Packers fans need to be patient

Thompson makes it obvious that he prefers draft over free agency

San Francisco signs Nate Clements to an $80 million contract. New England signs linebacker Adalius Thomas to a $35 million deal. Seattle signs Patrick Kerney to a $39.5 million contract. St. Louis inks Drew Bennett to a $30 million deal. Washington signs linebacker London Fletcher to a $25 million contract. Baltimore waives Jamal Lewis and trades for Willis McGahee.

These are just some of the noteworthy moves made during the NFL free-agency period, which kicked off March 2. While these are some of the most notable moves, others were made that didn't make as much noise, such as tight end Eric Johnson moving from San Francisco to New Orleans and tight end Randy McMichael changing zip codes, moving from Miami to St. Louis.

While many NFL teams have been active, the Packers have been dormant. They didn't re-sign Ahman Green (Houston) or David Martin (Miami), and reportedly they have only had fullback Justin Griffith and cornerback Tory James in for a visit.

However, coach Mike McCarthy did contact Joe Horn, who has signed with Atlanta.

For team which finished 8-8 by winning its last four games, and is more than $21 million below the salary cap, most likely expected the Packers to have pursued some notable free agents by now. If not to sign, at least to gauge an interest in coming to Green Bay.

But that hasn't happened.

GM Ted Thompson, as he did last year before inking Charles Woodson, has watched other teams spend big money, erasing some key players off the free-agent lists. Thompson was asked Friday at the team's annual Fan Fest about free agency and if it would impact the way teams attack the period.

"We've expected to have some fairly dramatic deals because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the salary cap," Thompson said. "If a team felt like they had to address a particular need, then we felt like there would be some good deals.

"We haven't done anything. We tried to sign Ahman Green and David Martin both, but we didn't come to an agreement there. We're still working on some things. Even though we haven't done anything, or haven't signed anybody, it doesn't mean that we're sitting on our hands. We're working on it, trying to find the right fit."

Fortunately for the Packers, the NFC North hasn't done much. The $1 million question is: Will the Packers do anything? Last year, before signing Woodson, the Packers added defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, which turned out to be a good investment. The Packers have no choice but to do something.

They need to address the running back position, as outside Vernand Morency, there's nothing. It's possible the Packers will wait to draft someone like Cal's Marshawn Lynch, Ohio State's Antonio Pittman or Arizona Chris Henry.

However, sending Buffalo two third-round picks and a seventh for McGahee would've been smart. That's what Baltimore sent to the Bills for McGahee. They got a Pro Bowl-caliber player without losing a first- or second-round pick.

With McGahee already on the team, the Packers could have changed their direction early in the draft, knowing they have their back for the future.

At tight end, the Packers have no playmakers. There are a few good draft prospects available, but McMichael would've been a nice complement to the passing game. The Packers, from what we know, never gave him a call.

There also are some cornerbacks and safeties left. After inking Marquand Manuel to an absurd $10 million contract last off-season, the Packers apparently won't admit a mistake was made and will stick with Manuel, making the addition of a safety a moot point.

With only two proven commodities at cornerback, the Packers could use another body. Philadelphia's Roderick Hood and Tory James are still without a team.

Thompson has always been gun shy about throwing around major money in free agency, outside of Woodson's deal. He, like former Packers GM Ron Wolf, prefers to build through the draft. But each team has to add some veteran experience, it would seem. Putting all your eggs in one basket — being the draft — is risky, especially when you don't know how long Brett Favre will be playing.

Thompson said teams are more aware of what can happen when spending silly money in free agency. It's better to be cautious then to overspend.

"I think teams in general are getting better at understanding value in players and understanding how to manage their cap and their resources," Thompson said. "So I don't necessarily think it's going to be teams' ideas to go throwing money around if they don't think it's a good investment."

In Thompson's eyes, there hasn't been a good investment worth chasing?

That's debatable, so for now Packers fans, be patient.

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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