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Cheese Curds, 3/18: Packers take a more conservative free agency approach in 2020

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It’s still early and the ink isn’t dry (or even present) on most contracts yet, but it’s clear that the Packers are taking a different approach to this year’s free agent period, and with good reason.

NFL: FEB 25 Scouting Combine Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last year, Brian Gutekunst attacked the Green Bay Packers’ roster needs with abandon in free agency. The four big additions have been discussed ad nauseum, but the impact they made on the team in 2019 cannot be overstated.

In 2020, the Packers could not be nearly as aggressive with the free agent market as they were in 2019. That’s a simple fact brought about by the team’s financial situation. With a handful of big players in the final years of their contracts this season, cap hits continue to rise, while the salary cap rose by less than expected. The new CBA also implemented some changes that mean the cap money has to stretch a little further, giving teams even less room to work with.

Finally, this year is one where the Packers have a chance to cash in on some compensatory picks while still filling needs with street free agents, which is exactly the route that they have taken. Ted Thompson always had an eye on comp picks for the future, and while it’s not always the right choice to pass up a top player in favor of a day-three draft pick, it remains part of the equation that front offices must compute.

So for now, try not to get too upset that the Packers didn’t land one of the high-priced free agent linebackers. After all, the team appears to only have about $2 million in usable cap room remaining.

Why GM Brian Gutekunst didn't splurge in free agency | Packersnews.com
For one, the signings he did make will put the Packers in position to land some compensatory picks next year -- probably two fourth-rounders for Blake Martinez and Bryan Bulaga, plus a sixth for Kyler Fackrell. But ultimately, with less money to spend this year than last, he had to pick and choose how and where he dipped into the market a little more carefully.

Frustrated with years of free-agent inactivity, Aaron Rodgers has faith now – The Athletic
Rodgers quietly expressed frustration in years past with Ted Thompson's approach to free agency, but he sang a different tune after the most recent NFC Championship loss, using the word "confident" to describe his feelings about Brian Gutekunst and company. Despite the scaled-back attack this year, he should still feel good about the front office’s efforts so far.

Packers Lose Coveted Linebacker Littleton to Raiders | SI.com
Interestingly, two of the Packers' reported linebacker targets now join one another in Las Vegas, with Cory Littleton joining Nick Kwiatkoski.

Five things to know about Christian Kirksey | Packers.com
Kirksey is probably coming to Green Bay as much for his leadership as for his playing abilities; he was a captain at Iowa and for two years in Cleveland and he participates in extensive charity and community work.

Green Bay Packers' 2020 NFL free-agent signings: New look in middle of defense - ESPN
Here's an initial breakdown from ESPN's beat writers on the benefits and risks of the Kirksey and Rick Wagner signings.

Former Packers OLB Kyler Fackrell agrees to 1-year deal with Giants | Packers Wire
Fackrell is following Blake Martinez to the Meadowlands, agreeing to a $4.6 million contract and likely netting the Packers another late compensatory pick next year.

Florida man arrested for impersonating an officer just days after going to jail for the same crime, deputies say | FOX 35 Orlando
Good old Florida man never disappoints, even amid COVID-19 concerns.