The saying goes that there is no offseason in professional football, and that old adage has certainly been validated over the last twenty-four hours. Adam Schefter has had his work cut off for him, and most of his activity has been coming from the teams very near and not so dear to our hearts in the Bears and Vikings.
In order to revitalize a franchise under a new offensive head coach and second year starting quarterback, the Bears went into free agency with the mindset (finally) that perhaps former first-round pick Kevin White wasn’t the player they predicted and tracked down two of the most prolific free agent wide receivers in this class: Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. Both are terrific athletes and have contributed to their respective teams in the past, with Robinson’s downfield presence causing tremors for defenses and Burton’s blocking ability hopefully enabling running back Jordan Howard to emerge even further next season. It will be interesting to see the impact they can have on Mitch Trubisky as he begins his second campaign in the Windy City, but for now the Bears have made a significant improvement from a few days ago.
At the same time, the Vikings also went out and stole the crowned jewel in this class and someone I’ve mentioned before: Kirk Cousins. Although this will most likely force them to part ways with one of their defensive stars up for extension in the next year, this move is exactly the decision that Minnesota needed to make in order to take “the next step”. Kirk has shown flashes of being an extremely talented quarterback during his time in Washington, and pairing him with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph should make the Vikings an even more compelling argument as one of the perennial favorites to remove Philadelphia from the NFC throne next season. This serves as a major improvement from the quarterback carousel of seasons past and helped them get their guy for a Super Bowl window that we have found is certainly fleeting in our modern league.
All of these moves will play a huge role in how the division shakes out next season and will influence the moves we have already seen new Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst pull the trigger on. The signing of tight end Jimmy Graham gives Aaron Rodgers another huge target to throw the ball and should be the lynchpin at the position that has eluded us the past few seasons (looking at you Martellus Bennett), and the addition of talented but troubled defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson is another huge improvement for our defense line. If given the right adjustments from former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, Wilkerson might return to his perennial Pro Bowl form this season and free up the likes of Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark.
Something that feels alien to us, Gutekunst has been on the offensive in a way we haven’t seen in a very long time in Green Bay and leads me to believe that their best choice moving forward is simple: go get one more guy.
The heartbreak that is Jordy Nelson refusing to take a pay cut and leaving behind a phenomenal career in Green Bay is sad, but in reality, he posted some of the worst numbers of his career last season after his sensational comeback the year before. He’s 33 years old, has had multiple knee surgeries, and has seen his best days in the rearview mirror. The rise of Davante Adams over the past two seasons has been extremely fun to watch, and Randall Cobb proved his worth last year despite the struggling quarterback play seen from Brett Hundley in lieu of Rodgers absence. It just simply wasn’t in the cards to keep Jordy around; hit the salary cap and face the same situation we’ve seen in the past- lose out on other players in order to retain fan favorites who serve little to no function on our roster. Love 87, but his time in Green Bay was slowly running out and this gives us the best chance to get a guy at the position we need most: corner.
Before deciding to sign with Tennessee, I believe Malcolm Butler would have been a great target for our defense despite his recent off the field issues and subsequent benching during the Super Bowl in February. He has proven himself one of the most prolific corners in the league and would have brought significant playoff experience to a locker room full of young athletic defensive backs like Kevin King and Josh Jones– both of whom I feel have huge upside heading into this season. Besides King and Jones, who have shown flashes of potential, the recent draft picks of Damarious Randall (sent into exile in Cleveland) and Quinten Rollins have been very underwhelming the past two years and warrant consideration at the position in free agency instead of rolling the dice on another draft pick at the position. Getting a guy like Derwin James from Florida State or (god willing) Minkah Fitzpatrick from Alabama would be superb, but the odds that either of them fall out of the top ten are relatively slim. In that scenario, here’s a few guys I would love to see them take a look at over the next few days…
I know, he’s 31 years old and is certainly on the back half of his career, but just a year earlier Cromartie showed he still had game after posting six interceptions on the season. Last season was a train wreck for him in New York, and I believe bringing him into Green Bay and pairing him with a cornerback of similar size and attributes like Kevin King could be a formidable duo. The Packers have shown they can take guys on the back nine and get the most out of them, and I feel that this decision could give them a much-needed matchup nightmare on the outside against the likes of Diggs in Minnesota and Robinson in Chicago.
Who? Melvin is rather undervalued in this market and doesn’t have much of a career history to warrant a huge contract for, but his numbers speak for themselves. He’s only 28 years old and was one of the few bright spots on a lackluster Indianapolis defense last year before injuring his hand and being sidelined for the remainder of the season. Coming in at a whopping 6’2” and 200 pounds, he plays the run game effectively (something our corners of the past have struggled with) and could be more of a long-term investment for the Packers moving forward.
Whatever happens with Green Bay moving forward, they’ve done more in the past forty-eight hours in free agency than I have ever seen in my lifetime. The additions they have made should help us challenge Minnesota for the divisional crown next season, yet I believe one more piece in the next few days could make all the difference in our pursuit of a deep playoff run next season. The last free agent cornerback that we signed was Charles Woodson, and if history serves to repeat itself than it would be a decision that could reap plentiful benefits for a franchise aiming to move beyond the “close, but not quite there yet” stereotype that has prevailed in Green Bay over the past five years.