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Cory's Corner: It Begins With Earl Thomas

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Cory's Corner: It Begins With Earl Thomas

Free agency is supposed to begin at 4:00 p.m. ET on March 13. 

Monday was just the start of the legal tampering period when teams can begin negotiations. It is meant to whet the appetite of the NFL fans and keep a slow burn of craving for everything associated with the Shield.

Forget the appetizer. Monday turned into a free agent feeding frenzy as 31 players agreed to deals to play for other teams as of 9:00 p.m. CT.

But it’s not the number of contracts, it’s the amount of money being thrown around. Landon Collins was gifted a six-year, $84 million deal from the Redskins. Collins is a very good player, but is he really worth $45 million guaranteed? There’s a reason why Washington is perpetually in salary cap jail and it’s because of signings like this. It may not be as bad as the Deion Sanders or Albert Haynesworth signing, but it’s pretty bad.

Or how about Nick Foles? The moment the Eagles weren’t going to bring him back, it was understood that Jacksonville was going to sign him. Blake Bortles has proven that he’s a career backup and will not be living the rest of his career like a third overall pick. The Jags gave Foles a four-year, $88 million deal when it appeared like Jacksonville was negotiating against itself.

So what does this mean for the Packers? First of all, it means that general manager Brian Gutekunst better be ready to spend money if and when he dips his toes into the free agent pool. Earl Thomas, my top overall free agent, is looking for a two-year deal around $30 million. That’s completely doable for a Packers team that currently has over $35 million in salary cap space. That number could rise if Green Bay opts to cut the fat and releases Nick Perry.

There has been a lot of anxiety from Packers fans thinking that free agency will continue just as it had for the most part with Ted Thompson. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think Gutekunst will do something in free agency. The only question is, what guys does he want to bring back? The two most important ones are Muhammed Wilkerson and Bashaud Breeland. Marcedes Lewis would make a lot of sense because he’s a tight end that can block, as opposed to Jimmy Graham.

If Gutekunst can sign Thomas, who was the No. 1 overall defender after Week 4 last season according to Pro Football Focus, for two years that would be a huge coup. It would lock down the back end of the defense, but it would also narrow the focus for the NFL Draft. Instead of possibly worrying about a safety late in the first round, Gutekunst only needs to think about an edge rusher and if Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson somehow fall to 30, that would be ideal.

Signing Thomas would be akin to signing Charles Woodson. At first blush, that may seem like hyperbole because Woodson was an amazing talent that solidified his Hall of Fame resume as a member of the Packers. Thomas is a borderline Hall of Famer right now. Just imagine a linebacker’s mentality attacking the line of scrimmage on running plays and lulling quarterbacks to sleep on pass plays.

I don’t think Gutekunst will do much, but he will do something. Thomas is the start of that something.



Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (33) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

GBPDAN1's picture

If Thomas could play for 15-16 games a year at his past elite level, the 15M a year would be worth it. That big IF is cause for concern for that much money as he's missed a lot of games the last 3 years. I'm on the fence for that much money because it's half of our cap space and we could spend it on pass rush and Oline for possibly less risk. Collins and Honeybadger were over paid and set the safety FA market on fire.

Obviously, this is a big quandary as Safety is such a huge void on this team. I guess we should roll the dice on Thomas and hope he stays healthy? But not for more than the 2 year 15M per!

Community Guy's picture

i love ET and think he would be a great addition to the Packers. i guess that i am different than other fans in thinking that the professionals at 1265 Lombardi have a plan based on a vision for being competitive/winning.. and, i do not know it. maybe ET is a part of it.. i just don't know. and, i want to be open to the plan, even if ET is not a part of it. it sounds like ET wants to play in TX, if that is really true, the guy may sign with the Texans or Cowboys at a discount. i would be ecstatic if ET signs in GB, but, i am open to alternative solutions for the defense.

Rak47's picture

Reggie was 32 when Wolf signed him and Woodson was 29 when Ted signed him. Thomas is 29 and like both of the aforementioned players he is headed for the HOF. Safety is a position he can probably play at a very high level for the next 5-7 years. Pay the man and bring him on board he could transform the entire defense. I'm thinking 4 years 58 million with 30-35 guaranteed and an out after 3 years. If you're one of those fans who wanted to pay Khalil Mack 140 million and give up two 1st round draft picks as well then 55-60 million is a pittance for a player who can affect the entire defense the way Earl Thomas can.

