Evaluating the Packers Free Agent Class

The Packers signed seven veteran free agents prior to the 2017 season, this is how they are doing. 

For years, fans of the Green Bay Packers wanted the organization to be more aggressive in free agency. In 2017, they were, but so far, the results have been a mixed bag.

The biggest signing by Ted Thompson, tight end Martellus Bennett, has just 24 receptions for 223 yards and zero touchdowns. Bennett is only averaging 33 yards per game. Obviously, the loss of Aaron Rodgers has caused the pass offense to struggle, but still, Bennett has been disappointing.

The massive tight end has made little impact in the red zone. He is at least a willing blocker, but if he does decide to retire at the end of the year, it won’t be hard to find a replacement. Lance Kendricks, who is signed through next season, would be just fine.

Bennett was the big-name addition in the Packers’ class of free agents, but there were also some veterans added. Davon House was one of those. The corner played in Green Bay previously and has been solid, but injury prone. Yet, even when healthy, he has no longer a preferred starter, but has contributed with 15 tackles and two passes defensed.

Another disappointment, mainly because of injury, is Ahmad Brooks. Green Bay signed him after he was cut by the 49ers and paid him a few millions bucks to be the Packers third rusher. Unfortunately, he has played in just four of seven games and so far, has just one sack.

Another 49ers player Quinton Dial, has seven tackles and one pass defense and has been a solid presence against the run. He and Ricky Jean-Francois have provided solid depth behind Kenny Clark, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry.

The other move that has paid off, is the addition of Jahri Evans, who signed just before the NFL draft. Evans stepped in to T.J. Lang’s old spot and has done an admirable job. He’s not going to make the All-Pro team or anything, but he is tied with Corey Linsley for the most snaps played and for the most part, he’s held up well.

All in all, there have been some solid additions. Evans and Bennett are starters. While Bennett needs to produce more to live up to the contract he signed, it might prove difficult with Brett Hundley quarterbacking the team.

Green Bay signed seven free agents that play significant snaps, three on offense and four on defense. There have been no superstars and Thompson won’t win any GM of the Year awards. But, the Packers are a better team because of those seven players, who would otherwise be young players or undrafted rookies.

The Packers made a splashy move and so far, it hasn’t really worked out. But in the bigger picture, the veteran depth added has been a good thing and hopefully, that’s a practice Thomspon keeps employing in the future.

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Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Comments (37)

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

November 02, 2017 at 12:11 pm

Lets just say they tried we all know Rodgers goes down and well unless something changes its going to be a long season.

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KenEllis's picture

November 02, 2017 at 01:40 pm

IS Ted's once in a lifetime 2017 free agent class any less blah than his drafts the past six seasons?

He's been mediocre in the draft and he's mediocre in his first significant venture into free agency.

Don't see much difference.

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Christopher Gennaro's picture

November 02, 2017 at 04:09 pm

Tip of the hat sir, that was awesome.

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Roadrunner23's picture

November 02, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Free agent additions are kind of like the stock market, try to find bargains and hope they over-perform, the blue chip stocks rarely over perform.

Blue Chip Stock - Bennett - under performed

Mid-grade stock - Kendricks - solid pick
Evans - good pick
Brooks - under performed
Dial - solid pick
Francois - under performed
House - solid pick

The "normal" Ted Thomson mantra of signing cheap-mid level guys and hoping the over-perform is probably the way to go (unless a Reggie White or Charles Woodson comes along)

"Two Bit Ted" tried to get Cook cheap and panicked a bit in my opinion and signed Bennett to an over priced contract, Bennett has never been "the guy". The signing of Brooks looked like a good deal at the time (when they realized Fackrell is a bust) but he may be at the end. The Francois (dough-nut man) signing I never was on board with from the start, they should have kept Price or Ringo, at least there was a chance of up-side.

Letting go of Hyde, Hayward (the year prior) Cook, Lacy and Lang were mistakes in my opinion. All could have been kept. Draft and develop is what we always hear until its not.

Have a plan and work your plan guys or it will bite you.

Free Agent Grade C -

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dobber's picture

November 02, 2017 at 12:55 pm

Lang has a bad back and had a leg injury, and has missed all of one game and parts of 3 others. His back will be an ongoing issue all season. I don't think TT missed the boat there. This is starting to look like a solid pass, and not just on the basis of what he got paid.

Lacy has been crap for the Seahawks and the RBs the Packers have on hand have been better. He's playing behind a lousy OL, but in his chance to earn big bucks and show he belongs, hehas no burst and lacks fire (if you've watched him play). Not a miss there.

