Safeties and defensive linemen, arguably two of the positions of greatest need on the Green Bay Packers, went fast as free agency opened at 3:00 p.m. CT on Tuesday.
Several players previously linked to the Packers signed lucrative deals in the first few hours
Among them, former Oakland Raiders defensive lineman Lamarr Houston signed with the NFC North division rival Chicago Bears. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Monday that the Packers were "interested" in Houston.
Instead of playing for the Packers, Houston will play Green Bay Packers twice a year as the Bears look to replace the declining production from Julius Peppers. Houston reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million guaranteed.
Another defensive lineman the Packers were reportedly interested in was Arthur Jones but bowed out when the bidding got too rich. The former Baltimore Raven signed a five-year contract worth more than $30 million with the Indianpolis Colts, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer.
While not necessarily connected to the Packers, Linval Joseph joined the NFC North with border rival Minnesota Vikings, reportedly agreeing on a five-year deal worth $31.5 million.
The Packers conceivably need help along the defensive line with players like B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and C.J. Wilson all free agents themselves, but the door hasn't closed on any of them returning.
Until it's learned otherwise, the one-year offer Raji worth $4 million is apparently still on the table. Raji is weighing his options and may or may not return to Green Bay.
Players currently under contract like Datone Jones, Mike Daniels and Josh Boyd all figure to play much bigger roles in 2014. Any other help the Packers acquire at the positon will have to come from the NFL Draft or the second wave of free agency.
The Packers also were bystanders as several of the top safeties on the market found new homes, including T.J. Ward, who jumped ship with the Cleveland Browns to join the Denver Broncos on a deal averaging $5.5 million per season, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Other safeties that signed in the first few hours of free agency were Malcolm Jenkins with the Philadelphia Eagles, Donte Whitner with the Browns, Mike Mitchell with the Pittsbugh Steelers and Stevie Brown re-signing with the New York Giants.
Perhaps surprisingly, top-rated safety Jairus Byrd is still on the market and is going to visit the New Orleans Saints, who are looking to replace Jenkins, according to the Times-Picayune. The Saints have among the least salary-cap space in the NFL.
Whether the Packers could be in contention for Byrd's services remains to be seen, but the need at the position is acute. Green Bay needs to find a better running mate than M.D. Jennings for fellow safety Morgan Burnett, but they may look to the Draft to fill that void.
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