DCPackFan's picture

This is such an under-reported angle. GREAT analysis, Rak!

Nick Perry's picture

Problem with Thomas as everybody has pointed out the last several weeks is age and injury history. If signed does Thomas play a full 16 games? Does he have any lingering effects of 2 busted legs over the last 3 years? Does he break something else or God forbid TEAR something else 5 games into the 2019 season? Obviously you could say this about every FA out there BUT the Packers haven't spent HALF of the available cap space they have Tuesday morning on March 12th, 2019 like they do with Thomas.

Try to sign Tre Boston, Amos, or one of the other Safeties still available. The Packers AREN'T a Earl Thomas away. The Packers are a Tre Boston, Quinton Spain, ZaDarious Smith and then some away.

CheesyTex's picture

I gave you a like earlier. Now, after all the signings, I'm in awe of how close your thinking was to what Gute did. Awesome!

RCPackerFan's picture

"There has been a lot of anxiety from Packers fans thinking that free agency will continue just as it had for the most part with Ted Thompson."

Sounds like you have been on twitter. Yikes...

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm really curious/anxious to see what the Packers do.

If it were up to me, I really wish they could come out of free agency adding an OLB, S and OL.
Additionally I wouldn't mind more DL depth too. And then for a bonus maybe go and get a guy like Cook at TE and maybe a veteran RB that won't cost much.

As far as resigning players, I really hope they resign Breeland. I also would like to see Wilkerson and Mathews come back.

For Free agents, all eyes right now are on Thomas. But even if we don't get Thomas there are still a lot of good players they can go after.
Justin Houston, Preston Smith, and Za'Darius Smith are some Edge players.
Adrian Amos, Tashaun Gipson, Tre Boston are some safety's available.

There are players available to go after that will help this team out.

Bearmeat's picture

The question with Thomas is - is this team a super bowl contender right now in 2019? Thomas is no spring chicken. Can he stay healthy? Will his speed decrease immediately? Perhaps more importantly, is he the last piece?

I think we need 2 edge rushers, a FS, a RG and better depth across the board.... not sure Thomas fits at this time.

RCPackerFan's picture

Well.... Signing 3 guys on my list so far...

Preston Smith, Za'Darius Smith, and Adrian Amos.


Bearmeat's picture

What'd I say again?

"We need 2 edge rushers, a free safety, a RG and depth.

check. check. check. WOW!!!

RCPackerFan's picture

Yup, that has been my list as well.

What gets me more excited about this, is this sets them up so well for the draft.
They no longer HAVE to draft a specific position. They can truly take the best player available.

Coach JV's picture

ET is an amazing talent... but 2yr @ $30M is a lot of money. I'm on the fence about that. We still need a pass rusher and to lock up Breeland. Letting NP go will help with that but $30M is still a lot.

Maybe 3yr @ $42M with a front loaded deal and escalators that can get him to $48... and a 3rd year out for us.

sam1's picture

With Thomas' age and medical history I think asking price is about 2 1/2-3 million a year too high. Just my opinion!

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

My mind on FA is in a state of flux regarding what is the best approach for the Packers. My hope is that BG has a plan and ultimately the Packers improve because of the plan....whatever it may be.

Think about it every NFL team has a scouting Dept. that identifies other teams player needs. Then there is FA. Following FA and leading up to the draft every teams VP/GM has a high likelihood of knowing what players another team is likely to draft when their selection comes up. Hence, the move up trades right before another teams selection. Come on Gutey....

HankScorpio's picture

Signing Earl Thomas would be a splashy move. But more often than not, the big off season splash move just leaves you all wet come December & January.

I'd rather see a few moves that fly under the radar, especially at Safety. The 8 digit AAVs are being handed out like candy. That's not my tastes on how to wisely squeeze value out of the available cap space.

Tarynfor12's picture

Reggie White was a preacher and family man and coming to GB didn't cramp his life at the age of 32. Woodson was essentially on the do not take list and GB got lucky getting him.

FA's are not ever going to have GB on their priority list of destinations for their agents...accept it.

GB's best chance is the Draft and Develop, which is the root of their problems and need to start fixing this draft ,which they could if the right person is making the decisions.

Finding an excuse to sign a oft and serious injured player to fix a position is an addiction this team has been suffering, as will be same, if Perry is retained to keep the OLB position fortified...false hope and belief of the blind optimist.

As the list of FA's grows smaller, fans and writers here will come up with the never ending reasons why any and or all, left on the list is and will be a good thing for the Packers.

