Green and Bold: Packers Primed to Make a Free-Agency Splash

Ted Thompson isn't as reticent to sign unrestricted free agents as many think.

Ted Thompson isn't as reticent to sign unrestricted free agents as many think.

I've already lost many of you with the title of this week's column, and that's okay. 

Many have internalized the Ted-Thompson-doesn't-sign-outside-free-agents narrative so deeply that they cannot even consider the fact that it could be an option this offseason. 

But that, of course, is not true. Thompson's pattern isn't that he never signs street free agents; it's that he does so strategically and with careful deliberation. 

And it feels like the right time to do so again. 

Whether you're a glass half-empty or glass-half full kind of person, there's no denying that the Packers' window to win a Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers is at least half closed. Rodgers is entering his ninth season as a starter (and 12th in the league) and it's unlikely he'll start under center for another nine, unless he wants to be playing when he's 41 years old. 

Thompson's draft-and-develop strategy has kept the Packers in playoff contention for over a decade. Only three times since Thompson took over at the helm in 2005 have the Packers failed to make the postseason. 

The Packers consistently feature one of the league's youngest rosters and enjoy one of the healthiest salary caps. After re-signing defensive tackle Letroy Guion, the Packers have an estimated $19.3 million in salary-cap space, per Spotrac. Furthermore, they have less than $700,000 in dead money on the books, which is no small feat and frees them up to use more of their available space. 

2016 sees many of the Packers' key players coming up on free-agent status, including kicker Mason Crosby, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker Nick Perry, outside linebacker Mike Neal, cornerback Casey Hayward, running back James Starks, and tight end Andrew Quarless, among others. 

But even if Green Bay wants to re-sign two or three of those unrestricted free agents, the cap is not prohibitive to chasing a street free agent.

And as much as he may have earned a reputation for being resistant to free-agent signings, Thompson has surprised us before.

Just look at Guion. Or Peppers. Or Jeff Saturday. Or Charlie Peprah. Or Charles Woodson. Or Ryan Pickett. 

Within the framework of how Thompson and the Packers run the team, I don't believe that free agency is the time to pick up a young player who you want to make a key part of your team for years to come. This isn't the time to spend money on a 26-year-old inside linebacker and sign him to a five-year deal. The draft continues to be the best mode of molding players in your system, and the defensive tackle and inside linebacker classes in 2016 are deep. 

But free agency can be a perfect opportunity to improve one position that could mean the difference between making it to the Divisional Round or the NFC Championship Game and winning the Super Bowl. In this scenario, it doesn't matter if a player is on the wrong side of 30, because the idea is to bring him in for a year or two while the rest of the team is strong enough to contend for a title. 

The Packers are, obviously, strong at quarterback. They're set at safety for 2016. They will most likely enhance the defensive line through the draft, having already re-signed Mike Daniels and Guion.

On the other hand, they're getting a little thin at cornerback if Casey Hayward departs in free agency. They have a lot of names at wide receiver but a lack of speed, even though Jordy Nelson's return should open up the playbook. Their tight ends are nothing to write home about. Eddie Lacy's future at running back is in question. And their inside linebacker position continues to be a mess; Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers outside is the ultimate goal. 

There are definitely areas on this roster in which Thompson could add one talented veteran off the street and make a sizable impact. 

Given the start-and-stop offense in 2015, one area Thompson could bolster and see immediate returns on his investment is tight end. It kills two birds with one stone by giving Aaron Rodgers another pass-catching threat on seam routes and in the red zone and also improving blocking in the run game, especially considering that fullback John Kuhn may have played his last season in Green Bay and Aaron Ripkowski is still green. 

The other factor that makes tight end appealing in free agency is that this year's draft class is shallow at the position, and the Packers are unlikely to spend another pick in the first three rounds on a tight end after drafting Richard Rodgers in Round 3 in 2014. 

