Free agency matchmaking is one of the most fun parts of the offseason, and under Brian Gutekunst the Green Bay Packers have shown themselves to be a lot more willing to open up the checkbook. So let’s connect some dots!
Do the Packers have a ton to spend in free agency this year? No. But what fun is constricting your hypotheticals to what’s purely realistic? Not much, I tell you. Here are the free agents we’d sign if price didn’t matter.
Tex Western – Cory Littleton, LB, LAR
If price is no object, then Littleton is probably the best option for the Packers in my mind. This isn’t a great draft for linebackers, so I would rather get an established player at that spot and add a dynamic wide receiver at either pick 30 or 62 in the 2020 Draft.
Littleton is certainly established, and he excels against both the run and the pass. He also has plenty of experience playing as the sole linebacker in nickel and dime fronts like the ones the Packers and Mike Pettine love to use. He would be an upgrade from Blake Martinez in just about every way. Bringing Littleton in would allow the team to plug in an instant playmaker while trying to develop another useful player at the position, whether that’s Oren Burks, Ty Summers, Curtis Bolton, or perhaps a mid-round draft pick.
Peter Bukowski – N/A (Trade for Robert Woods, WR, LAR)
I can’t divorce the idea of paying free agents from cost, which makes no player on the market particularly appealing at his expected price. The prudent path forward for the Packers involves signing their own players, Bryan Bulaga, Mason Crosby, and an extension for Kenny Clark, and eschewing outside contracts.
That doesn’t mean do nothing though, and that cost-effective player can still be had, just not in free agency. The Rams need to get off money with a hellscape of a cap situation, and the Packers need a reliable option at receiver who won’t break the bank. That’s Woods. My crush on Woods is well known at APC, and I stand by it. He’s the one move this offseason I’d make above all others, and that includes extending the aforementioned players (though only because Kenny Clark is already under contract for 2020). If it’s a possibility he can be had, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead.
Paul Noonan – Hunter Henry, TE, LAC
When you upgrade, the smart plan is to find your weakest area and target that for improvement. Doing so will provide you the biggest bang for your buck, and it’s hard to imagine a worse position group than the Packer tight ends in 2019. Yes, the book on Jace Sternberger is mostly unwritten and you can’t tell anything about tight ends in their rookie season, but that shouldn’t stop them from looking at Henry.
Henry is a rare commodity as a still young, multi-threat tight end who can lay a nasty block and stretch a defense. He is so good in fact that the real issue is whether they can afford him in the first place, but the salary cap can be managed. With LaFleur in charge of the offense, good tight ends are imperative. If you want this offense to be as effective as Mr. Shanahan’s over in San Francisco, you need your Kittle. You need to be able to pass out of heavy sets and keep defenses guessing. The free agent WR crop is weak, the draft crop is strong, and Henry is one of the only difference makers available. Bring him to me.
Jon Meerdink – Nick Kwiatkoski, LB, CHI
Like Peter, I struggle to divorce players from their projected costs. Free agency gets expensive in a hurry! That line about paying A+ money to B+ players is a cliche, but there’s a lot of truth there, too.
But if we’re spending, I’d like to spend on players that are still ascending. That’s what the Packers did with the Smith brothers last year, and that looks to be roughly what Nick Kwiatkoski could be as well.
Playing just under 50% of the Bears’ defensive snaps, Kwiatkoski contributed positively against the pass and the run. He’s a good athlete, young, and seems to have good football in front of him. That’s as good a profile for a free agent signing as any.
Matub – Robby Anderson, WR, NYJ
I mean, just look at him. LOOK AT HIM.