This FO made it's first biggest mistake the moment they made a deal with Rodgers that needed not be done and now with the price tags being awarded, they put themselves at the left over table by having less money to be viable which should have been understood prior to Rodgers deal, if they understood inflation NFL style that happens every March.

In order for GB to attract top FA's, they will need to over pay even more than what Landon Collins got simply because it's GB and all that implies and even Rodgers sway,if any, will not lower the price tag.

Accept this and most here will sleep better at night because you won't awake to news of yet another FA signing elsewhere being a shock to your heart and blind hope of optimism or enthusiasm for that which hadn't a chance to begin with.
: )

HankScorpio's picture

"This FO made it's first biggest mistake the moment they made a deal with Rodgers that needed not be done and now with the price tags being awarded, they put themselves at the left over table by having less money to be viable which should have been understood prior to Rodgers deal, if they understood inflation NFL style that happens every March."

We'll see about that, I reckon. You are definitely correct that they did not *need* to extend Rodgers. We all know the numbers and they are massive. Last season proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Rodgers alone is not enough to drag the Packers into the playoffs. So there is a reasonable case to make for criticizing the deal.

Having said that, generally speaking, we've seen it time and again where a contract that looks excessive at signing is viewed in a far different light after a year or two. And sometimes it goes the other way, if the player is on the decline. So the crux of the matter is whether Rodgers is on the decline. I don't believe he is. I believe he'll perform at a much higher level in 2019 and beyond than he did in 2018.

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

I don't mind sitting out the first day when the numbers come out like they did. But I'm really getting sick of hearing about how the Packers just missed out on this guy or were in the running for this guy. Last year was Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Mack depending on what you believe, a couple more I can't think of right now. This year it already started with Malik Jackson. Makes me think nothing has changed here yet.

nostradanus's picture

A. Sign a few second tier free-agents to plug holes
B. Draft Well
C. Sign a couple of key players after the June cuts
D. Pay your young stars (Clark-Martinez)
E. Re-sign guys like Mathews and Wilkerson to team friendly deals.
F. Cut bait with the under-performers (Perry)
G. Develop your young players
H. Install a team first system that no one player is above the team

With a young and new coaching staff, new system and young team the number one thing fans will need to have is patience and no one major signing is going to put this team over the top.

The Packers need solid moves and steady, solid leadership, not one or two splashy moves that destroy the salary cap.


Irish_Cheesehead's picture

Several safeties have already signed elsewhere. I’m not sure who it will be, but after trading Clinton-Dix last year I think Gute has to sign a veteran. The Packers have nothing back there right now. Even if he drafts one early, we are still short a starting caliber safety and it would be nice for a rookie to learn from a proven veteran.

Handsback's picture

One player I want Green Bay to sign is ZaDarious Smith....I don't think they have a chance in Hades of getting ET and if they did it would take a lot more money then what he would sign for with Houston or Dallas.

nostradanus's picture

Wish Granted!

Handsback's picture

That's a great signing IMHO, Amos is icing on the cake.

ShooterMcGee's picture

Just reported by Ian Rappaport the Packers signed both Adrian Amos safety and Zadarius Smith OLB! Great signings at our 2 biggest needs. Now be patient and sign a reasonably priced guard then we can go into the draft and select BPAs.

fthisJack's picture

i hope they are in on Mosely and Z. Smith as well as a S. it would improve the middle of the D which has been a weak spot for many years. then draft you OLB, TE, OL , WR in the first 4 rounds.

Old School's picture

And then they got Preston Smith. The point of the article is moot. There'll be no Earl Thomas in Green Bay.

Gute signed three defensive starters who have just finished out their rookie contracts and are still on the good side of 30.

nostradanus's picture

Holy Crap!!!!!

Ok I take back everything I said earlier about a slow and measured re-build.

Gutey the Great is going for BROKE!!!!


im excited...that is all....

4thand10's picture

OMG it’s free agent Christmas.

BradHTX's picture

“I don’t think Gutekunst will do much, but he will do something. Thomas is the start of that something.”

Wrong on both counts — of course.

Amos at half the price and room to sign the Smiths and an OG is so much better a decision. Good thing Gute is the one getting the big bucks.

mrtundra's picture

So with these new players coming in, how does this affect our draft strategy?

holmesmd's picture

The team can stay with BPA instead of reaching for positions of perceived need, that’s how:)

holmesmd's picture

It ends with Adrian Amos;)

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