But if the Packers are prepared to let Quarless walk in free agency, they'll need someone who can push Rodgers in training camp and who could share the load as a pass-catcher. No one is giving up on Rodgers, who made promising strides in 2015 with eight touchdowns and averaging nearly nine yards per catch. But even Mike McCarthy acknowledged the Packers need more big receivers over the middle.

One player who comes to mind is Benjamin Watson, who had the best season of his career in 2015 with the New Orleans Saints, with 74 receptions for 825 yards and six touchdowns. He may be 35 years old, but he moves extremely well and would be a nice fit in what the Packers already do on offense, especially in terms of what he can offer on seam routes. He also had a base salary of $1.2 million in 2015, per Spotrac, and wouldn't  break the bank if the Packers wanted to sign him to a short-term deal. 

Then there's Jared Cook, who was recently cut by the St. Louis Rams. Though he never lived up to the contract the Rams gave him and he hasn't scored a touchdown since the 2014 season, he has produced. Per ESPN, Cook  ranks 13th in receiving yards and 14th in receptions among all tight ends since 2013, though he also has the second-most drops. Given what the Packers need from the tight end position and how sure Richard Rodgers' hands are, Cook could be risky. 

And though he's technically under contract through 2016, it's likely that the Chicago Bears cut tight end Martellus Bennett this offseason, presenting an incredibly intriguing option for Thompson. At 29, Bennett isn't necessarily looking for a five-year deal, and though he wouldn't come cheap (his last contract was four years, $20.4 million), he's the type of player who could make this offense borderline unstoppable. The Packers haven't had a complete package tight end in years, and Bennett, with his blocking and pass-catching ability, offers that. 

Speaking of the Bears, tight end isn't the only position the Packers could look to target in free agency and Bennett isn't the only Chicago player who could be on Thompson's radar. While most immediately dismissed the idea that the Packers could sign running back Matt Forte, it makes more sense the more you consider it.

Signing Forte wouldn't mean the Packers are giving up on Eddie Lacy, though it could certainly be the push he needs to take his conditioning more seriously. Forte could be a perfect candidate to replace the role the outgoing James Starks filled for the Packers, except better. Forte is a force in the screen game and has great receiving ability out of the backfield, which compliments Lacy's hard-nosed running style well. 

We all saw how one-dimensional the Packers offense looked in 2015, and opening up the playbook a bit by running more screens with a player like Forte could do wonders to keep defenders guessing and open the field for Aaron Rodgers. 

Moreover, at this point in his career Forte may be more tempted by a ring than by a huge contract. Green Bay might not have to necessarily offer Forte a four-year deal for upwards of $30 million given what they can offer him in terms of championship contention. 

There are plenty of other names on the free-agent market this offseason, and Thompson could very well sign someone out of left field.

He also could sign no one, and I'm sure I'll hear about it on Twitter if he doesn't, because I've been vocal about my feeling that this year is going to be a splashy one. The Packers do need to save money for free agents that need to be re-signed before March 2017, such as David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang, and Josh Sitton. 

But let's not shut down the possibility that Thompson could wade into the free agency pool this offseason, as he did in 2014, 2012, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005. Given the timing and the players matching the Packers' needs available in free agency compared to this year's draft class, one well-placed veteran could help this team get through January. 

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Comments (76)

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 24, 2016 at 05:54 am

While I think that Ted will sign one or two FAs, it will not be a splashy year. Next year, quite a few key players have contracts ending, so I think Ted will either extend some contracts already, or he will want to roll some cap money over to next year for that purpose.

But I agree, a TE or a ILB could help this year, not having to solely rely on the draft. My favorite would be Forte, though. Bennett is a good player, but a head case. Watson and Cook are too old or not reliable enough.

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KenEllis's picture

February 24, 2016 at 04:57 pm

I agree it will not be a splashy year, just like 8 of the past 9 years - signing Peppers & Guion was as splashy as it will ever get under TT.

I look for more Mathew Mulligan, Frank Walker, Philip Merling type signings.

