/o) linebacker with impressive build (6’ 1” and 241 lbs.) who has flashed ability in the past. He just didn’t excel in Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme. But with the cupboard all but bare in Green Bay, and a 3-4 defense which would play to Foster’s advantage, he may very well flourish in Green Bay. At worst he would be a lower priced rotational player at a position of need.
3. Jake Long, OT – St. Louis Rams. #71 on the NFL.com list. When healthy he can be a force, but admittedly those times have been rare. The former #1 overall draft pick of the Miami Dolphins has had his share of medical issues having landed on injured reserve each of the last four years. As Long was cut by the Rams there would be no ‘draft pick compensation penalty’ associated with signing the eight-year veteran. I certainly don’t see Long coming in and unseating incumbents Bryan Bulaga or youngster David Bakhtiari. But the key to the Packers offense is keeping Aaron Rodgers upright. Should an injury befall either of the starters, a competent veteran replacement needs to be ready to step-in. Last season was a game of Russian Roulette at the OT position – one injury away from disaster – and there is no need to play that dangerous game again this season. What a relief it would be to have Long waiting in the wings. With his past medical issues he should come at a bargain price and a change of scenery might benefit the former Michigan Wolverine and get his once promising career back on track.
Packers Are the Only Team Yet to Acquire a Free Agent From Another Team
There is still an opportunity for General Manager Ted Thompson to make a splash in Free Agency by adding depth to a roster that has taken a hit this off-season. None of the three will break the bank and can be effective affordable additions now that the initial flurry of signings has died down.
And each would fit the template of a Ted Thompson free agent signing: low risk, high reward, good locker room guys and of course cost-effective.
Replenishing team depth needs to be a high priority this off-season, and bringing in these players would represent a solid start.——————
Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .