Free agency? Yeah, it begins at midnight tonight, but expect the Packers to fluff their pillows, roll over, and dream of playing in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa next year. Even though Green Bay has lots of money to spend (about $18 million under the salary cap), like last year, the crop of players eligible as unrestricted free agents is thin at best.
Green Bay already committed $6.3 million to defensive lineman Corey Williams by naming him as their franchise player last week.
The Packers may take a flyer on Cincinnati defensive end Justin Smith, but don't expect much action after Green Bay gave Cullen Jenkins a $16 million deal about this time last year, and Aaron Kampman a $21 million deal in March of 2006. Plus, the Packers appear to be content with Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila playing the same role as last season and earning a boatload of money ($6.3 million) to sack quarterbacks. If they were not satisfied with Gbaja-Biamila, they probably would have released him, like they did with tight end Bubba Franks last week. Other teams, like the Minnesota Vikings, probably will make a stronger attempt to land Smith, who is expected to be one of the top players available in free agency.
The Packers, coming off a 14-4 season, have needs, but mainly behind their starters on offense and defense. Because of that, look for Thompson and Co. to be about as active as they were last offseason when they only signed one unrestricted free agent - cornerback Frank Walker. In fact, if the Packers sign anyone, it will be a second- or third-tier free agent who they feel can improve depth at a certain position.
Otherwise, look for Green Bay to use their offseason workout program and the draft to improve the team for next season. Coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with the results of the offseason program last year, so look for the Packers to go about their business in the same way this spring and summer.
The Packers have needs for better depth at cornerback, tight end and defensive end, and the draft will allow them to improve those areas. It is very possible that the Packers may sign an unrestricted free agent offensive lineman, but he probably will not have a household name. Again, look for the Packers to use the draft to bolster that area of the team as well.
Packers fans should feel fortunate. Their team is in an enviable position of being very selective about signing any free agents. Yet, the Packers will use the draft to improve depth, not necessarily to seek a player who can start and fill a gaping need immediately. That's a good thing.
Credit Thompson for putting the Packers in this position, and give him a break if the Packers are quiet in free agency. Let him rest up for the draft as the Packers prepare this offseason to make another push deep into the playoffs next year.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.