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croatpackfan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:17 am

I agree with you, Michelle, regarding Martellus Bennett. He is not Rob Gronkowski, but he is not much weaker too. And he is very good blocker. He gets my voice, but I doubt it would be possible...

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chungo's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:22 am

Ill second Martellus Bennett-complete tight end.

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Idiot Fan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 09:04 am

What makes me nervous about Bennett and Forte is that the Bears have cash coming out of their ears and are still choosing not to retain those guys.

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Evan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 09:25 am

Same was true of Peppers...do we really need to remind you that the Bears are the Bears?

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Idiot Fan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 10:49 am

Fair enough. Although, were they in the same kind of cap situation then that they are now? I doubt it. I mean, they've got money to burn.

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NickPerry's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:28 am

Bennett would be high on my list of targts for TT to sign though I'm sure because he was cut other teams would jump at him too. If he is cut, Teddy needs to sneak him in and out of Green Bay like he did with Peppers, sign him, then tweet a picture of Bennett signing a contract with a Packers hat! NOBODY knows what a Post ACL Surgery Jordy Nelson will play like, no matter how far ahead schedule he is. I think he'll come back just fine but Bennett would open things up for everybody, more than just about anyone then could sign and he's one of the most complete TE's in the NFL. Then Ted could focus on the draft and the OLB, DL, OL, RB, and ILB positions.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:28 am

If Thompson does look to go into free agency to sign a player, I think the TE position makes the most sense.

First they have to have another threat at TE. Can't go through another season with Rodgers and no one else. They have a real need for a pass catching TE.

Second the NFL draft is very thin at TE. There are maybe 4 TE's that will be able to be counted on to contribute to an offense as rookies.

Third in the Packers offense it typically takes players about 2-3 years to fully learn the offense. Rookies coming in have a steep learning curve trying to learn it. Also trying to learn how to play in the NFL. A veteran player knows how to play in the NFL they just would need to learn the playbook and get reps with Rodgers.

So to me it makes more sense to look at the Free Agents to fill the need at TE then to look at the draft.

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sheppercheeser's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:43 am

Boy, you'd think that since the list of successful FAs TT has brought in over the years would make him even more apt to sign an established, seasoned veteran. I know the price tag might slow him down a bit, but at least you know what you're getting (for the most part). Also, you can look at it two ways- TT has made the post season 11 out of 15 years (good) or you can say out of 11 playoff seasons, he's been to two SBs (not so good).

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:01 am

'TT has made the post season 11 out of 15 years (good) or you can say out of 11 playoff seasons, he's been to two SBs (not so good).'

Where did you get 15 years?

Since Thompson has taken over in 2005 as GM these are the super bowl teams.

Steelers (W) vs Seahawks (L)
Colts (W) vs Bears (L)
Giants (W) vs Patriots (L)
Steelers (W) vs Cardinals (L)
Saints (W) vs Colts (L)
Packers (W) vs Steelers (L)
Giants (W) vs Patriots (L)
Ravens (W) vs 49ers (L)
Seahawks (W) vs Broncos (L)
Patriots (W) vs Seahawks (L)
Broncos (W) vs Panthers (L)

Since the Thompson regime has taken over the Steelers, Seahawks and Patriots have each been to 3 Super Bowls. Giants, Colts, Broncos have been to 2. The rest have been to 1.

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D.D.Driver's picture

February 24, 2016 at 10:20 am

To be fair, though, Thompson gets at least some of the credit for the 2005 Seahawks team....

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Tundraboy's picture

February 24, 2016 at 04:30 pm

RC, Let's hope so. Just makes the most sense if we want a TE to actually fill the huge void this year. I for one can not bear to watch another year of RRodgers glacial speed and a bunch of stiffs. (Sorry Q, but unless your on the field....)

