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Here's how to win free agency

It's not all about one year


Andrew from Fort Collins, CO

On draft day, do other guys in the personnel department, especially those hoping to become a GM, write down who they would choose with each pick and then follow that player's development to see who has the best eye for talent?

If they're truly on track to become a GM, they won't have to write it down. They'll remember. Everything.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

The Packers have the most players on the NFL's Top 101 free agents list, but most of them are still working through injuries. Do those injuries postpone negotiations, keep the price tags down, or anything else?

They can have an impact, but not every team views those situations the same way. The original team knows a player's medical situation the best, and that can lead to a greater comfort level bringing that guy back, whereas another team might be leery of signing a player whose on-field work in the spring to learn a new system could be limited. Or, a player who feels his injury recovery has limited his market might opt for a short deal with an opportunity to become a (presumably healthy) free agent again very soon.

David from San Francisco, CA

Do player salaries tend to rise with the cap as well? I'm suggesting, it seems a GM should be able to re-sign his own FA with the "delta" from a rising cap. If there is more money to play with this year than last, how do the numbers figure we can't keep most of our stars?

It's not all about one year. It's about future years as well when multiple high-priced positions may have contracts coming due. Also, not every team operates like this, and the effect on team harmony is debatable, but some GMs are very conscious of the salary hierarchy within the locker room and aren't going to give a lesser player a bigger contract he may not deserve, relative to his teammates, just because salary-cap room is available.

Zak from Blaine, MN

When you play for a team like the Packers, how much of an increase in pay does a player need to leave the team and go elsewhere? It's hard for average Joes like us to imagine choosing to leave a championship team that chose you over hundreds of other players just to make a few extra million dollars.

Never overlook the fact that these guys' maximum earning power is in their late 20s, it dries up quickly, and health-wise they have no idea if they'll be leading a "normal" life when they're done. I never fault a guy for getting what he can, when he can, where he can.

Chris from Chillicothe, OH

Now that the tag deadline has passed, we know what's available in FA. Do you think there are any FAs that would be an upgrade and could be signed for a reasonable amount?

The tag deadline does not set the free-agent market. Plenty of untagged players are going to re-sign with their own teams before 3 p.m. CT on March 9. That's when we'll really know.

Johan from Pembroke, Ontario

Mike, I desperately wanted to buy a Peppers jersey after this season as the team that was finally able to get him a ring. That didn't happen, so speaking of veterans, do you believe Rodgers will get another ring before his career's finished? Can Thompson make the right moves to bring another Lombardi home and avoid Ron Wolf's biggest regret?


Dan from Milwaukee, WI

I feel Ted Thompson has a tendency to pay his players for their prime years while almost simultaneously drafting their potential replacement. Pay Mike Daniels, draft Kenny Clark. Pay David Bahktiari, draft Jason Spriggs. Pay Randall Cobb, draft Ty Montgomery. Pay Jordy Nelson, draft Davante Adams. Obviously it doesn't always work out this way, but with Perry and Cook being two of Thompson's higher FA priorities, I think we're also getting a glimpse at what we can expect in the first few rounds.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Chris from Menomonee Falls, WI

As much as I'm usually opposed to injury-prone players, I don't think the Packers have no choice but to sign Nick Perry at a premier price. The Packers are in dire need of pass-rushers. Drafting based on need is one thing, but signing your own free agents based on need is a different story. You have to prioritize them accordingly.

The weak free-agent market for pass-rushers due to the tags going out has put Perry in a very interesting position. The Packers have successfully stayed disciplined over the years, to their benefit, but there are also circumstances that dictate going out of your comfort zone. We'll see if this is one of those times.

Nick from State College, PA

Care to share a favorite story of one of the pending free agents in case he happens to leave?

I hope long snapper Brett Goode comes back, but I think it's funny that he and one of my parents' neighbors in little ol' Platteville hail from the same hometown of Fort Smith, Ark. It's a small world.

Jared from Philadelphia, PA

Hmmmm, interesting. Seems like the NFL is looking to be more relaxed on the anti-celebration rules. My 15-second clock idea might not be so silly after all.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall this week in those meetings between the competition committee and the players' union.

Martin from Burnsville, MN

I want Donta Hightower.

So will a lot of teams if he becomes available.

Taylor from Des Moines, IA

Hey guys, after reading a few articles and thinking them over for myself, I agree. Thompson has done a great job of drafting given our average position in the draft. But it's been a while since he has hit really hard on a defensive pick. We have drafted defense like crazy for the last 5-6 seasons, but I feel like he hasn't really knocked it out of the park since he drafted Matthews. Some of our first-round players either haven't played to the standards a first-rounder should. Others have just taken a few years to really start to develop. I understand it's pricey to move up, but if pass-rushers can really change the face of the defense, maybe we should trade up and try to get a guy like Reuben Foster, who is less likely to take 3-4 seasons to really contribute. Clay has turned out to be worth trading up for. Why not try taking another swing at it?

