With more than $20 million to play with under the salary cap, the Packers have the money to sign at least a few free agents to contribute to the offense, but not necessarily lead the Packers to the Super Bowl. That's the problem with free agency and the Packers this off-season. There are players available, but few who can become what Green and Henderson were to the Packers for several seasons. With Henderson leading the way, Green was a threat to score on any given carry during his prime.
So what is Thompson to do? Aside from Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson and California's Marshawn Lynch, there are no other first-round worthy running backs in the draft, according to Scout.com draft expert Tony Pauline. If the Packers are unable to get their hands on Peterson or Lynch, they will have to wait till their turn in the second round to select from a pool of prospects, including Rutgers' Brian Leonard, Penn State's Tony Hunt, Auburn's Kenny Irons, or Louisville's Michael Bush, Pauline says. That's why many in the football world believe that Thompson will do all he can to obtain either Peterson or Lynch in the first round.
In the meantime, look for the Packers to sign a running back and fullback with experience, but at their price. The Packers began their search by contacting the agent for unrestricted free agent Chris Brown, according to reports. The Packers also brought in former Atlanta Falcons fullback Justin Griffith on Tuesday for a visit.
It appears that the salary cap-conscious Thompson will sign a running back and fullback in free agency, but it doesn't seem like he's in a big hurry, and he doesn't have to be. Most of the backs remaining, if not all, probably aren't worth nearly what they're asking.
Restricted free agent Michael Turner is the best of the bunch, but San Diego recently tendered him with a $2.35 million offer, which brings first- and third-round picks as compensation, so he is essentially off the market. Turner has been backing up LaDainian Tomlinson and averaged career highs in 2006 in average per carry (6.3 yards), total rushing yards (502) and attempts (80).
Other halfway decent backs available include Dominic Rhodes, Jamal Lewis, Lee Suggs, and Correll Buckhalter. The Packers may sign one of those guys, if they pass on Brown, but none of the above retreads will put fear into any NFL defensive coordinator. Still, they could be serviceable in case of an injury to a highly selected draft pick, Vernand Morency or Noah Herron.
The bottom line is Thompson will have to sign a veteran back to protect the team in case of a disaster. But don't expect the GM to overpay, and don't expect that back to be the next Ahman Green.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.