GREEN BAY — As the first day of the NFL’s free-agent negotiating window drew to a close Monday evening, somewhere deep in the heart of Texas, Ted Thompson was probably nodding his approval.
While his successor as the Green Bay Packers’ general manager, Brian Gutekunst, may view the tool of free agency differently than he did – and has vowed to wield it more aggressively than Thompson did throughout most of his 13-year tenure as GM – Gutekunst wasn’t part of the opening-day spending spree that saw several players at positions of need get big paydays elsewhere.
Thompson always thought the early money thrown around was foolish, having made his most notable free-agent signings – Charles Woodson in 2006 and Julius Peppers in 2014 – after the smoke cleared following the initial wave of signings.
That doesn’t mean the Packers won’t be active moving forward – as Gutekunst vowed during the NFL scouting combine last month – but one day in, the Packers weren’t among the teams making first-day splashes in the free-agent pool.
Teams were permitted to begin negotiating contracts with players’ agents at 11 a.m. Monday, and while those contracts cannot become official until the new league year begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday, a host of big-name players came off the market by agreeing to deals.
From ex-New York Giants safety Landon Collins moving to NFC East rival Washington (a reported six-year deal worth $84 million and $45 million in guarantees), to safety Tyrann Matthieu cashing in with the Kansas City Chiefs (a reported three-year, $42 million deal), to ex-New England Patriots edge rusher Trey Flowers reuniting with his former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia with the Detroit Lions (a five-year deal worth $16 million or more, according to NFL Network), plenty of big money was thrown around.
Perhaps the biggest move of the day was made by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who agreed to terms with former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to be their new quarterback. Foles agreed to a reported four-year deal worth $88 million, including $50 million in guarantees.
The Packers’ most noteworthy move? According to a source, they tendered exclusive-rights free agent wide receiver Jake Kumerow, the former UW-Whitewater standout who impressed during training camp and came on late in the year after coming off injured reserve with a month left in the season.
ESPN.com reported that the Packers also made qualifying offers to their other exclusive-rights free agents as well: Offensive linemen Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick, outside linebacker Reggie Gilbert, and tight end Robert Tonyan.
The Packers did reportedly pursue ex-Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who was released in a cost-cutting move last week, but Jackson wound up going to the Philadelphia Eagles on a reported three-year, $30 million deal.
Late Monday evening, the New York Jets reportedly agreed to terms on a deal with ex-Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, another player who might have interested the Packers in their search for pass-rushing help. Barr, of course, delivered the hit on quarterback Aaron Rodgers in October 2017 that led to Rodgers’ broken right collarbone, leading to the Packers missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
The Packers missed the playoffs again last year, when Rodgers was able to start all 16 games, although he played much of the season with a left knee injury sustained in the regular-season opener.
Gutekunst acknowledged at the scouting combine that the Packers would be in the market for free-agent edge-rushing help, with franchise sack leader Clay Matthews set to hit the free-agent market and fellow outside linebacker Nick Perry’s future with the team unclear with a $4.8 million roster bonus due at the end of the week. If both depart, the Packers would be left with fourth-year outside linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who put up an out-of-the-blue 10.5 sacks last season.
Among those who could help the Packers are ex-Chiefs outside linebackers Justin Houston, who was cut by the team after eight seasons, or Dee Ford, whom the Chiefs have franchise-tagged but could still be open to trading, even after parting ways with Houston.
Both players were coached last year in Kansas City by Mike Smith, whom the Packers hired as their outside linebackers coach last month. Sports Illustrated reported Monday that the Packers are interested in Ford but plan to wait out the first week of free agency before making a move on Ford. SI reported that Ford is expected to cost a second-round pick if traded.
“Obviously Kyler had a breakout year for Kyler. I thought Clay had a really good year; I thought he produced at a really high level. Nick struggled with some injuries and things like that, so there’s some decisions we’ll have to make as we get more information and the puzzle becomes clearer,” Gutekunst said at the combine. “But it is a very deep (draft) class on the edge, which is exciting. You never really know how it’s going to fall, but I think there’ll be opportunities – not only the draft but in free agency – to continue to help our football team there.”
The Minnesota Vikings released right guard Mike Remmers and declined an option on safety Andrew Sendejo’s contract, clearing more than $10 million in space under the salary cap.
The 29-year-old Remmers moved from tackle to guard and started all 16 games last season, his second with the Vikings, but the offensive line continued to be a source of trouble for a team that ranked just 19th in points and 20th in yards in 2018.
LIONS: Detroit addressed needs on both sides of the ball while reuniting their coach and general manager with former New England Patriots cornerback Justin Coleman and receiver Danny Amendola.
Coleman agreed to a $36 million, four-year contract, while Amendola got a $5.75 million, one-year contract.
The Lions are led by general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia, both of whom worked for the Patriots.
EAGLES: Philadelphia reportedly has agreed to acquire wide receiver DeSean Jackson from Tampa Bay along with a 2020 seventh-round draft pick for a sixth-round pick this year.
Jackson is set to return to Philadelphia five years after former Eagles coach Chip Kelly released the three-time Pro Bowl pick following his best season. Jackson had one year remaining on his contract for $10 million.