Careful, you're starting to fall into the "one player away" trap. To me, this team's list of roster and depth needs is far more lengthy than that, almost regardless of what happens in free agency. Keep in mind the move for Matthews was a very calculated one in a year the defense was changing schemes and needed the 3-4 scheme's linchpins, a nose tackle and edge-rusher, which Thompson got with Raji in the top 10 and then the bold move for Matthews. The type of trade you're suggesting would not give the Packers a second bite at the first-round apple, as it did eight years ago, but likely one pick in the top 100.

Darrell from Greensboro, NC

Insiders, are you guys considered "fake news"?

Would that get us more clicks?

Robert from Valrico, FL

I wonder if Aaron has Ted Thompson on a constant text stream reminding/ordering him to re-sign Jared Cook. Interesting to think what having him for a full year with Aaron would look like. Imagine how comforting it must be for a QB in a wide-receiver focused offense, always trying to target these fast, skinny guys downfield, and then all of a sudden here comes a hulking 6-5, 254-pound beast who's almost a flash in front of his eyes. It must be like trying to hit a grapefruit with a bat after hitting baseballs all day. We really should keep Cook, IMO.

I put him at the top of my list when asked a couple of weeks ago, though Perry is a very close second in terms of the difficulty to replace what he brings. The most eye-popping stat I discovered in putting together my**“10 things” piece from the combine Wednesday**was Cook's production over the final nine games (including playoffs) last season – 42 catches, 553 yards, three TDs. That's barely more than half a regular season.

Theodore from St. Louis, MO

I'm giving up Insider Inbox for Lent, so I won't know if you answer this until April, and you probably won't answer it anyway, but what's the hardest thing you've gone without?

Sanity on my Inbox day. In-season, offseason, it doesn't seem to matter. I'm still waiting.

John from Crivitz, WI

Does Mike McCarthy or any of the coaching staff have input on who gets drafted? In that scenario, what's the dynamic like with Coach McCarthy, Ted Thompson and the guys calling the shots in the draft?

Often the personnel department will ask coaches to review tape and write reports on players the team is interested in, to get additional evaluations and opinions to throw into the mix. McCarthy did a lot of legwork two years ago on QB Brett Hundley, for example. Thompson gets input from all angles. He's very thorough that way, but he owns every decision. The final call is always his.

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Ben from Milwaukee, WI

Do players at the combine give teams any indication as to their expected longevity in the NFL? I wouldn't expect the Niners to think Chris Borland would retire after just one season and that may have drastically changed their team-building approach.

The Borland situation is an outlier, very rare. But players go through a lot of training to tell teams what they want to hear in interviews. The key is to come up with questions they might not be prepared for that can provide valuable insight into what you really want to know about them.

Anthony from Celina, OH

One of you should hold both mics in the next video.

Wes in the middle, one in each hand, properly angled. I like that idea.

Corey from Albuquerque, NM

I just saw that the Packers re-signed Schum for another year. Sure, there is something to be said for continuity (and there's a reason TT gets paid to run a football team and I don't), but he ranked in the bottom half of the league in every category. Why?

First, re-signing Schum doesn't mean they're handing him the punting job for 2017. There's still plenty of time to bring in competition. Second, looking at where punters in cold-weather cities rank league-wide is a fool's errand. Schum went through a bit of a slump around midseason last year, but when the weather turned he out-punted the other guy more often than not, and that's what matters most.

Daniel from Copenhagen, Denmark

In season, I like to ask what the Packers need to do to beat the opponent of the week. So here goes: What do the Packers need to do to come out of free agency as a winner?

Get to the draft feeling the roster's overall needs can be addressed within those three days, with enough cap room to work on possible extensions for one or more identified core players whose rookie contracts are next to expire (Clinton-Dix, Adams, Linsley to name a few).

Mike from Chico, CA

Blah blah blah. As a stockholder from the '90s, I miss the days of Ray Nitschke and Johnnie Gray, who wrote it as they saw it, not being afraid for their jobs. Mike and Wes are newbies, Vic a carpetbagger. We as fans expect the best no matter what. Like Lombardi said, second place is rinkie dinkie. You ever thought that maybe our high standards are the reason the Packers have won more championships than any other team? You are watered-down reporters. I'll take your standard retort "OK." You are what you are. Rinkie dinks.


Marty from Grafton, WI

If there was a draft for NFL writers, would you be a Day 1, 2 or 3 draft pick? How about Wes?

Is there a rinkie-dink day?

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