With the Packers season coming to a disappointing finish, it’s time to look ahead to free agency. I know what you’re thinking, “yeah the only free agents Ted will bring in are undrafted rookies.” Trust me, I feel your pain. I’m as skeptical as anybody when it comes to Ted Thompson improving the Packers through free agency. Even though multiple media outlets have reported that the Packers will indeed be more active this year in free agency, I still have my doubts. Hopefully Aaron Rodger’s words in his press conference after the NFC Championship Game urging the front office to go “all in” have an impact. As long as he stays healthy, I see no reason why Aaron Rodgers can’t play another 5-6 years. With that being said, it would be a shame if he finished his career with only one ring because the front office was too conservative.
The Packers defense was atrocious last season. They need help all over the place, in particular at cornerback and outside pass rushing. There are players in this year’s free agent class that could help the Packers get back to the Super Bowl. These free agents are ranked in no particular order.
- Cornerback AJ Bouye, Houston Texans – The 25-year-old cornerback had a great year for the number one ranked defense in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Bouye graded out as a top 10 corner, something the Packers could desperately use. Unfortunately for the Packers, the Texans are very fond of Bouye and want him back. There is a good chance the Texans slap him with the franchise tag.
- Outside Linebacker Melvin Ingram, LA Chargers – Assuming the Packers move on from Nick Perry and Julius Peppers, there is going to be a void to fill in the sack department. It’s not often a premiere pass rusher hits the free agent market in the prime of his career. Ingram is 27-years-old and a perfect fit for the Packers 3-4 defensive scheme. The Chargers new defensive coordinator, Anthony Lynn, runs a 4-3 scheme, the reason Ingram might be playing for a different team next year. image via Chargers.com
- Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo Bills – After a strong year in 2015, Gilmore had an inconsistent 2016 season. Despite his troubles last year, he still showed flashes of being a top tier corner, and he is only 26-years-old. If he doesn’t receive the franchise tag from Buffalo, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Packers get involved with him. Image via BuffaloBills.com
- Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, LA Rams. Another corner, I think you’re starting to see a theme here. The Packers couldn’t cover anybody last year and it is probably the main reason they’re watching Super Bowl 51 instead of playing in it. Today’s NFL teams love big corners and at 6’2 Johnson fits that bill. Pro Football Focus ranked Johnson in the top 20 in pass coverage. It would cost the Packers, but assuming Sam Shield’s contract comes off the books, they will have money to spend at the position. Image via NFL.com
- Outside Linebacker Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals – Jones will be 27 this upcoming season and coming off 11 sacks last year, he is in for a big payday. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones ranked second in the NFL behind only Von Miller in QB pressures with 43 amongst OLB’s. Jones played in the 3-4 defense in Arizona and would be a perfect fit because the Packers scheme is similar. Nick Perry is inconsistent and always banged up. I would rather the Packers throw money at Chandler Jones or Melvin Ingram at this point.
Image via ESPN
Pass rushing and corner are the Packers most glaring issues, but obviously they aren’t perfect at the other spots. Morgan Burnett and Ha-Ha Clinton Dix are very good players, so if the Packers add another safety it will only be for depth. Micah Hyde had a strong final stretch, so it will be interesting if the Packers re-sign him. Mike Daniels is the Packers best defensive lineman by a wide margin. Kenny Clark, last years first pick, is very young but showed some flashes throughout the year. I hope Ted does not bring back LeTroy Guano. He makes more than he is worth. I’m sure there is someone younger and cheaper that could do just as much if not more than Guion. Even though I think Ted likes both Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, I wouldn’t mind the Packers trying to get faster at the position. With that being said, there are some quality interior players that will be available this spring.
- Defensive Tackle, Kawann Short Carolina Panthers – This obviously won’t happen, but I can dream can’t I? The odds are that the Panthers won’t let Short hit the open market, but if they do, teams will be lining up to bid for his services. Short is only 28 and will be one of the most coveted free agents on the market if the Panthers let him make it that far. After the Josh Norman situation last year, anything is possible. Image via Pro Football Focus
- Inside Linebacker, Dont’a Hightower – We all saw the impact plays that he made in the Super Bowl for the Patriots. The Packers just don’t get those type of impactful plays from their inside linebackers. It remains to be seen if New England will let Hightower hit the open market, but given the trades they made during the season to clear cap space, they set themselves up nicely to keep him. We are also talking about the Patriots, so no one can ever really be sure. If Hightower does indeed hit the open market, I really hope Ted comes calling. It still irritates me that he didn’t sign Danny Trevathan last season given that his contract with the Bears was very reasonable.
If the reports from Ian Rapoport and other NFL insiders regarding the Packers being “active” in free agency are true, then there are plenty of players available to get the Packers over the hump. The NFL salary cap is supposed to raise about 10 million dollars or so. This free agency period to me is an if not now, when type of deal. The Packers have one of the best players in the NFL at the most important position in sports for about 5-6 more years. It’s time to push all the chips into the middle of the table and get another ring or two before 12 hangs them up.