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Littlejim51's picture

February 24, 2016 at 06:51 am

Just as Mike McCarthy listens to the Green and Gold radio show from Jason Welde, one can only hope someone from TT staff reads Cheesehead TV articles
With J. Peppers on the Packers and already courting Forte, he too would be a good reference to the inside word on TE M. Bennett. Bennett like Jason W from the Cowboys always( not this year) found ways to get open and block . I agree Bennett is the full package and bring on board an above average TEvand a seasoned RB to light a fire under Lacey would push the Packers over the hump
I disagree with not taking a 25 yr old ILB in free agency as I am sick and tired of waiting.
But three non packer free agent in one year is way too much to ask for. Who knows maybe Ted is reading your article and see the sense in playingvwith house money
In the words of George Bailey" wait, wait for what"

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Handsback's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:27 am

I think TT and MM would love to have Bennett, but at what price. I can see Forte (because he's looking for a ring) but don't think Bennett is that desperate.

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:08 am

"On the other hand, they're getting a little thin at cornerback."

Really? After last year's infusion of talent, CB seems more than fine.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:13 am

Yeah, i didn't get that one. The only thing I coudl think of was maybe thin at slot CB?

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mnbruton's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:42 am

Hey Evan,

I can see how that was unclear. I meant that they'll be thin if Hayward leaves in free agency. I've made it clearer - thanks!

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:52 am

Even still, I think they're fine at CB 1-5 (Shields, Randall, Rollins, Hyde, Gunter). But it's a minor point.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:09 am

I think they are fine at CB too. Another guy to watch is Robertson-Daniels. He was promoted from the Practice Squad at the end of the year which means he impressed them.

But if they lose Hayward I do think they should look for another slot CB in the draft.

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:17 am

Jordan Cameron?

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:21 am

If he gets cut (rumors are that he will). I would go after him.

The way I look at it. Either Cameron and/or Bennett is a huge upgrade over what they got out of Perillo, Quarless last year.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:56 am

Good call Evan! Cameron seems more talented than Bennett. Either would be an upgrade. Bennett will probably be cheaper, however.

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NickPerry's picture

February 25, 2016 at 04:59 am

Plus he's been coached by our new TE's coach right?

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Evan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:14 am

Good call - in Cleveland, I would assume, yea.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:23 pm

Two gold stars for you Nick for making that connection.

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:01 am

didn't do anything in Miami...

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:10 am

Gotta look at who was around him in Miami, plus their general disfunction last year.

On the other hand, there were rumors out of Cleveland that he wasn't the hardest worker.

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sgunderson17's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:35 am

The draft is weak at the TE position overall, but that doesn't mean there aren't any good TE's available. Hunter Henry would be an instant upgrade. The problem is the Packers' draft position relative to where he belongs. Would you pick him late 1st as opposed to early 2nd where he probably belongs? Is the stretch worth getting a guy who could be a player like Kyle Rudolph, Heath Miller, or Jason Witten? Ultimately, it will depend on how the board falls, at every position. BPA or Die.

I think we'll find out what the Packers think of Kennard Beckman on draft day this year. They wanted to develop him, but they're not really in position to develop the TE position this year. If they don't think he can step in and play then they'll pick another TE.

Richard Rodgers is fine and dandy, but he's not going to make defenses flinch. They're not going to alter their coverages because of him or even put in a decent amount of game planning against him. You need an actual threat at that position, and Richard Rodgers is not that. And what if he gets injured? Holy moley, then they have absolutely nobody.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:15 am

Yeah, i agree with you on this.

There will be players that can contribute in the draft. Just not that many. Problem is that you may have to reach for some of them to get them. Thompson doesn't reach for the players.

I agree with Rodgers is fine. We honestly don't need him to be Finley. But we could really use a 2nd TE that is closer to what Finley was.

Our offense could really use a player that can attack the middle of the field more that forces defenses to focus on them.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:09 am

" Thompson doesn't reach for the players. "
Sherrod, Perry, D.Jones and that excludes other rd reaches.
But before anyone says you can't reach for a player in other rds...think about it.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:18 am

Sherrod I'll give you, simply because of the pre-draft injury issue.

