Packers general manager Ted Thompson hasn’t been particularly aggressive in free agency during his 12-year stint with the franchise, but that could change this offseason. Along with prioritizing re-signing tight end Jared Cook, the Packers are poised to “go and get some free agents this year,” Ian Rapoport of NFL.com said Thursday on NFL Network (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).
Thompson hasn’t avoided the open market as a GM, evidenced by past high-profile signings like Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett. However, his preference has been to sign free agents whom other clubs released because they don’t count toward the league’s compensatory draft pick formula. That’s the route Thompson took in 2014 to ink Julius Peppers and again last March to add Cook, whom the Rams had cut a month earlier, to a deal worth a modest $3.5MM.
In his first (and only?) season with the Packers, the 29-year-old Cook appeared in 10 games and caught 30 of 51 targets for 377 yards and a touchdown. He was far more impressive in the Packers’ two-game playoff run, in which he combined for 13 receptions on 23 targets, 181 yards and two scores.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers endorsed Cook’s potential return earlier this week, saying that re-upping him “needs to be near the top of the priority list.” For his part, Cook seems eager to return to Green Bay.
“It would be good to come back and play in a familiar offense, and learn even more from 12 (Rodgers),” he told Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com.
In addition to Cook, the Packers will have decisions to make on Peppers and fellow linebacker Nick Perry, guard T.J. Lang, running back Eddie Lacy and defensive back Micah Hyde, among others, before free agency opens March 9. The team has nearly $36MM in cap space, which will help it keep at least some of those soon-to-be free agents and make outside additions if it wants, and could free up $9MM more by releasing Sam Shields. The cornerback has suffered four concussions in the past six years, the latest of which limited him to one game – the season opener – in 2016. The money saved in moving on from Shields would help the Packers “reload,” which Rodgers believes is a must for the NFC North champions. It appears Thompson agrees.
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