5 Free Agents Green Bay Packers Should Consider for 2013 NFL Season

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5 Free Agents Green Bay Packers Should Consider for 2013

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

After the Green Bay Packers season came to an abrupt end after their 45-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs, the organization must clearly make some changes to get back on top in 2013. What are five free agents the Packers should target this off-season?

Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson is not one to sign sought after free agents, as he believes it is better to build a team through the NFL draft. Thompson is certainly correct about this because it is more cost efficient, which means there will be more money to sign the talented players once their rookie contracts expire. Thompson has proven this theory works, as the Packers have been one of the more successful teams over the past few years.

However, even Thompson knows that a GM must give in to free agency at some point. The Packers signed Charles Woodson in 2006 to a seven-year, $52.7 million contract that would become the most significant free agent signing in the franchise’s history since Reggie White. Woodson’s addition to the team completely changed what the defense was able to accomplish.

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Thompson needs to make another career signing in a free agent this off-season. Obviously, the Packers still need to have a successful draft to remain at a high level but a solid acquisition in free agency could put the team over the top. There may not be another Woodson-type player to sign but there are certainly free agents that could make a huge difference in Green Bay.

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Steven Jackson

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Green Bay’s run problems have to do more with the offensive line then they have to do with the running backs. However, the Packers have lost at least one running back to a season-ending injury in each of the past three seasons. This means it is important to have depth at the position so signing a free agent running back would not be such a bad idea, even though DuJuan Harris, Alex Green and James Starks are more than capable of handling the duties in 2013.

Steven Jackson could single-handedly change the fate of Green Bay’s horrendous run offense. Jackson has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the past eight seasons. In 2012, he carried the ball 257 times for 1,042 yards, four touchdowns and 47 first downs. He was able to accomplish this with an offensive line that was able to average 0.72 more yards per carry then Green Bay’s, but all other rushing statistics were very similar.

Jackson will most likely command a large contract in free agency, something the Packers may not be willing to deliver. On the other hand, giving Aaron Rodgers a running game should be one of the team’s top priorities in the off-season.

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Osi Umenyiora

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Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora has admitted he would like to stay with the New York Giants, but has no problem “taking his talents elsewhere” if the opportunity presents itself. Umenyiora is one of the top defensive lineman free agents in 2013 and rightfully so. The 31-year-old recorded 43 tackles, six sacks and two forced fumbles in 16 games last season.

The Packers desperately need a pass rushing threat opposite Clay Matthews to help take the pressure off of him. Green Bay would like to accomplish this with an outside linebacker such as Nick Perry, but one thing fans learned in 2010 is the defense needs lineman to get to the quarterback as well. Umenyiora has spent his entire career in a 4-3 defense but he is talented enough to have success in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Acquiring Umenyiora would give Green Bay another great weapon on defense, which could be just what they need to get back to the Super Bowl.

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Dwight Freeney

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive end Dwight Freeney is another pass rushing machine the Packers should look to sign. Freeney will be 33 years old when the 2013 NFL season rolls around but he has proven that he can still find a way to get to the quarterback. Many teams will look to offer him a contract considering he still has the quickness and power that makes him great, which could drive his price up in free agency. I would imagine he could get an offer between $6.5-7.5 million per season over a four-year span.

However, Freeney has proven that he can still be effective in a 3-4 defense as he was able to record 12 tackles, five sacks and one forced fumble in 14 games with the Indianapolis Colts last season. Lining up Freeney on the left side of the line of scrimmage would certainly attract attention away from Matthews, who could then work his magic. Also, putting Freeney on the same side as Matthews, similar to what Green Bay did with Cullen Jenkins, could cause all sorts of problems.

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Shonn Greene

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Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Running back Shonn Greene would be a much cheaper version of Jackson while still delivering the same production. Greene rushed for 1,063 yards and eight touchdowns on 276 carries in 16 games in 2012. Granted, the New York Jets offensive line had a lot more success in run blocking. They averaged 0.42 more yards per carry then the Packers and allowed the running back to get stuffed on only 16 percent of their running plays, which was good for 2nd in the league. The Jets also had a better success rate on second level and open field yards.

Greene did run the ball 141 more times than Green Bay’s leading rusher, but he also averaged 0.5 yards more per gain. Unless the Packers offensive line figures out a way to open up holes and create room for the running backs to do their job, it may be pointless to bring in someone like Greene or Jackson. However, a veteran back could make a huge difference, something Green Bay was hoping Cedric Benson was going to get the chance to do.

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Greg Jennings

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Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

In my opinion, one of the stupidest moves the Packers could make this off-season is to allow Greg Jennings to depart via free agency. He should be Green Bay’s No. 1 priority, as the team simply cannot let him go. Many people do not believe the Packers can re-sign him and therefore are comfortable with letting him go because Randall Cobb and James Jones have really established themselves in 2012. However, what makes Green Bay so great is that they have multiple weapons at the receiver position, which includes Jennings’ deep threat ability.

Considering Jennings has only appeared in 21 games over the past two seasons, many teams will not be willing to give him a huge contract as his ability to stay healthy is most definitely a concern. The 29-year-old’s last contract paid him $26.8 million over a four-year span and he will most likely command a similar contract this off-season.

Green Bay will have to restructure a couple of player’s contracts while also gearing up to re-sign Matthews and B.J. Raji, and redoing Rodgers’ deal with an extension as the league’s top quarterback cannot be getting paid less than $9.5 million per season. By restructuring contracts, the Packers may be able to move enough money around to sign Jennings and give him his $6.7 million per season.

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