After sinking to 4-6, the Packers managed to salvage their season last year, making it all the way to the NFC Championship game thanks in large part to the Herculean football efforts of Aaron Rodgers. But he didn’t do it alone. He had help.
Unfortunately for Rodgers and Green Bay fans, the Packers have let a lot of that help slip away in free agency, with no viable replacements on the horizon. And they’re getting plenty of heat for it.
Six of the Packers’ 10 unrestricted free agents signed elsewhere. That list includes three important members of the defense: CB Micah Hyde and pass rushers Datone Jones and Julius Peppers. Jones had just one sack, but led the team in QB hits last year. Peppers was second on the team with 7.5 sacks.
Losses hit the Packers hardest on the offensive line, where they said goodbye to two starters, center J.C. Tretter and guard T.J. Lang.
Absorbing the loss of Tretter is easier because they still have Corey Linsley, who started down the stretch last year after Tretter got hurt. Replacing Lang won't be so easy.
They made an offer to Lang, a lowball one, and wouldn’t budge at competing offers. Lang eventually signed with the Lions.
"I think just throughout the years they were able to get some guys back in town because they used the whole, we’re good, we’re competitive, we compete for championships every year. Do you want to play with the best quarterback in the NFL-type thing, you’re going to have to take a little less money, and I think it just kind of wore some guys out the last couple years and watching guys leave."
Not re-signing Lang and the others left the Packers with plenty of cap space. Some of that they used to re-sign Nick Perry and upgrade at tight end by signing Martellus Bennett over Jared Cook. They also re-upped backup guard Don Barclay, who’ll be forced into a starting job. There’s still $25 million left, which Ted Thompson appears content to stare at.
Before free agency started, Rodgers made it clear that he wanted to see the Packers go "all in."
Instead, Green Bay doubled down on their usual approach to free agency, standing pat while the rest of the league gobbled up available players, none faster than reliable offensive linemen.
Unfortunately for the Packers, all that money they saved isn’t going to make it easier for Rodgers to make the kind of dazzling plays that saved their season last year.