Nick Perry was and is a freak athlete. Don't be fooled by the unfortunate "hand in the dirt" comment. Plenty of people had a first round grade on Perry.

Datone was an obvious choice. He had a monster senior year at UCLA.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:43 am

Perry may have had a 1st rd rate for a 4-3 defense but he was a huge conversion project for a 3-4 outside linebacker which is reach with or without the " hand in dirt " comment and has been proven to be true. Keeping him now is via a possible ' no choice' situation and not because he has become what was reached for to begin with.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 12:03 pm

There's no "may have" involved, but it's not worth a further discussion that has been had 1000s of times.

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 12:11 pm

"but he was a huge conversion project for a 3-4 outside linebacker "

From NFL.com: "Nick Perry was a top defensive end recruit out of Detroit that Pete Carroll was able to cherry-pick to USC, and his impact playing the "elephant" position within Caroll's defense as a freshman will encourage many teams to consider drafting him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. "

So, I don't know about "huge conversion."

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marpag1's picture

February 24, 2016 at 01:48 pm

Dude, don't you know that you're not supposed to cloud the issue with factual information when people are talking out of their butts?

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Tundraboy's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:26 am

One of the best comments ever.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:26 pm

Evan - Thanks for the research!

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barutanseijin's picture

February 24, 2016 at 05:12 pm

Your argument is that TT just went with the herd consensus? Maybe he did, I dunno, but it's not the argument I'd make if I were saying he was a special GM.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 12:32 pm

The only player in the first round that any 'draft expert' said was a reach was Justin Harrell.

Sherrod, Perry, Jones all had first round grades when they were drafted. They weren't reach picks.

Every team has their own grades on players. Some teams rate players a lot higher then others. Thompson won't 'reach' for a TE in the first round if he has a 2nd round grade on him.

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:34 pm

So far Thompson's two reach picks (Randall and Rollins) from 2015 are working out well.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:03 am

exactly. and they were only reaches by fans. The day of the draft last year Mel Kiper said that Randall was a guy he thought would have went higher.

The general consensus was that the Packers didn't reach for those picks.

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marpag1's picture

February 24, 2016 at 01:21 pm

Wait... what? You're saying you actually WANT a TE like Kyle Rudolph?? Cuz I guarantee that the Vikings wish they had never met Kyle Rudolph.

In five years, he has never produced more than 495 yards receiving. In other words, he has NEVER had as many receiving yards as Richard Rodgers did last year, nor has he ever had as many receptions as Rodgers did. His career per catch average is less than half a yard better than the lumbering, slow footed Rodgers. In four out of five years, he had fewer TDs than the 8 Rodgers had this year (and in the fifth year he had 9). He's averaging 356 yard per season. He's a mediocre blocker.

And here's the kicker: The Vikings stupidly gave him an early contract extension of 5 years, 43.5 million with over 12 million guaranteed. Not to mentioned they had already blown a second round pick on him.

What exactly does everybody like about this guy? He's quite possibly the lowest bang-for-the-buck TE in the entire league.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:52 am

I agree that Rudolph isn't the answer. No doubt that Rudolph has a bad contract. Your stats are great, but stats need context. Rudolph missed the last 8 games in 2013 with a broken foot, and thus was limited to 30 receptions. In 2014, Rudolph played the first 3 games, missed the next 8 games with a sports hernia, playing the remaining games hurt, and thus was limited to 24 receptions. One might also consider Minn's crappy offensive line, lousy QBs, and mediocre at best WRs (having Wallace for a deep threat to open up the underneath stuff and seam isn't bad if you have a QB who can hit anyone downfield). I'd conclude that when healthy, Rudolph is good for 50-60 receptions and 500 to 600 yards. Not sure that he is a guy who stretches the seam, but at a little over 6'6" tall and 265 lbs, he has better size than RR. My guess is that with Nelson, Cobb, and podunk at #3WR, AR would know what to do with Rudolph and he'd be around 60 receptions, but that is just my speculation. Rudolph has to have a red flag for injury concerns: haven't we got enough injury-prone players already?

