The Times They Are A Changin’.

The dust has settled on the Pack’s most jarring day in free agency since they caused jaws to drop from coast to coast when they landed Reggie White, with a little help from the Big Guy upstairs.

In a dizzying day on Twitter Tuesday morning, we saw Gutey lock up four free agents who figure to step instantly into starting roles. Now, let’s back up a moment. It wasn’t too many years ago that the Packers rarely had more than two possible starting spots available from year to year. But a few bad drafts have caused parts of the roster to erode and the Pack had the capital and the proper mindset in the GM’s office to do something about it in March, with an eye toward addressing it in a much more important way in the draft next month.

With Nick Perry and Clay Matthews no longer in the picture, the team needed to find younger versions to help make Mike Pettine’s defense work. Preston Smith is a perfect replacement for Perry, built about the same and big, at 270 pounds. Smith will set the edge and add to the Pack’s improved run defense, anchored by Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels. At 26 he’s already considered a locker room leader and has not missed a game in four seasons. What a breath of fresh air.

You have to believe Gutey and his staff were urged to look at Smith by new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, who comes to the Pack from Washington, where he spent 16 seasons, helping coach a defense that finished in the top teight times. He may be back in Gutey’s ear, telling him to bring in inside linebacker Zach Brown, whom the Skins released on Wednesday. At 29, Brown was third rated inside linebacker by PFF last season and might be had on a one-year prove it deal, especially if he loved his coach.

Za’darius Smith was the heaviest signing, from a dollar perspective. When the numbers came out on how the two linebackers’ deals were structured, they’ll both count for less than ten million against the cap and won’t cost much after two years, if either guy goes belly up. But, watching Smith on tape, you have to be excited about what Pettine can do with him. He’s also heavier, at 270, and has done his most damage when moved inside on sub packages, which teams are in the majority of the time. And Gutey’s new right hand man, Wisconsin native Milt Hendrickson, comes from the Ravens, where he watched every game Smith played.

He played about two-thirds of the snaps with the Ravens and led them with 8.5 sacks in 2018–now that came in a contract year, so you always have to consider that. But I think in a perfect scenario he plays about the same percentage with the Pack, maybe 75%, presuming they land another pass rusher in the draft.

About that: despite signing the two Smiths, I think a guy like Florida State’s Brian Burns is absolutely in the mix at 12. He would be a perfect Matthews replacement: He’s lighter, quicker and would give the linebacker group a complete makeover. Yes, offense could very well be in play at #12 as well, at either offensive line or tight end, but the front seven depth in the first round this year is rare–he could even trade down, now that the team’s biggest needs have been addressed.

Among those needs was a complete do-over at safety. The Packers aren’t done here, but got off to strong start with the signing of ex-Bears safety Adrian Amos, who comes in at a very palatable $6 million against the cap. It’s always nice to weaken a rival when you add a free agent and the Amos signing does just that. Is he Earl Thomas or Landon Collins? No, but he’s cheaper, just 25 and has been healthy. He’s an instant upgrade in the Pack’s secondary.

The fourth signing was more of a head scratcher when it was first announced. Billy Turner is a local kid, Mounds View High School and NDSU alum, who trained this offseason right next door to the Vikings shiny new home, TCO Performance Center. While the Vikings decided he wasn’t in their plans, the Pack swooped in and pounced with a four year, $28 million offer that will account about $4 million against the cap this year. He has played everywhere along the line, except center, with most coming on the right side.

He figures to have the inside track on the right guard spot, with guys like Justin McCray, Nico Siragusa and Lucas Patrick hoping to bump him off. He’ll also be a much more palatable backup right tackle, if and when Bryan Bulaga gets hurt again. Yes, I expect the Pack to bring him back, and with Turner in the fold we should only need Jason Spriggs in case of grave emergency.

It sounds like the Packers are still about ten million bucks under the cap, and will have enough to add a few more players on value deals. Sounds like they’re close with Mo Wilkerson and could look at a RB, WR and another safety.

We all know that teams that spend in March aren’t always smiling in January. But teams have shown how using free agency wisely can make an instant impact (Rams). These four deals on day two of free agency make the Pack’s roster stronger in the short term and won’t hurt the team financially on the back end. They’ve addressed their most glaring needs by bringing in young, ascending players and betting that their best football is ahead of them. In year two of Mike Pettine’s system, he has a much better feel for what he’s got and what he needs. The front office has listened and delivered a youth and talent infusion. And with three picks in the top 44, they’re not done.

Not a bad start to the offseason.

 

 

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10 Responses to The Times They Are A Changin’.

