INDIANAPOLIS – Next week could be a busy one for the Green Bay Packers.
Not that this one isn't busy enough, with the NFL Scouting Combine underway in Indianapolis. But the Packers haven't re-signed any of their own pending free agents yet, and with free agency officially opening on March 9, General Manager Ted Thompson sees talks and activity ramping up significantly between now and then.
"Over the years we've probably signed several right at the start of free agency, and my guess is that's what's going to happen this year," Thompson told reporters on Wednesday.
Discussions between teams and agents often get serious at the combine, and Thompson said the Packers are doing "quite a bit" of work on free agency while in Indy.
The Packers have 11 players headed for unrestricted free agency and two who are restricted. Thompson wouldn't comment on any specific players, but most of the outside discussion has centered around five veterans – tight end Jared Cook, guard T.J. Lang and running back Eddie Lacy on offense, plus outside linebacker Nick Perry and defensive back Micah Hyde on defense – who will be unrestricted as of March 9 and could create significant demand.
Thompson did not say if he's had any discussions with Julius Peppers, whose contract also has expired, about whether the future Hall of Famer is planning to continue playing.
"Our best intention will be to sign as many of our own players as we can and keep it together," Thompson said, reiterating a familiar comment in this setting.
Thompson referred to March 9 as an "artificial deadline" to keep players, because even though they'll have the opportunity to sign with any team at that time, players will use the two-day negotiating window beginning March 7 to see what their market value might be.
It's all part of the "process" to get players re-signed, Thompson said, and he doesn't feel the fact that no Packers have been re-signed yet will hamper the team's ability to get its work done.
"Once you get to this particular point … there's not a push on the side of the player to hurry up and get a deal done," Thompson said. "But at the same time, sometimes they would prefer to stay and deals get done earlier than we think. It's worked both ways."
Two years ago, the Packers re-signed both tackle Bryan Bulaga and receiver Randall Cobb just as free agency began, so this year could see a repeat of something similar with one or more players. Thompson believes both current and former players appreciate the Packers' approach to re-signing their own more often than not.
As for signing outside free agents, Thompson once again wasn't talking specifics, but he said he didn't take quarterback Aaron Rodgers' "all in" comment after the NFC title game loss in Atlanta as a plea for him to be more active in free agency.
He also doesn't feel that either his or Rodgers' ages and career arcs – Thompson recently turned 64 and is entering his 13th year as Green Bay's GM, while Rodgers will turn 34 next season, also his 13th in the NFL – factor into the decision-making process.
"It doesn't matter how old we are," Thompson said. "We're going to try to do the same thing every year. We're going to try to get to the Super Bowl and win it. That's what we're going to try to do again this year.
"We don't try for anything else."
The Packers have reached the Super Bowl once in Thompson's tenure and have come one game away three other times, including last season.
"We understand it's hard to do," he said. "We understand there's twists and turns on the road. It's unbelievable how difficult that is, but we try to do it every single year. We've come up short a few times, but we've also done some battling.
"It's not an easy thing to walk away from. It wasn't easy for any of us, certainly our players, to walk away from Atlanta because there's too much heartache and too much pain that's gone into trying to do something. This is something special people are trying to do."
Green Bay's pending free agents
T/G Don Barclay
TE Jared Cook
LS Brett Goode
DB Micah Hyde
DE/LB Datone Jones
RB Eddie Lacy
G T.J. Lang
RB Christine Michael
LB Julius Peppers
LB Nick Perry
C/G JC Tretter
LB Jayrone Elliott
LB Jordan Tripp