The difference-making players are off the market and the Green Bay Packers are behind the eight-ball after NFC powers Atlanta, Seattle and San Francisco — not to mention NFC North rivals Chicago and Minnesota — have improved their rosters.
So, forget this season. Not to say the season is a lost cause — the offseason champions of March generally aren't the Super Bowl champions in February, as the 2010 Packers, 2011 Giants and 2012 Ravens prove. But at this point, stick to the tried-and-true formula of draft and develop.
The Packers entered free agency about $17.8 million below the salary cap, and they gained an additional $1.85 million when A.J. Hawk agreed to a pay cut.
With Steven Jackson having chosen Atlanta's three-year deal over Green Bay's two-year offer and with Greg Jennings having agreed to an absurd $47.5 million over five years with Minnesota, the Packers need to turn their focus inward.
— You know that Aaron Rodgers is in line to get a contract extension that almost certainly will make him the NFL's most-expensive player. What do high-priced quarterbacks guarantee you? A chance to win every season, to be sure, but also headaches in free agency.
The Broncos are going to pay Peyton Manning a league-high $20 million this season but were able to sign receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, guard Louis Vasquez and nose tackle Terrance Knighton in a go-for-broke plan. However, they went overboard, left themselves just $50,000 below the cap — with a rookie class to take care of — and wound up having to release standout defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
The Broncos are the exceptions. Of the second- through 10th-highest paid quarterbacks (Rodgers is No. 10), all of those teams have been losers or come out neutral through about a week of free agency. The Falcons got Jackson but might lose Brent Grimes and had to cut Dunta Robinson and John Abraham. The Ravens have been gutted after signing Joe Flacco to a record-breaking contract.
At this point, Thompson would be wise to save every penny, nickel and dime he can find to give Rodgers a front-loaded contract and invest the rest in Clay Matthews and B.J. Raji. Forfeit this season, so to speak, to provide a better cap in the future.
— With the size of Jennings' contract, the Packers almost certainly will receive a third-round compensatory draft pick in 2014.
Signing an unrestricted free agent of any consequence would cost the Packers that draft pick, just like signing Jeff Saturday probably cost the Packers a fourth-round pick for losing Scott Wells last offseason. Is there anybody available at a decent price that you'd, in essence, trade a third-round pick to acquire?
— A report linking the Packers to free agent running back Ahmad Bradshaw sounds a lot like agent Drew Rosenhaus trying to drum up some interest and creating some leverage with Pittsburgh, which hosted Bradshaw over the weekend.
The Giants released Bradshaw, so he wouldn't cost the Packers the Jennings compensatory pick. Still, he's had a history of foot problems and has missed six games over the last two seasons. Besides, they have a similar player in DuJuan Harris — with a lot less wear and tear and a lot better price.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.