The opening of free agency saw a frenzy of signings across the NFL. But not in Green Bay.
The Packers are the only team in the league that hasn’t signed a single player away from another team this week. And that’s par for the course for Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, who believes strongly in building a team through the draft, spending what he needs to spend -- but no more -- to keep the the draft picks he likes, and avoiding getting into bidding wars with other teams.
This year, that has meant a very quiet start to free agency. The Packers’ biggest move was keeping one of their own, Randall Cobb, and it’s telling that that move came before free agency opened. The Packers told Cobb what the best offer they could give him was, and Cobb knew they meant it when they said they wouldn’t go any higher: Waiting until the start of free agency to have a firm offer from another team wouldn’t have caused the Packers to budge, because that’s not how the Packers do business. Ultimately, Cobb decided the best he could get to stay in Green Bay was better than potentially getting a little more from some other team, and so he signed with the Packers three days before the start of free agency.
The Packers’ other moves of note were also keeping their own, signing offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga and backup quarterback Scott Tolzien to new contracts. When a player the Packers drafted can get more from another team than the Packers think he’s worth -- as was the case with cornerback Davon House, who was a backup in Green Bay last year but will get paid like a starter in Jacksonville -- the Packers say goodbye.
The Packers did make a big move in free agency last year when they signed Julius Peppers, but that was extremely rare for Thompson: Peppers is the only player on the roster who has ever played a game for another team. The Packers have built through the draft, and from signing low-priced undrafted free agents and street free agents who had never been more than practice squad players or training camp fodder.
A story on the Packers’ website takes a bit of a shot at the Packers’ division rivals in Detroit, noting that they’re consistently up against the cap and that they’ve lost two first-round draft picks, Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, this year. When the Packers want to keep one of their players, they have the cap space to do it.
That’s because the Packers are frugal spenders in free agency, which doesn’t make for many offseason headlines but pays big dividends when the season starts.