Rudolph's blocking is probably good minus, or at least mediocre plus. Here is what I found per CBSsports.com (also see link) on his blocking: "According to the Pro Football Focus metrics, he was competent as a pass blocker in 2013 but not so good as a run blocker [his hernia year]. In 2012, he was above average in run-blocking and pass protection..." which is a hellava lot better than RR. IMO, Rudolph would be a significant upgrade over RR, while still not being the answer.

http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/eye-on-football/24512293/kyle-rudolph-belie...

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2013/12/12/signature-stats-pass-bl...

Not taking contracts into consideration, Rudolph is better than RR.

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RVAborn's picture

February 25, 2016 at 12:12 am

Richard Rodgers would be a great number 2 to a guy like Bennet. We saw what happened to the receivers when Nelson went down (an assumed position of strength), I shudder to think about ansimilar situation occurring at a weaker position (tight end).

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:31 am

The conventional wisdom is that this is a weak TE draft - but the truth is no one knows. Ebron was a highly rated TE, went top 10 and is a bust so far. Eifert and Ertz went in the 20s and seem to be the real deals. Gronk was a 2nd round pick. Graham, Kelce and Reed went in the 3rd.

My point is good players are found all throughout the draft and the ugly truth is finding those gems is much more luck than skill, imo. Hunter Henry might be an all-pro in the late 1st. Or maybe a Nick Vannett or Tyler Higbee in the 3rd round become the next Gronk.

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:33 am

So true. There is a lot of luck involved. There is a lot of skill but at the same time a lot of luck. But also a lot of it is in how well the player fits into what the team does. For example Jimmy Graham was great in New Orleans, and was average at best in Seattle.

Some players have reasons why they drop in the draft process. For exmaple. Gronk was a 2nd round pick due to injury. He would have been a 1st if he wasn't hurt. Kelce had off field troubles that dropped him.

Henry might be the best prospect right now but 3 years from now we might all be talking about Jerell Adams (who I like a lot), or Hooper as being the best TE from this class. I wouldn't reach for a player in round 1 when you will likely be able to get a similar player in round 2-3.

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lou's picture

February 24, 2016 at 11:47 am

I agree Evan, the so called draft "experts" generally have more egg on their faces than the GM's and with a solid scouting staff like Green Bay has there could very well be a solid TE who can contribute right away they have an eye on (ala Paul Coffman) which would be huge. The number of teams with interest and the price established for the veteran TE's now free agents makes it a waiting game. Bennett does have solid all around talent but both the Cowboys and now the Bears want to part with him - why is that ?

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Handsback's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:23 am

Two things to consider, TT doesn't hate FA...he just isn't going to overpay. He's not paying great money to a pretty good player, or very good money to a fair player.

Second, will a rookie contribute more to the team vs. a second year player? How many rookie TEs make a difference in their first year? I'm not saying he won't draft one, but a high pick may not make much sense. To me, I understand that doesn't mean that much, Mitchell Henry is the guy to look at this year making a big jump. He was making some great catches with a cast on his arm.

I could see TT making a splash with Forte if he's resonable, but I see him looking at LB and DT type players to plug and play if the price is right.

Great article!

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:38 am

I like Mitchell Henry, and I think Kennard Backman could develop. But if I'm the Packers i'm not going to solely rely on those players to make big jumps. I would still rather go out and either sign a FA TE or draft one within the first 4 rounds or so.
They need better talent at the position. I would rather have to many players then not enough.

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:44 am

"How many rookie TEs make a difference in their first year?"

Good question - TEs always seem to take a few years to develop. Let's look at some of the top TEs:

Gronk: Blew up in year 2 (90, 1327, 17 TDs), but had a very solid rookie year (42/546/10).

