Saturday, March 30, 2013

Packers Quiet Offseason About To Get Loud

By: Matt Bove

So far in free agency, the Green Bay Packers have not signed any significant unrestricted free agent. Did you really expect anything else? Apparently people have, because the outrage on Twitter about Ted Thompson not signing everybody has been loud. The common theme is that NFC rivals like the Bears, Vikings, Seahawks and 49ers are getting better, while the Packers sit on their hands. However, the Packers seemed primed to lock up two players that those teams or any team would rather have then the free agents that they signed.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwauke Journal-Sentinel, the Packers will indeed sign Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews to long-term contracts in the very near future. While Thompson does not like to sign big money free agents anyways, this is the main reason why the Packers have not signed any significant unrestricted free agent.

Rodgers' new contract is expected to be around $24 million per year, which would surpass Joe Flacoo's six-year, $120.6 million deal and make Rodgers the highest paid NFL player ever. Meanwhile, I would expect Matthews' deal to be around $13 million per year. Obviously, the cap implications will not be known until the deals are signed, but the Packers needed to keep every million they could under the cap for these deals.

The reality is that all these teams that went on free agent shopping sprees would much rather pay Rodgers and Matthews what the Packers will be paying them. They are worth passing over the Steven Jackson's, Ahmad Bradshaw's and Michael Huff's of the world. Those are replaceable players and Rodgers and Matthews are irreplaceable.

In the NFL, players like Rodgers and Matthews never see free agency. If a player is a free agent there is usually a reason for it, as teams just do not let the elite players go. You have to draft elite players if you want to have them. Free agency laden teams of the past like the Eagles, Cowboys, Redskins, Jets, and the Raiders have not won anything and now the Dolphins will see the same fate. Do Mike Wallace and Dannell Ellerbe equal Rodgers and Matthews? Not even close.

Another complaint with this is that the Packers already had Rodgers and Matthews, so they are not getting better by locking them up. They are not adding new players, so how have they been improving? Well, signing Rodgers and Matthews long-term gives the Packers the best chance they have to win future Super Bowls. You need elite players like them to have a chance. Yes, they will be taking up a significant portion of the cap, but so will all the elite quarterbacks sooner or later. Thompson will have to continue to draft talented players around them, so they can get talented players on the cheap.

Fans often forget the develop part of draft and develop. Not only will the Packers add a new draft class, but young players like Casey Heyward, Nick Perry, Dezman Moses, Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings, Davon House, DuJuan Harris, Randall Cobb, and Marshall Newhouse should continue to improve. That is how the Packers get better. A veteran laden team will not have many players making year to year improvements.

Now, I am not saying that you should not sign any free agents. I would have loved to sign Michael Huff, and I think Ozzie Newsome got a bargain in him for only $2M a year. In my opinion, Newsome is the best GM in the NFL because he builds through the draft, but knows when to dip into free agency. Also, he realized that his franchise quarterback Joe Flacco was more valuable than replaceable players he let go like Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Anquan Boldin, Cary Williams, and Dannell Ellerbe.

We have gone through the same exercise this offseason that we do every offseason. Other teams sign free agents, while the Packers are patient, and then in the season the Packers are championship contenders, while  some of those teams do not even make playoffs.

Now, I do understand the concern about how good Seattle and San Francisco are. They have the luxury of having their quarterbacks on rookie deals, so they can spend money elsewhere at the moment. They are extremely talented, but championships are not won in March. They may be ahead of the Packers now, but a lot can happen between now and January. We learn this every year.

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