Micah Hyde – Buffalo Bills
Hyde was a consistent secondary player for the Packers during his four years in Green Bay, averaging 57 tackles, including a sack, and two interceptions per year while operating as a swiss army knife in the Packers defensive scheme. Since leaving? Hyde is on pace for career-highs in tackles, passes defensed, and interceptions. By a lot. Through eight games he has 35 tackles, eight passes defensed, and a league-leading five interceptions. Meanwhile, the Packers have floundered greatly (as they usually do) on defense, particularly in pass coverage. Rookies Kevin King and Josh Jones have performed well in Hyde’s stead, but it’s impossible not to think that the presence of Hyde would bolster a Green Bay secondary that has been decimated at times this season, with Morgan Burnett, Davon House, Kevin King, and others missing significant time. Let me be one of many to say, I wish he was still in Green Bay. (I promise that rhyme was unintentional)
Julius Peppers – Carolina Panthers
Peppers left Green Bay after recording at least 7.0 sacks in each of his three seasons with the Packers. At 37 years of age, it’s hard to fault somebody for questioning if Peppers has much left in the tank. To the doubters, look at Peppers stats this year. In nine games he’s totaled 20 tackles, including 7.5 sacks. By comparison, the Packers, as a team, have 13.0 sacks on the season. Starting outside linebackers Nick Perry and Clay Matthews have combined for just 6.5 sacks thus far. I said it with Hyde, and I’ll say it again here, I wish he was still in Green Bay.
T.J. Lang – Detroit Lions
It’s harder to fault Ted Thompson for letting Lang walk than it is in the cases of Julius Peppers or Micah Hyde. The sole reason for this is that Lang has not been sorely missed, thanks to Jahri Evans. That being said, Lang has done a stand up job for Detroit this season, starting every game and being every bit the blue collar workhorse of a lineman that he was as a Packer. Though the offensive line in Green Bay has been decimated week in and week out this year, Jahri Evans has played every game, and played commendably at that. It’s fair to say the Packers got quality guard play at a discount price with this transaction.
Jared Cook – Oakland Raiders
Cook was one of the most contentious moves of the offseason after Aaron Rodgers made it clear that he wanted the speedy tight end back. The Packers quelled fears by “upgrading” to Martellus Bennett. Now, let me be clear here, I am a HUGE Marty B fan. That being said, Bennett has 233 yards and zero touchdowns through seven games played. Despite signing a three-year contract, Bennett has announced that he’s likely to retire at the end of the season, meaning the Packers will be in the market for a tight end once again. Cook, on the other hand, is having the best year of his career, averaging a career high 55.4 yards per game and on pace for a career-high 69 catches. On top of playing well, Cook is likely to continue playing beyond this year. Forgive me sounding like a broken record, but I wish he was still in Green Bay.
Eddie Lacy – Seattle Seahawks
Lacy’s decision to leave was met with much less scorn than any other player, and his performance this season has certainly validated the decision to let him walk. Through six games played, Lacy has rushed for 128 yards on 48 carries, giving him a robust 2.7 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Packers have been in capable hands, with Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery providing more on the ground than Lacy possibly could’ve. Unlike the others, I’m happy to know Lacy is no longer in Green Bay.
The lesson here is pretty simple, while there are certainly free agent acquisitions that pay dividends, allowing players to walk in exchange for others is often a futile exercise. As the Packers and their fans watch the season slowly drip down the drain in the absence of Aaron Rodgers, there are two things that should be kept in mind. First off, the team has talent. The performance of Hyde and Lang especially is a sign that players drafted by Green Bay can play well here and at times even better when they leave. Second, when players perform better when they leave, a la Micah Hyde, Jared Cook, and Julius Peppers, it’s a sign that coaching may not be up to snuff (coughs* Dom Capers). Looking ahead, the Packers have a few players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in the coming offseason, including Davante Adams, Corey Linsley, Jahri Evans, Richard Rodgers, Morgan Burnett, and Davon House. Might be smart to hang on to more than a few of those guys.