Are the Packers Really Different In 2017's Free Agency?

Green Bay has signed four (count ‘em! Four!!) free agents since the new league year began in early March. Are the Packers really going all-in as Aaron Rodgers suggested, or is it something else?

Jon and Gary debate whether the Packers are really doing anything new in the world of free agency below.

Jon says: No, this is a unique set of circumstances

The Packers have signed four free agents so far this offseason, but I don’t buy that this is a departure from the way the Packers have done business in the past or that Ted Thompson has turned over a new leaf.

In truth, Ted Thompson has always been willing to upgrade the Packers via free agency, but not always in the way that fans would hope.

Every year, Thompson gauges the free agents available, their market value, and the Packers’ priorities in terms of positions, and if a free agent matches what the Packers are willing to pay, Thompson doesn’t hesitate to go get them.

The last two years have shown this exact scenario playing out. Last year, the Packers were perceived to be in dire need of inside linebacker help, and wouldn’t you know it, Denver’s Danny Trevathan was available and interested in playing with the Packers.

But Green Bay doesn’t value inside linebackers the same way as most teams, and even though his asking price was not unreasonable, Trevathan ended up in Chicago. The exact reverse played out with Jared Cook. Green Bay was prepared to stand pat at tight end, but when Cook came onto the market, they inked him after some haggling over price.

This year, the Packers’ needs have been more in line with what the market supported. Martellus Bennett was available and relatively reasonable and the Packers needed a tight end, so to Green Bay he came. Ricky Jean Francois was cut, and the Packers needed defensive line depth, so Thompson went and got him.

This isn’t anything new. It’s just so happened that the market and prices have aligned with what the Packers value in terms of positions, and that’s led to Thompson’s perceived splurge.

Gary says: Yes, the free agency plan actually worked this year

This offseason draws a lot of similarities to Ted Thompson’s first two offseasons in Green Bay. Then, the Packers were building around a star quarterback in his 30’s and trying to repair a defense on its fourth defensive coordinator in four years. Thompson is lauded for signing Charles Woodson, but additions like Ryan Pickett helped greatly.

Ten years later, Green Bay is ramping up for a final run with Aaron Rodgers. It’s clear Ted Thompson and the front office will continue to build their roster differently than the Broncos did under Peyton Manning or New England did under Tom Brady, choosing to keep the core together instead of hunt for mammoth additions.

Two years ago, buzz started to gather that Thompson was going to be more aggressive in free agency. “We’ll see how it shakes out,” head coach Mike McCarthy said of free agency. “We might shock you this year.” Jared Cook was nice, but calling his signing a ‘shock’ is a bridge too far.

Then this January, Ian Rapoport said the Packers would “go and get some free agents this year.” It felt like the same verse. This time around, Green Bay aggressively pursued Nick Perry and bolstered the weak tight end position with both talent and depth. After the first wave of free agency, they added Ricky Jean Francois – who fits Green Bay beautifully.

This could have been the Packers plan every offseason. Chase some high profile free agents, and if the money’s right, sign ‘em. But this was the first time the plan provided fruit in over ten years.