Who says Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson won’t open the team’s checkbook in free agency?
OK, in this case, it’s the low-stakes world of college free agency. But, relatively speaking, Thompson spent lavishly at wide receiver — arguably the deepest position on the roster.
The Packers provided $5,000 signing bonuses to 10 undrafted rookies. That list includes receivers Ricky Collins of Texas A&M-Commerce, Adrian Coxson of Stony Brook and Jimmie Hunt of Missouri. Kentucky’s Javess Blue received a $4,000 bonus and Larry Pinkard, who didn’t play as a senior after getting kicked off the team at Old Dominion, was given $3,000.
Obviously, $5,000 is pocket change for the Packers, who have more than $16 million in cap space. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that Thompson was willing to spend big money — by college free agency’s standards, anyway — at a position in which the Packers appear to be loaded. Of the $70,000 that went to signing bonuses for the undrafted class, 31.4 percent went to the five receivers.
Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams finished first, second and fourth on the team, respectively, in receptions. Jarrett Boykin wasn’t retained in free agency but 2014 draft picks Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis are ready for bigger things after Abbrederis missed the season with a torn ACL and Janis was inactive for most of the year. Plus, a third-round pick was used on Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Those six join Myles White, who spent the season on the practice squad but caught nine passes as an undrafted rookie in 2013.
That’s seven players at a position in which the Packers can’t possibly keep more than six.
Call it insurance.
There’s no guarantee Montgomery will be anything more than a kick returner, though Thompson’s success with early-round receivers has been impeccable. There’s no guarantee that Abbrederis — never an elite athlete to begin with — will be able to turn the potential he flashed during last year’s offseason workouts into production. There’s no guarantee that Janis can live up to coach Mike McCarthy’s hype after starring at Division II Saginaw Valley State
“I think Jeff is going to take a big step,” McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine. “He’s got a big catching radius, and he needs to utilize it. Obviously, I think we all saw his vertical speed. He’s an extremely physical young man. He’s an Olympian in the weight room. He’s got a lot of raw skill, and I look for him to make that jump. He has to use that catching radius, and he has the type of body type you really like. You look at him and Jordy and Davante and Boykin, they’re all kind of built the same — long arms, big hands.”
Stony Brook’s Coxson and Commerce’s Collins, who took predraft visits to Green Bay, sacrificed for the good of their families, so discount them based on where they played their college ball. Blue averaged 18.1 yards per catch as a senior and had big-time production as a returner in junior college. Pinkard put up big numbers for Old Dominion as a junior. Hunt posted modest numbers throughout his career but lit up Alabama for six receptions for 169 yards in the SEC Championship Game, which wound up being his collegiate finale due to a shoulder injury that kept him out of the bowl game.
“I think it would mean the world to him,” Coxson said of his dad, who died from diabetes at the start of this past season. “He always preached to work hard and it’s going to happen, no matter how hard of a road it’s been and how long it’s taken me to get to the point where I’m at now.”
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