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Green and Bold: Ricky Jean Francois Keeps a Strength a Strength

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Green and Bold: Ricky Jean Francois Keeps a Strength a Strength

Many Packers fans looking for Ted Thompson to make another big splash in free agency found themselves disappointed with the latest player Green Bay brought into the fold in veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.  

Francois may not be flashy, but the move astutely addresses one of the Packers' most crucial units—the run defense—which opened the 2016 season as a major strength and then fell off in the middle of the year.

The Packers still finished the season ranked eighth against the run, allowing an average of 94.7 rushing yards per game, but that doesn't mean they weren't gashed at times. Green Bay's front seven had no answer for the Dallas Cowboys and rusher Ezekiel Elliott, in particular; the Cowboys netted 191 rushing yards in the regular-season matchup with Green Bay and then came back to rush for 138 in the divisional round of the playoffs. 

Green Bay also allowed 150-plus yards rushing in back-to-back weeks against Tennessee and Washington. 

Needless to say, the Packers need to shore up the front seven ahead of the 2017 season, and Francois helps them do that, especially after the team released troubled defensive lineman Mike Pennel and with Letroy Guion suspended for the first quarter of the upcoming season for violating the PED policy. 

Guion's suspension is what makes the Francois signing especially smart, because the latter will serve a very similar role in Green Bay's defense. Francois, who spent the last two years in Washington, is a rotational player who can help defend the run and also rush the passer from the interior. 

In his best season, 2014, with the Indianapolis Colts, Francois amassed 28 combined tackles, three sacks, and four passes defensed. He's also known as a strong locker-room presence and leader, which the team could certainly use on the defensive line given the issues with Pennel and Guion. Francois comes into a unit already anchored by leader Mike Daniels, but there's always room for a veteran's experience. 

The move has almost only upside for the Packers; as Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday, the deal is for one year and worth $2 million overall, with only $250,000 guaranteed. That's less than originally thought. And though Francois wasn't one of this year's big-name free agents, the move illustrates that Thompson, within his own parameters, is trying to get this team into shape to contend this year. 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (18) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

This is an example of the "mid level FA" that many have called for. Looks like a good move.

RCPackerFan's picture

I really like the signing of Francois. Like TK said above, this is exactly the types of signings we as Packers fans have been asking for, for a while now. Guys that can come in and at the very least be a part of a rotation or play a role.

There are a few reasons why I really like this move. First it helps cover the defense while Guion is suspended. Also if they decide to let Guion go at any point they aren't losing that veteran presence.
Second it still allows the young guys to develop. They aren't forced to play if they aren't ready to play. Clark really improved as the season went on, and Lowry played well. But signing Francois allows them to continue to develop and aren't forced to have to play.
Third it bolsters the depth and keeps a good rotation.

Michael Grunewald's picture

Agree with you both RC and TK. Most of us frustrated with Thompson were never asking for the high ticket signings. Aside from White, Wolf didn't chase free agents with hefty price tags. Smart, value signings that provide an immediate upgrade to an area of need...that's what most of us have been howling for. Still much work to be done on that side of the ball, but this is signing is a step in the right direction.

Nick Perry's picture

Totally agree with everything you said here. The Packers won a SB with a Defensive Line of White, Dotson, Brown, and Sean Jones. EVERYONE of those players were FA additions.

I was happy as hell with the signing of RJF, not disappointed in the least. I think he is better than Guion to begin with and now provides some quality depth without HOPING Ringo, Price, or possibly someone else steps up.

Lowry is going to turn into a very solid player, I really liked that pick last season. Clark was 20 when drafted and he was getting better with each snap at the end of the 2016 season. I like where the DL is heading right now.

Still concerned about CB and OLB... The Draft can't get here soon enough! GO PACK GO!!

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

For where we picked them, Clark was a strong pick and Lowry was a world-class steal.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Totally agree, Nick. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if Ringo and/or Price become solid back-ups. I'm also not freaking out about OLB, since I think Perry and Matthews are good starters, and Fackrell and Elliot are solid back-ups already.
It's so easy to forget the bottom of the roster, those guys that we know almost nothing about, yet they made an NFL team, and have terrific stats and histories in most cases. Look at Max McCaffery. Everyone seems to forget him, yet he is 6'2", 200 pounds, ran a 4.4 regularly, and is great at catching deep throws and contested throws.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

Another guy like this that I'm curious about is Jordan Tripp. 5th round pick by Miami, played at Jacksonville and Seattle. Picked up in mid-December last year. He's a very fast, instinctive, LB with a couple of years of NFL experience, who had some untimely injuries. Has he shown the coaches that he is more-than-people-realize?

