Going into this free agency period I believed the Packers had some glaring needs such as a pass rusher, wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker and, thus far, I'm just not sure those needs have been met. So far the big signing has been Aaron Kampman, who got a whole lot of money for being an average hard-working guy with no real upside. He will receive $12 million of the contract he signed with the Packers in his first year and it's money that really won't improve the defense one bit. With this signing ask yourself: Did the defensive line really get any better? I understand the need to pay him, but that amount, I guess, throws the idea that Ted Thompson won't spend money right out the window.
Then there is the signing of Ryan Pickett, a younger, healthier Gilbert Brown who can play on every down. This should improve the ability for the defense to stop the run up the middle, but then again, the run defense was pretty good last year up the middle. I thought it was the edges that gave up a lot of yardage, as well as the inability of the offense to keep the defense off the field late in the games last year. So I guess they paid Kampman $12 million to be a power end because he only has 13.5 sacks in his career, which really eliminates him from being a dominate pass rusher. WOW!
The signing of Kenny Peterson should provide for more young depth on the defensive front which is always good for training camp as well as creating an atmosphere for competition, hopefully allowing the cream to rise to the top. Jason Horton is just a guy that could provide legs at camp but what could be a very good signing is Rod Gardner, especially signing him for only one year. With the receiver situation really up in the air, and having only one real receiver in Donald Driver, auditions are open. Because of Javon Walker's attitude I would expect him to be shipped off to some team like the Houston Texans for anything they can get for him. Gardner has the size, the speed, the hands. I just don't know what's missing because something has to be or he wouldn't have been out on the street last year when the Packers picked him up.
The other signing that will pay huge dividends is bringing Kevin Barry back and giving him a real opportunity to compete. I don't think he ever got a chance while the old staff was here. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I believe Barry could be that missing link that the offensive line has been missing at guard. He's athletic, physical at the point of attack, has a little mean streak. Those are all very important elements necessary to play guard in the NFL. If, and I say if, he and Will Whitticker can handle the new blocking scheme, the run game could be better than ever imagined. The tackles are still one of the best set of bookends in the game. Add a smart center and the offensive line could be outstanding. And behind them you put a healthy Ahman Green running like he's trying to prove to the world that he still can do it, and things wouldn't be all bad. Then they have Samkon Gado pushing him every step of the way. The Packers also may get a late round running back in the draft or sign a good free agent, which wouldn't be a bad idea, either, just to shake things up.
So if you really look at the Packers' free agent signings the only new faces are Marquand Manuel and Ryan Pickett. What impact will these guys really have? I'm wondering. Trust me Ryan Pickett is an upgrade from Grady Jackson no question about it, and hopefully the money will be well spent. As for Marquand Manuel, if he hits anyone it will be an upgrade.
I know that free agency doesn't mean you just go out and lose your mind and spend money just to spend money, but isn't that what's really happening? Thus far how have the Packers really improved this team? Have they paid money to fill voids, or did they just spend money to look busy? Either way I will admit they MADE SOME NOISE.
Editor's note: Harry Sydney is a former fullback and assistant coach for the Green Bay Packers. If you have a question for Harry, e-mail it to PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he will forward it to him.