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KenEllis's picture

November 02, 2017 at 01:54 pm

The Packers do not miss Ted Thompson 1st round pick Datone Jones or Ted Thompson 2nd round pick Eddie Lacy.

Thank goodness they are proving just how crappy they are elsewhere this season.

Lang was given a lot of money, so it is hard to argue with his departure either under the circumstances.

is there anyone who would not rather have Cook, for less money, than TT's big free agent signee Martellus I'm retirin' after 7 games Bennett?

As for Peppers having more sacks than Ted's entire OLB group combined and Hyde leading the league in interceptions now that he has finally been moved to Safety where he belonged all the time, well it is best not to pay too much attention to those performances because in TT WE MUST ALWAYS TRUST.

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Mojo's picture

November 02, 2017 at 01:37 pm

I'd have to tweak Nostradanus' picks just a bit as per
below in parentheses:

Blue Chip Stock - Bennett - under performed (agree on underperfomed, but don't think he was a blue chip to begin with.)

Mid-grade stock - Kendricks - solid pick (meh)
Evans - good pick (agree, mostly because he's played so many snaps . It would be interesting to see how he's graded out though. )
Brooks - under performed (agree, injuries have made his contributions nearly nothing).
Dial - solid pick (meh, and now he's injured)
Francois - under performed ( I don't know if he underperformed as much as played to his level which wasn't high. Agree about keeping either Ringo or Price).
House - solid pick (except he's been injured so often his impact on the team has been limited).

All-in-all the FA's have contributed very little except for Evans, Kendricks at times and House during the moments he actually plays.

Evans has made this FA class some what acceptable. Else, for the others as a whole the Bard once wrote; "Much ado about nothing."

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RobinsonDavis's picture

November 05, 2017 at 08:05 am

I agree with you Mojo, but do appreciate that Ted has tried (if not very late in shoring up the OLB and Oline shortage we all knew about last year that was coming). I had no problem with the Bennett, Kendricks, Evans, and Brooks signings originally, and still don't. The season is still young and these guys can contribute substantially, and need to, if we are to have any chance. Brook's back is a big concern though, and we do not have a consistent interior pass rush without Daniels 100%. My peeve, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, can we please get Kendricks involved in the passing game?

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billybobton's picture

November 02, 2017 at 01:37 pm

If you are grading MB as a TE you are missing the point...he has been huge in blocking and making jones look better, there is not a single player on GB outside the OL (and not all of them) who run block better than MB has been

and he has been significant in pass blocking

you have to pay attention to what is happening on the field and not look at a stat line...the stat line is what led so many to see peppers who played DT in a two man DL as a dud, wake up

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Razer's picture

November 02, 2017 at 02:03 pm

Good points BillyBob. However, it is a poor allocation of roster money to bring in high priced talent then bury them in the trenches. The Packers have been yearning for a TE threat to open up the middle of the field instead Bennett is used primarily as an inline blocker. Same with Peppers. All too often Peppers was one of 2 big bodies on the D-line. Why bring in $9 million dollar men to supplement the lines. A lot of mis-casting going on with this organization. Next we'll be asking safeties to play corner...

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RCPackerFan's picture

November 02, 2017 at 02:12 pm

To be fair, they needed Bennett to stay in and block more due to the amount of injuries on the OL. Now that we start getting the OL healthier we should see him being more productive in the passing game.

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HankScorpio's picture

November 02, 2017 at 03:21 pm

I'm not sure they have the QB to take advantage in the passing game anymore.

But either way, Bennett's better blocking will still help the expected shift to a more run-orientated approach.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

November 05, 2017 at 08:02 am

If he catches the ball. We need him focused on the game, and he concerns me with the retirement talk, now. Get Kendricks involved!!

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 09:01 am

You make some goodpoints, but I think fans wanted to see our tight ends stretch the middle of the field a bit. That's what MM said. Blocking okay, but a threat to increase offensive threat? NO. Defenses, without, and even with Rodgers, didn't fear our tight ends much. Also, TT had not helped build a defense. Not much is a pass rush, LB's slow in coverage, DB's soft and lost in coverage. Then again, time has passed Capers no stop defense schemes. How many third and longs must we endure?

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 09:02 am

You make some goodpoints, but I think fans wanted to see our tight ends stretch the middle of the field a bit. That's what MM said. Blocking okay, but a threat to increase offensive threat? NO. Defenses, without, and even with Rodgers, didn't fear our tight ends much. Also, TT had not helped build a defense. Not much is a pass rush, LB's slow in coverage, DB's soft and lost in coverage. Then again, time has passed Capers no stop defense schemes. How many third and longs must we endure?