  1. Adam says:

    As a packer fan I’m not excited about Amos. Or Smith. Amos benefited from a dominant bears pass rush and playing next to Jackson. Smith

  2. OLD SOUTH SIDE GUY says:

    Gutey sure aint TT. As long time readers on this site know I have been a big booster to using free agency wisely. Look around…ML baseball, NHL, NBA all use quality free agents to improve their rosters. TT loved draft and develop which is fine and saves money and keeps your roster young but it needs to be augmented with quality free agents. TT loved using undrafted cheap free agents ( think our dbacks and linebackers. ) All that being said I really liked Gutey’s 4 signings. These are all guys in their mid 20′s approaching their playing primes. He stayed away from the pricy,,splassy names. I think all four will start or surely play signficant minutes. As to the draft…long time readers know it’s my favorite time. I have been studying it for weeks and will have my mock draft next month. Look out Larry!! GO PACK GO !!

  3. larry says:

    I hope so OSSG, I thought Turner was a little pricey but plays 4 spots so maybe why. I just hope they don’t trade back, really can see them doing that withe 30th pick, a lot of teams jump up there to get a qb so they get another year on 1st contract. would love to see them take a tackle at 12 if lb white is gone from LSU. Dillard from wash. st. is good so is Taylor from Florida, 2nd round we need a guy to replace Cobb, I love deebo samuel from south carolina. go Packers

  4. lynndickeyfan says:

    Larry, I also hope they don’t trade down. I don’t think this new leadership will. I would still get an edge rusher though, I like the idea of the triple dip at the position. I would still like look toward tight end, if they decided otherwise, but you have to hit at a starter at 12. Perhaps Amos can benefit from an improved Packer pass rush as well, regardless, I think he has to be an upgrade. This has been exciting. It is not as much fun as winning 10+ games, but it’s nice to see the Pack get some talent before the draft.

  5. Packerlifer says:

    It’s not exactly accurate that Ted Thompson never used free agency. Have we forgotten about Charles Woodson, Ryan Pickett, Julius Peppers, Jared Cook, Jahri Evans and – for different reasons- Jeff Saturday & Martellus Bennett? But the Smiths, Amos and Turner are encouraging in an encouraging offseason so far. Not only free agency but the coaching staff that Matt LaFleur has put together looks very good. While I’m not entirely sold on the Packers sticking with a 3-4 defense keeping Mike Pettine on and getting him players he can work his system with does give hope of better things on that side of the ball. They’ve still got some time in free agency and the draft to reload the team for 2019. What I wonder about most is whether the new regime and players will bring an end to the perenniel plague of injuries that dogged the Thompson-McCarthy teams. Better discipline, conditioning and training and stressing good fundamentals will be a key.

  6. steven reeder says:

    man the pack shot their load.. now they are in hurtin status with the vikings with no salary ccap room!!

  7. lynndickeyfan says:

    At this point I’m betting either Hockenson, Oliver , or Sweat will be available at 12. I’m really torn. My gut wants the Pack to triple down on edge rusher. Do we need to go that high for an offensive talent?

  8. larry says:

    OSSG, LDF, Packer lifer, Voice, it’s getting close. hopefully have my picks in Monday, maybe Dave will too. right now, I hope that one of the Lb’s drop to us, white from LSU, or Bush from mich. if not take Dillard, tackle or Taylor Tackle from Florida. then take DL Tillery from ND at 30 or Irv Smith Te from Bama. 2nd round , Samuel or A.J. Brown wr. miss. someone to replace Cobb. You guys get your picks in too. Funny, was listening to In the Zone again last week as I tend to do. in last 7 years, I think Dave has mentioned the Bucks 5 times. it was always his wolves. Now, There MY bucks, I think he has lived in minny to long or been around Paul Allen to long. LOL. Go Bucks and Brewers.

  9. Voice says:

    Thanks for the shout-out, Larry. As far as the draft goes, I’ll defer to the likes of draft-ologists like yourself to dissect the details. That being said, I’m a believer in drafting the big guys first, but if a surprise is available at #12, who’s to say?

  10. larry says:

    It’s that time of year again ladies and gentlemen. I cant wait to see THC picks tomorrow, and others on here. I will be interested to see if they go O-Line or defense with 12th pick. Here is what I think they will do. I think they will go LB if Devin Bush or Devin white are there. White will be gone I think. So I think they take Bush Lb. if both are gone, they will take Dillard, OT from wash. st. then take Tillery DL, from ND. at 30. at 44, they take Rapp, safety from wash. at 75 they take, D’Andre Walker, edge rusher from Georgia. at 114 they take, Beau Benzschawel Guard , from WI. at 118 they take, Knox, TE from Ol Miss. at 150 they take, Williams, RB from Texas A &M, at 185 they take, Kirven. LB from Wash. at 194 they take, Renfro. WR. clemson. at 226 they take, Fenton CB, from SC. not bad Ha?? lol. I would take. Taylor OL from fla, if he is there , if not take Gary DL. from mich. then take Irv smith TE at 30 or Wr. AJ Brown from Ol Miss.. let the fun begin.

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