Green Bay Packers Join Playoff Teams on Free-Agent Bench

Are the Green Bay Packers the only team sitting on the free-agent sideline? We examine the spending to paint a stark contrast between the haves and have-nots this offseason.

About a week into a free agency, close to $1.6 billion has been spent by teams either bringing in or retaining free agents.

The Green Bay Packers have contributed just a tiny fraction to that amount, with the one-year, $5 million contract used to bring back outside linebacker Nick Perry.

They’re not alone in their frugal approach to free agency.

A total of 19 teams have spent more than $20 million to start free agency. Just four of those teams qualified for the playoffs: Houston (fourth, with $131.8 million in total spending), Kansas City (eighth, $68.4 million), Seattle (12th, $49.4 million) and Cincinnati (18th, $30.5 million).

The Texans, of course, were in the unusual position among the playoff teams by not having a highly paid quarterback eating up a big chunk of the salary cap. They are now, with quarterback Brock Osweiler’s four-year, $72 million contract.

The Chiefs, Seahawks and Bengals, on the other hand, lost a total of nine starters while bringing in one starter from another organization, so it’s not as if they were buying their way into contender status.

The Chiefs, despite their significant spending, have been a net loser in free agency. They lost four starters, including a combined $66 million to cornerback Sean Smith (Oakland) and guard Jeff Allen (Houston), with their big moves being the signing of Mitchell Schwartz (to replace Donald Stephenson at right tackle) and the re-signing of veteran inside linebacker Derrick Johnson.

The Seahawks also have been a net loser in free agency, with edge rusher Bruce Irvin, guard J.R. Sweezy and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane departing. The only signings of note have been re-signings, led by the $23 million to cornerback Jeremy Lane.

The Bengals have been losers, as well, with receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu leaving. Their $30.5 million of free-agent spending went to bringing back cornerback Pacman Jones and linebacker Vincent Rey.

On the other end of the spectrum, 10 teams have spent $14 million or less in free agency. Six of those teams made the playoffs: New England (30th, $1.0 million), Green Bay (27th, $5.0 million), Carolina (26th, $10.2 million), Washington (25th, $10.9 million), Arizona (24th, $11.5 million) and Denver (23rd, $14 million). All told, those teams signed a total of three starters/key role players from outside their organizations — Carolina got defensive tackle Paul Soliai, Arizona added safety Tyvon Branch and Denver, which suffered three big losses with Osweiler, defensive end Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan, added Stephenson. Obviously, based on those six teams’ limited free-agent spending, they’ve also been quiet on the re-signing front. Green Bay, for instance, took care of its heavy lifting before free agency by re-signing Mike Daniels, Mason Crosby and Letroy Guion.

This, of course, is a major reason why the NFL put the salary cap in place. It levels the playing field, with the top teams eventually unable to keep all of their top players. The top seven spenders in free agency — six nonplayoff teams and the quarterback-starved Texans — have accounted for 59.0 percent of all free-agent spending. 

So, is Packers general manager Ted Thompson at the extreme end of the free-agent spectrum? Yes, but he’s not alone in his approach to building and maintaining a roster.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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