You’ve heard by now that Charles Woodson is a Packer no more. The move, while not unexpected, was still somewhat surprising in the way it developed, announced first, apparently, by Woodson’s wine company on Twitter.
Woodson’s 2013 price tag ($6.5 million base salary, $2.5 million roster bonus, $1 million for playing all 16 games) and slipping play ultimately facilitated his departure, but that’s beside the point. We knew this moment was coming, and now it’s finally arrived.
The Woodson signing stands as a watershed moment in the Ted Thompson/Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay. Thompson’s free agent frugality is well known, and the seven year, $52 million dollar deal he doled out to Mr. Woodson is by far the most he’s spent on any single player. The returns were incredible, though: four Pro-Bowl berths, three All-Pro selections, a Defensive Player of the Year Award, and, of course, a Super Bowl.
A very unique set of circumstances brought Woodson to Green Bay. After an injury-plagued and often contentious stint in Oakland, only the Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were willing to talk with him, and in the end, only the Packers offered a contract. If that’s the standard for signing a player, it’s understandable that Thompson might be slow to bring in another free agent.
But with the release of Woodson and the retirement of center Jeff Saturday, the Packers’ roster currently features just one player acquired as an unrestricted free agent: defensive lineman Ryan Pickett. Aside from that, it’s all draft picks, waiver signings, and undrafted free agents. And while Thompson’s strategy has paid dividends (a Super Bowl and an NFC Championship appearance), the NFL is an adapt-or-die business, and thus every strategy should be open to changes and alterations.
That leads us to this offseason, where Green Bay facing question marks at a number of positions. Though they possess a talented, deep roster already, the Packers could use help at linebacker and along the offensive and defensive lines. Obviously the Packers wouldn’t want to overspend just to shore up some of those issues, but assuming a deal could be had there could be options for growth in at least one of those position groups.
For instance, this year seems to be a strong one for offensive line prospects, and as luck would have it, there’s also a potential influx of free agent tackles in the works. ProFootballTalk.com pointed out recently that the combination of a strong draft and an abundance of free agents could drive the asking price for any free agent offensive lineman down significantly.
The PFT article notes there could be as many as a dozen tackles with significant starting experience on the market in the near future, including former first round picks like Jake Long and Brandon Albert. While those two may be out of Green Bay’s price range given the impending contract negotiations with Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and B.J. Raji, a second tier tackle might still be an upgrade over someone already on the roster. Could this confluence of free agents and a strong draft be another unique set of circumstances that brings a free agent to the Packers?
Again, big free agent pickups are historically rare in Green Bay, but that doesn’t mean they can’t happen. Thompson and Co. may be slow to pull the trigger, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. After all, few thought the Packers would be the team that finally brought in Charles Woodson, and that ended up being a franchise altering decision. Though the top of the crop of free agent tackles might be financially out of reach, a solid tackle could be a good pickup.