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 09:02 am

You make some goodpoints, but I think fans wanted to see our tight ends stretch the middle of the field a bit. That's what MM said. Blocking okay, but a threat to increase offensive threat? NO. Defenses, without, and even with Rodgers, didn't fear our tight ends much. Also, TT had not helped build a defense. Not much is a pass rush, LB's slow in coverage, DB's soft and lost in coverage. Then again, time has passed Capers no stop defense schemes. How many third and longs must we endure?

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 03, 2017 at 11:19 pm

of course, if the fans thought MB was going to be a tremendous field stretcher, they were deluding themselves. He can stretch the field more than he has, I think, but can't really do that when he's staying in to block. Even the chip and release inhibits the ability to stress the seam.

Bennett is the proverbial dual threat TE. Given the woes on the OL we didn't find out if MM could make that work. Now with the injury to AR, we might never find out.

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HankScorpio's picture

November 02, 2017 at 02:55 pm

FA is not as big of a crapshoot as the draft but there is still plenty of uncertainty to it. Remember, these are all guys that the team that knows them best have allowed to hit the open market. There will be hits and misses and guys that are tough to call one way or the other, just like the draft.

The difference between FA and draft is that playing in the deep end of the FA pool can cripple your cap and have longer-term ripple effect damage that goes beyond the one blown choice.

So my idea of proper FA use is as a supplemental talent acquisition avenue, not a primary one. Keep the contracts cap-friendly and the transformative expectations elsewhere.

I think the Packers 2017 FA class was about as well done as can be reasonably expected. They did help themselves modestly on the field without taking on major cap risk. Some additions have worked out, some not, some are in between.

I wish the Packers had approached FA like this every year. I hope they do so in the future.

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Christopher Gennaro's picture

November 02, 2017 at 04:14 pm

We can only hope, and your last sentence brought a tear to my eye in it's simplicity. Way too simple for this team.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 03, 2017 at 01:18 am

Excellent, Hank. And your post below is excellent as well. I agree that if one looks at the value of the players vs. their contracts we've probably gotten a small surplus. 9 games to go before we can be completely assess that.

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 09:09 am

You make a great point, kinda. Can you name the last FA who was a Packer game charger that TT selected? I can. Also, his draft scouts and he should be questioned as to their methods of selection. Seems like they have missed on many picks they have had. Got lucky so far with A. Jones maybe, but others??

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

November 03, 2017 at 11:23 pm

You might just spell out whatever it is you're trying to insinuate without specifying.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

November 05, 2017 at 08:07 am

Like this Hank, and as reminder many of these late acquisitions were lat, requiring them to learn the Packer systems too. My point is that they all should be comfortable now in their execution of the game plan. I also agree with the points by all that we need to get the TEs downfield and open up the middle.

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HankScorpio's picture

November 02, 2017 at 06:12 pm

Shouldn't a discussion of FA grades include the contract numbers for those players? IMO, the contract is best indicator of the expectations for a FA signing---, kind of like how we view expectations of draft choices by round. I mean, if a 2nd/3rd round pick (Bennett) fails, it is a far different thing than a UDFA (Francios) that fails.

Francios signed for the vet minimum...which means the Packers do get a cap exemption and he counts $615k vs the cap.

Dial signed for $1 above the vet minimum of $775. That means the Packers don't get the vet cap exemption but it is still a low $$ deal.

Evans, House and Brooks signed 1 yr deals for cap hits of $2.5 mil, $2.8 and $3.5 mil respectively. The Packers went picking through the bargain bin with these 3 hoping to find something they could use. (note: Regardless of the play of these 3, these are my kinds of FA signings. I'd love to see the Packers adding 2-4 players like this every year--low risk/commitment but plenty of potential upside)

Bennett is the most complicated. The contract term is 3 yrs with SB of 6.3 mil and salary/bonus of $1.75 mil for 2017 and $6.45 mil and $6.5 mil beyond that. By the end of the year, the Packers will have paid him $8.05 mil with no future guarantee. I would seriously doubt they give him any more. If he doesn't retire, he'll keep all of that and be cut in March when he is due $2 mil. If he does retire, he can be forced to return $4.2 mil. So he'd be doing the Packers a huge favor if he does retire

Edit: Forget Lance Kendricks...which says something I suppose.
Anywho.. 2 yrs. 2 mil per yr. Very little risk... about what they'd pay a RFA they wanted to keep. I'd call it something like a 5th rounder.

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NickPerry's picture

November 03, 2017 at 05:29 am

"The Packers went picking through the bargain bin with these 3 hoping to find something they could use."

