The NFL Combine is complete and the legal tampering period ahead of the official opening of free agency on Thursday has begun. Much has been written and many have speculated as to how the Packers will approach free agency. Will they follow their usual modus operandi and focus on re-signing their own top free agents? Or will they let the high-priced guys walk and use that money to bring in new blood? Even if Green Bay doesn’t sign anyone in the early stages of free agency, we’ll likely start to get some answers over the next few days as players are signed and markets at specific positions are solidified.
The Packers’ chief needs reside on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at cornerback, where they struggled to field a consistently competent group all of 2016. Because of that, it stands to reason that if Ted Thompson and the rest of the brain trust at 1265 Lombardi Avenue dip into the free agent well, it’s a good bet a corner is what they’ll be looking for. Luckily for them, a familiar, cheap(ish) option is now on the table.
Davon House didn’t put up gaudy numbers during his tenure with the Packers, though it could be argued that competing for playing time with two established starters (Tramon Williams and Sam Shields) and a future Hall of Famer (Charles Woodson) made it hard for him to do so. When House did see the field, he played well enough to earn a four-year, $24.5 million dollar deal from Jacksonville after becoming a free agent prior to the 2015 season.
House would go on to have the best year of his career that season, posting 60 tackles to go along with four interceptions and 23 pass breakups. What seemed to be blossoming potential took a turn in the opposite direction in 2016, and House saw his playing time dwindle due to what were assumed to be performance-related issues. Of course, that led to the Jaguars releasing House on Monday.
As I said before, it’s not exactly like House set the world on fire over his rookie contract with the Packers, which is probably why the team was willing to let him go in free agency the first time around. And while a team certainly shouldn’t take one standout season as gospel for how a player will perform, it’s hard not to view House’s 2015 campaign as at least a slight validation of what the Packers saw in him when they selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
It’s also worth considering House would help the Packers in two areas they desperately missed in 2016: speed and experience. If there has been a theme among players in their first year under Dom Capers recently, it’s that it takes them too long to adjust and find their comfort level within the scheme. House would be working under the same staff he played four years for, and that familiarity can only benefit a secondary starving for stability.
Oh, and about that money thing – his services likely will come at a significantly lower price than the big name corners on the free agent market. It’s reasonable to think the Packers can add House for less than the $6 million per year he was making in Jacksonville, and Green Bay can certainly afford that. Multiple outlets have reported mutual interest between the two parties, but it could be a few days into the free agency madness until we see a deal done.
And now for a scenario most Packer fans couldn’t envision in even their wildest dreams. What if, by some miracle, Green Bay makes a play for a free agent that doesn’t fill a perceived need? And even if they did, who would that player be? I think the move that would most benefit the Packers would be to sign a speedy wide receiver, namely the newly released Torrey Smith.
As on defense, the Packers could stand to add more speed and big play ability on the offensive side of the ball. Smith, who will be leaving San Francisco just two years into a five-year, $40 million deal, could be just what the doctor ordered.
A proven top-buster, Smith is just a year removed from posting the largest yards per catch number (20.1) of his career, and could allow the Packers to utilize other players in positions they are most dangerous. Imagine Smith as the deep threat on one boundary, Davante Adams opposite him, and Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb working from the slot. Oh, and throw Jared Cook in there if you’re inclined to go five-wide. No matter the personnel grouping, Smith would add a multitude of new options for Mike McCarthy & Company to work with.
It would be an out of character move for Ted Thompson, and the Packers would have decisions to make with an already crowded wide receiver group, but the benefit to giving Aaron Rodgers a legitimate deep threat could be enormous. Like Davon House, it doesn’t seem likely Smith stands to get the same amount of money he got from his previous employer. If that turns out to be true, he could be another value option that pays off big for Green Bay.
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