Sunday, March 10, 2013

Building The 53 - 2013 Free Agent Shopping Guide for Ted Thompson

The Green Bay Packers have played in three Super Bowls (XXXI, XXXII, and XLV) and won two (XXXI and XLV) of them in my lifetime.  That means that almost every season ends in disappointment.  One of the ways that I've dealt with that disappointment is to rank the final 53-man roster as my final look at that specific Packer team, which allows me to take stock of how each of the guys that finished the season on the 53-man roster contributed.

After completing my final 53-man rankings, I put the previous season in the rear view mirror and look towards next season.  My first look towards next season involves giving Packers general manager Ted Thompson specific advice for how to approach the off-season.  Although there is still time for some of my 10 point plan to be implemented by Thompson, so far my advice has been largely ignored.

Thanks to drafting well, Thompson has largely passed on signing players in free agency.  That makes my 3rd annual (2011 and 2012) free agent shopping guide for Thompson a mostly academic but necessary exercise because despite winning the competitive NFC North in 2012, the Packers have some question marks at a number of positions: RB, OT, DL, and S.
Since the Packers look set at a number of positions (QB, WR, TE, G, C, MLB, OLB, and CB), I am going to focus my advice for Thompson mainly on the need areas. As I've said in the past, I know the chances of Thompson signing any of the players below are equal to the chance I have of leveraging this blog into a job running a professional sports team, but I still hope you enjoy my 2013 Free Agent Shopping Guide for Ted Thompson:

#5) Resist the urge to make a "big splash" by signing any of the top-end guys.  Don't get me wrong, if there wasn't a salary cap I would love to see guys like Cliff Avril (DE/OLB), Michael Bennett (DE/OLB), Jermon Bushrod (OT), Paul Kruger (OLB), or Jake Long (OT) playing for the Packers in 2013.  Signing any of those guys would solidify an important position on the roster but the math just doesn't work out since the Packers have roughly $18 million in salary cap space right now without factoring in the long list (James Jones, Clay Matthews, Aaron Rodgers, and B.J. Raji just to name a few) of extensions  they need to sort out before the end of 2013.

#4) Beef up the defensive line. After the Packers got physically manhandled by the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, the entire off-season has been focused on the Packers being a more physical team.  That starts in the trenches on the offensive and defensive lines.  Most of the free agent offensive tackles are too pricey for the Packers but that is not the case along the defensive line. There are some guys that I like such as Jason Jones, William Hayes, Matt Shaughnessy, and Lawrence Jackson but those guys do not project well as defensive lineman in the 3-4 scheme unless the Packers want to mix in some 4-3 next season.  Leaving aside the defensive lineman just mentioned, there are a number of young, big, and physical defensive lineman that would be great at either defensive end or defensive tackle in Green Bay.  Here is a list of bigger guys that project well as defensive lineman in the 3-4 (guys I like the most to guys I like the least): Desmond Bryant, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Sen'Derrick Marks, Ricky Jean Francois, Sammie Lee Hill, and Mike DeVito

#3) Bottom feed after the initial flurry of free agent signing. We all know Thompson rarely makes a splash in the free agent market, although when he does (think Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett) they turn out to be great signings.  It is much more likely that Thompson will let teams over spend early in free agency and then go bottom feeding after the NFL Draft.  After Thompson let's the market play out, he should remind the free agents leftover that signing with the Packers means they get to play for a Super Bowl contender thanks to having arguably the best quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) and young defender (Clay Matthews) in the NFL on the roster.  There are a few tantalizing young offensive guys under 30 that I would target later in free agency: Reggie Bush (RB) and Delanie Walker (TE) but my guess is that both those guys will receive long-term offers on the open market early on.  There are a number of guys over 30 that I would consider signing to short-term deals once the market settles out (in alphabetical order): Nick Barnett (MLB), Chris Canty (DL), Dwan Edwards (DL), Dwight Freeney (DE/OLB), Ed Reed (S), Richard Seymour (DL), Isaac Sopoaga (DL), Osi Umenyiora (DE/OLB), and Kevin Vickerson (DL).

#2) Add another starting safety. After cutting Charles Woodson the Packers have one legitimate NFL safety on the roster in Morgan Burnett to go along with a number of young, promising question marks in M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chaz Powell, and Sean Richardson.  This off-season there are a number of quality safeties available in free agency.  Safeties are paid much less than pass rushers and corners so despite what I said above in #5 there are two guys that I would "break the bank" for (aka sign to a four or five year deal with a bunch of up front guaranteed money): Dashon Goldson and Kenny Phillips.  On a tier below Goldson and Phillps there are a number of other very talented safeties that I would consider signing to more than just one-year, veteran minimum contracts as well (guys I like most to guys I like the least): Louis Delmas, Glover Quin, LaRon Landry, Chris Clemons, and Patrick Chung.

#1) Add Steven Jackson. Despite DuJuan Harris performing well towards the end of last season, I am not convinced he can be the three-down back that head coach Mike McCarthy desperately needs.  After Harris there are a ton of question marks with every other running back: Cedric Benson (free agent that is coming off a serious injury so he shouldn't get anything more than a one-year deal for the league minimum even if he can prove he is healthy at the start of training camp), Ryan Grant (free agent that shouldn't be resigned), Alex Green (will be in season two next year of recovering from a torn ACL but did nothing last year to show he can be an every down back despite getting numerous opportunities), Brandon Saine (coming off a season ending injury so he looks like a long-shot to even make the PUP list to start next season), and James Starks (perpetually injured in college and living up to that reputation in the NFL).  The one way the Packers can erase all those question marks at running back is to sign Steven Jackson to a three-year contract with all the guaranteed money in the first two years so the last year can be voided by either side.  Running backs often fall victim to the curse of turning 30, which Jackson is set to turn before next season but adding a versatile workhorse running back like Jackson is exactly what the Packers need.  Since Ahman Green left Green Bay the first time the Packers have not had a workhorse running back (relax with calling Grant a workhorse because he did most of his damage once Favre or Rodgers put the game out of reach through the air) yet have still been one of the most effective passing teams in the NFL.  Adding a guy like Jackson could push not only the rushing attack but the passing attack to a whole new level.

Look for most if not all of my advice for Thompson to end up on the cutting room floor so absent a big splash in free agency, check back as we get closer to the 2013 NFL Draft for more in-depth Packers coverage.

No comments:

Post a Comment