Twenty-five years ago, true free agency came to the NFL. And the Green Bay Packers emerged as the biggest winners, landing (with some divine intervention) future Hall of Famer Reggie White. From 1994 through 2017, the Packers added only three other veteran free agents from other teams with widespread name recognition: Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers, and Martellus Bennett.
That’s four in a quarter-century. In one day, they agreed to terms with two. Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson have joined the team, creating a palpable sense that, while former G.M. Ted Thompson opted to sit in his car, new G.M. Brian Gutekunst is in the store, not only browsing but also buying.
The drawback, of course, is that shopping for new players often entails getting rid of existing ones, making the departure of receiver Jordy Nelson a sobering aspect to an otherwise invigorating day for Packers fans. But Nelson and his $10 million-plus compensation package likely were gone anyway; his fate was sealed when Davante Adams re-signed in January.
The far more significant news for the Packers is that they may finally be realizing that drafting and developing isn’t the only way to build a team. If they’ll be embracing fully and completely (but with proper balance) the concept of free agency, maybe they’ll find a way to add a Lombardi Trophy or two before Aaron Rodgers walks away.