I'd say the Packers were picking from the "Bargain Bin" with every FA they signed. As happy as I was about getting Bennett I always wondered why he was on his 3rd or 4th team (whatever it is) in almost as many years. I'd say we're finding out with his recent comments and his declining play. The Patriots didn't even make an offer which was a huge reg flag to begin with, especially when you look at Gronks health and the signing of another TE who had injury history (Dwayne Allen) as well.

Don't get me wrong, I was ecstatic about Thompson finally diving in. But at the end of the day if you want to make a JUMP to get over that hump then Thompson needs to go bigger. Injuries never help but lets face it, the 2014, 2015, and parts of the 2016 draft have been mostly huge disappointments. 2015's draft is enough to make a grown man cry.

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HankScorpio's picture

November 03, 2017 at 08:15 am

Bennett did not sign for a bargain basement price. But you're right that the number of teams he's gone through should have been a red flag to the team and fans that he was a bargain bin player and did not merit the contract he got.

It was a bad signing that was easy to see coming in hindsight, although I admit to missing it at the time.

"But at the end of the day if you want to make a JUMP to get over that hump then Thompson needs to go bigger."

Spoken like some betting big on MNF to get back to even after a rough Sunday. You just got done pointing out that the biggest deal they signed was the biggest flop. And then advocated double-downing on that failed strategy. It just makes no sense to me to view FA that way. It has not show to be true that going big does give you a jump at a success rate that makes it a good strategy

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egbertsouse's picture

November 02, 2017 at 05:55 pm

Disagree with Kendrick’s and Dial being good signings. Kendrick’s rides the pine most of the time and Dial has graded out awful in many games.

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HankScorpio's picture

November 02, 2017 at 06:13 pm

Did you expect something else from them? Superstars don't sign vet min or RFA tender type deals in FA. Bottom of the roster depth guys sign those kinds of deals.

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dobber's picture

November 02, 2017 at 08:04 pm

Bottom line is that MM won't abandon his 11 package until he has to...which means Bennett needs to come off the field or flex out wide for Kendricks or RRod to see the field (or vice versa). In the end, this team's top three pass-catchers are still WRs and RBs.

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 10:22 am

Agree with Kendricks. What about R. Rodgers too? Three TE's? Production, use, effectiveness? One has to question their use, MN offensive genius. Has not happened. I too thought, gee three capable TE's, watch the offense blossom. Ha, no, wilt! I have lost faith with offensive use and creative schemes with MM. Without Rodgers MM, DC, and TT would be gone 5 years ago, maybe 6. Waited to long to make changes; Rodgers will not see another SB; division Champs, yes, but SB, not happening folks.

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al bundy's picture

November 04, 2017 at 09:12 am

Jones rode the bench too ntil injuries then we found out he was way better than the two ahead of him. I think Kendricks is the ho to guy wasting away on the bench for mm's pet Bennet. Mm plays Ted's free agents.

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Tundraboy's picture

November 02, 2017 at 07:19 pm

"While Bennett needs to produce more to live up to the contract he signed, it might prove difficult with Brett Hundley quarterbacking the team."

Reading this made me realize how disappointing Bennett has been from a team leadership perspective. Maybe instead of talking about retirement it would be nice if he took a Hundley under his wing and helped him help the team.

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 10:24 am

I think he retired and knew it the day he signed. Sad.

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Finwiz's picture

November 03, 2017 at 08:37 am

I'd just like to know what genius up in GB drew the "line in the sand" on Jared Cook, and decided to play hard ball with him over a few years or dollars. He had potential to be another Finley and probably better. That one didn't work out too well for old TT. That mistake alone negates anything else he did in FA.

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DD's picture

November 03, 2017 at 10:27 am

Cook was an up and commer. Cook is doing well. TT and coaches probably missed this one. But then again, they let Peppers go too, and Hyde. TT, to old, stale, out of touch now. Evaluation and our scout team must be replaced. Wait and suffer.

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56Packfan's picture

November 03, 2017 at 12:44 pm

Every year, fans want TT to sign big name free agents, who always end up being just as much crap shoots as the lower tier ones. The fans think THIS IS THE YEAR. But it's never that simple because it is easy to get derailed by the unexpected. By keeping out of the market, TT preserves cap space for more consecutive shots at the Super Bowl if the QB stays healthy. So if he had spent all his cap for this year run because the "window is closing," how would the fans feel now? Next year, there would have been a cap bloodbath, taking away the rest of Aaron's chances for another shot at the crown.

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Dzehren's picture

November 03, 2017 at 09:59 pm

With A-Rod going down- it was the off-season that could have been. With Rodgers out- all the FA pick ups are irrelevant unless Hundley is in the mold of DeSean Watson

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