Graham: Same as Gronk. Huge year 2 (99/1310/11) but a respectable rookie year (31/356/5)

Kelce: Literally nothing in year 1 (injured?), but nearly identical years 2 and 3 (70/865/5)

Reed: Solid years 1 and 2 (50/500/2) but took off in year 3 (87/952/11)

Eifert: Okay rookie year (39/445/2), followed by a lost year 2 (injured, I think) and then a solid year 3 (52/615/13)

Ertz: Steady progress each year. Okay rookie year (36/469/4), year 2 (58/702/3) and year 3 (75/853/2)

Bennett: 4 disappointing years in Dallas, until he really started to produce solid numbers the last 3-4 years.

So, it seems the top TEs drafted in the last 3-5 years were all producing at relative high levels by year 2 at the latest (injuries aside).

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Evan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 08:51 am

For comparison's sake:

Richard Rodgers: Rookie (20/225/2) followed by a big jump in year 2 (58/510/8).

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Packer_Pete's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:03 am

and he wasn't even used to his full strength... Rodgers can (and IMHO will be) a major part of the O in 2016...

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RCPackerFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:07 am

Another Comparison:

Jermichael Finley:

Rookie year 6 receptions 82 yards 1 TD
2nd year 55 receptions 676 yards 5 TD's
3rd year (injured) 22 receptions 301 yards 1 TD
4th year 55 receptions 767 yards 8 TD's.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 02:02 am

Deleted comment about RR's 2nd year "big jump."

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Evan's picture

February 25, 2016 at 07:16 am

For all RR's struggles last year, he more than doubled his production. I'd call that a big jump.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

February 25, 2016 at 09:48 pm

Evan, are you trying to poke the bear? James Starks took a big jump last yr. (his 6th yr), by the stats. Over 600 yards rushing, a career high, and 43 recs, almost doubling his career high for receiving yards with 390 yards. Stats are great, but they almost always need context. RR stats/aggregate production undoubtedly improved, as did Starks´ aggregate production. Was Starks a better overall RB last year than in past years? Probably not.

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 09:05 am

Eifert was injured year 2, he was also splitting time. In fairness, he is playing with Dalton, who has difficulty hitting the the broad side of a barn.

Ertz had similar problems, in addition to having to deal with Chip Kelly's idiocy.

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D Ernesto's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:59 pm

And why is tieing his hands. What are we saving the mney for.

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EdsLaces's picture

February 24, 2016 at 10:26 am

Free Agent TE and all defense in the first part of the draft ....please?

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StvHld's picture

February 24, 2016 at 11:08 am

This really is the year that he needs to go get a player or 2 via free agency. TE & ILB are probably the 2 positions most in need for the Pack. Unfortunately these 2 positions are not really that deep in the draft. So signing an ILB like Trevathan from Denver & or a TE like Cook or Bennett would be a good move. Doubtful they can draft 2 players of impact at those positions.

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croatpackfan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 01:36 pm

There is a lot of ILBs in this year draft. Last year draft was thin with ILBs. Follow reports better. There will be 1st, 2nd & 3rd days guys who plays ILB position. Even in later rounds there will be some talents...

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StvHld's picture

February 24, 2016 at 03:19 pm

Don't know what your looking at. There are maybe 10 ILB who will get drafted in 7 rounds. There is only 1 true 1st rounder. That is not what I would call deep.

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RVAborn's picture

February 25, 2016 at 12:27 am

I just feel like if Thompson had drafted Trevathan (a coveted 6th round gem), he gets a nice lucrative contract to remain a packer. TT won't overpay for guys he doesn't draft ( nor should he if the price is crazy), but he has no problem "overpaying" his own. I like Randall Cobb; he is not worth 10M/year. We saw that this past season.

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Maverick91's picture

February 24, 2016 at 11:57 am

To me it's simple, sign Danny Trevathan or Jerrell Freeman and LaDarius Green or Martellus Bennett if he's available in FA. Then draft to fill the other needs. Here are who I think we should take in the first 3 rounds:

- Round 1: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
- Round 2: Kentrell Brothers, OLB, Missouri
- Round 3: Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State (absolute STEAL!)