Nick Perry's picture

I'm curious about Tripp as well. He could be more than just a ST player. I remember him when he came out. He had a pretty solid combine.

Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

I like this signing, but I'm concerned about our lack of a true nose tackle. We lack beef inside, without a single 330-pounder.

I know Capers uses more of a hybrid defense with 2, 3, and 4-man fronts, but it's tough to hold up in this league without a couple really big guys rotating in.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I've been saying the same thing, recently. I'd like another NT, but a good 5 technique prospect like Taco Charlton or Chris Wormley would make me feel better about this roster.
Depending on what the coaches have seen in practices, it's possible that there are NO real "needs" on this roster, but we can only write about what WE can see. :)

Dzehren's picture

We have Kenny Clark- need to draft another big DLine for rotation

croatpackfan's picture

Packers drafted Kenny Clark as NT. They can use Price or Francis there, so it is not that Packers lack NT...

cheesehead1's picture

Nice signing, now keep upgrading the D with LB/CB's. Hoping we draft TJ Watt but somehow I don't think it'll happen.

Bearmeat's picture

Let's be clear about one thing up front: The 2016 Packers run defense was never anything better than mediocre, and it more than occasionally was downright bad. The ONLY reason teams didn't try to run the ball down their throats was because their pass rush and coverage units were downright PUTRID for the majority of 2016.

That said, I like the RJF signing. He's better at the point of attack, and more consistent than Guion has been since late 2014. Daniels is a good player, but he's not a run stuffer. Who knows what we have in Clark and Lowry for sure? The arrow is pointing up, but neither have become impact players yet.

The bottom line is that the entire defense needs play-makers. As a matter of fact, it needs a complete make-over. Daniels, Perry, and HHCD are the only red-chip players on that side of the ball and there are no blue-chip players.

IF the goal is to hover slightly above average on defense, then IF everything goes right for GB (including the draft, the 3rd year CBs waking up and health to counteract our poor quality depth pieces). then this offseason plan MIGHT get us there.

This is no top 5 unit. And it never will be with the current coaches and personnel. Let's just call a spade a spade people. TT and MM are counting on outscoring teams 31-24 (or higher).

Sorry to be a negative Nancy, but I'm rather tired of our management and defense.

Tundraboy's picture

I agree Don't want to be having this same discussion next year.

porupack's picture

Michelle, not sure about your first sentence.
Are many fans disappointed with the signing? Seems no unhappy fans to me.

I suppose you suggest that many fans still hoping for more upgrades in areas of weakness, are not satisfied that TT signed didn't sign another FA.
I'm happy with the signing, but am with Bearmeat, that TT still hasn't done enough on D.

I believe we are 3 impact players short.
Need one very strong CB vet, or ILB vet to bring experience immediately.
Then need 2 upgrades through the draft; a high round Edge and CB pick capable of early season starting role and impact.
Other D draftees can then be developed over the year; DT, ILB or SS.

But it is too much to expect 3 big upgrades through the draft alone.

Spock's picture

porupack, ^^^This^^^ When I read "Many Packers fans looking for Ted Thompson to make another big splash in free agency found themselves disappointed with the latest player Green Bay brought into the fold in veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois." I thought "What?". I don't believe in any way shape or form that MOST Packer fans were disappointed with this signing at all. I'm biased but I believe MOST Packer fans have a pretty good understanding of football and understood why this signing was good for the Pack. I would argue that MOST Packer fans were happy with this signing!

porupack's picture

Michelle, not sure about your first sentence.
Are many fans disappointed with the signing? Seems no unhappy fans to me.

I suppose you suggest that many fans still hoping for more upgrades in areas of weakness, are not satisfied that TT signed didn't sign another FA.
I'm happy with the signing, but am with Bearmeat, that TT still hasn't done enough on D.

I believe we are 3 impact players short.
Need one very strong CB vet, or ILB vet to bring experience immediately.
Then need 2 upgrades through the draft; a high round Edge and CB pick capable of early season starting role and impact.
Other D draftees can then be developed over the year; DT, ILB or SS.

But it is too much to expect 3 big upgrades through the draft alone.

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