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WKUPackFan's picture

February 24, 2016 at 12:06 pm

Unfortunately it's a no on LaDarius. Fantastic talent, but has already had multiple concussions.

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Rossonero's picture

February 24, 2016 at 03:29 pm

I like Brothers a lot. Led the nation in tackles and has a big chip on his shoulder.

Why would Johnson fall to the 3rd round?

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Maverick91's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:58 pm

Well he's projected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round. Plus he didn't play well at the Senior Bowl so that will hurt his stock. If he is available we have to snag him. If not we should get the best DT available.

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Rossonero's picture

February 24, 2016 at 02:46 pm

Hayward can leave. He is only good in the slot and that's it. He can't blitz and struggles in zone and man coverage.

Ted will sign a FA if the price is right. If Forte would only be used as a third down back, is it really worth it to sign him? Even a cheap contract for a veteran like him would be far more expensive than drafting a RB like Devontae Booker (Utah) or Josh Ferguson (Illinois).

As noted, 2017 is basically a free agency cliff for the Packers. Ted will probably keep 2 of 3 offensive linemen and preserve his rollover cap money.

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AgrippaLII's picture

February 24, 2016 at 05:22 pm

A great number of Packer fans get absolutely rabid this time of the year over Free Agency. I personally feel part of the reason for this is cabin fever...got to vent it on something...ranting on Ted Thompson seems to be the favorite. You'd think by now they would realize Ted won't sign a FA if it costs him a compensatory pick...the Packers draft and develop...he needs those picks to build a team with. Second, he won't overpay to get or keep players and overpaying is what the early part of Free Agency is all about. So everyone should chill till the dust settles from the first week frenzy and see who's left that fits Thompson's criteria. None of the players mentioned seem to fit.

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D Ernesto's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:54 pm

Were still waiting for him to build it. Chicago s a couple of guys and the vikes one or two from dominating our draft and development guys.

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RVAborn's picture

February 25, 2016 at 01:01 am

Yes. We all know he won't sign a free agent to lose a compick ,and I think considering certain fans "rabid" is an embellishment. It's just when those comp picks consistenly yield Jerron McMillan and khyri Thornton types (guys that contribute nothing) such as: Tony Moll, BJ Coleman, Andrew Datko, Marshall Newhouse, Clark Harriss, Dave Tollefson ....With the only notable exceptions being Mike Daniels and Josh Sitton. Point is, that coveted comp pick is a long shot to become a stud.

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D Ernesto's picture

February 24, 2016 at 07:50 pm

Not a big ted fan. When he has the money to bring in instant talent to imediately help (reggie white) the team and sits on his hamds and says but gee loom the money i saved thr real owners of the team. BS. And pack fandneed to get it. This is cheap ball znd your getting screwed. Aka the fords in detroit drafting guys from schools you neve heard of. Its easy as hell to field a team
of cheap as undrafteds andlate rounders. Denver went out and got two count em ted two of the two best defensive linemen in the businees and won it all. Undrafteds developmentwl guys will never get you there.

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zeke's picture

February 25, 2016 at 06:53 am

Well said. TT's failure to sign Reggie White will forever define his career and should be hung around his neck like an anchor.

Now watch all the homers on this site come up with excuses: "But but but Reggie died a year before TT became GM!", they'll whine.

How predictable. Bring it on.

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TommyG's picture

February 24, 2016 at 11:54 pm

Primed with wet powder. The only FA signings will be of guys who were on our roster last year. I'm sure TT will make FA offers to some big names, but he will do so at a lower level than our competition.

Okay, that's the pessimist in me talking. I do believe he will bring in one outside guy this year. I think it will be an ILB.

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Oppy's picture

February 25, 2016 at 06:46 am

Just wanted to say, Ted looks pretty effin' sporty in the pic for this article.

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